Physically, during meditation your heart beat slows, your blood pressure lowers, your cortisol lowers and your brainwaves change as you enter a more relaxed state. You become more calm, serene and present in the moment. Much of our stress comes from being caught up in the past or worried about the future. Being mindful puts you in the present moment, making those worries disappear.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martha Lewis.
As founder and CEO of the Complete Sleep Solution, Martha Lewis is a sleep consultant to health-conscious, high achievers who want to sleep but can’t. With multiple sleep certifications, an MS in holistic nutrition and as an expert on gut health, she combines sleep foundations, stress resilience techniques and lab testing for underlying health issues to get to the root cause of her clients’ insomnia. She has been featured in numerous publications, such as Swanwick Sleep and Mattress Clarity, and various podcasts around the world and is also a passionate speaker on the topic of sleep.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Istarted my career as a sleep consultant after hiring help for my son’s sleep when he was a baby. My life as a new mom improved so much after he was sleeping that I became a certified Sleep Sense consultant to help other parents with their babies’ sleep.
The ironic part of my story is that I had become a sleep consultant who wasn’t sleeping. My insomnia started in late pregnancy but didn’t go away even after my son was sleeping through the night. I felt like such a fraud helping others sleep when I couldn’t.
I would take forever to fall asleep at night, wake up at 4am and not being able to go back to sleep and feel exhausted and miserable every day. After struggling for 2 years, I finally decided to do something about it. I took Dana Obleman’s Solve Your Sleep certification course and made multiple changes to get back to sleeping great.
More recently, I became certified through Christine Hansen of Sleep Like A Boss and learned how to test for underlying health issues that affect sleep. Now I can get to the root cause of people’s insomnia and fix it so they can finally get the rest they need. Since stress is the #1 factor that disturbs your sleep, I also recommend stress relieving techniques like journaling and meditation to help my clients lower their stress so they can get a good night’s sleep.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My latest sleep training was in Bali last fall. I traveled for 35 hours each way and was jet-lagged for 2 weeks when I returned. So I lost a lot of sleep to learn about sleep. But it was worth it! I got to travel to a new place, become great friends with 6 other smart and ambitious women from around the world and learn how to help people with insomnia in an extremely effective and holistic way.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
My advice to other leaders is that encouraging your employees to take care of themselves is going to improve your work culture. People are much more irritable, grumpy and unfocused when they haven’t slept so that is going to affect how they interact with their co-workers. Promoting healthy sleep and play time will increase creativity, productivity and happiness at work and in life.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book that has made the biggest difference in my life lately is The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. His recommendation to take time for yourself in the morning has changed my mood and outlook on life every day. I now recommend a morning routine to my sleep clients because it helps regulate stress levels first thing in the morning and throughout the day which helps them sleep better at night.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful? This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Physically, during meditation your heart beat slows, your blood pressure lowers, your cortisol lowers and your brainwaves change as you enter a more relaxed state. You become more calm, serene and present in the moment. Much of our stress comes from being caught up in the past or worried about the future. Being mindful puts you in the present moment, making those worries disappear. Meditation gives your mind a chance to rest and release past stress making you better able to deal with the stressors of everyday life in a non-reactive way.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
It’s all too easy for worrisome and anxious thoughts to spiral into panicky, out of control fears if they aren’t kept in check. So I recommend a specific kind of journaling exercise that releases your fears onto paper so you can release them from your mind, too.
Here’s the simple activity:
Step 1: Write down your worst fears. Keep writing until you get to the bottom of your fears.
Step 2: Then write, step-by-step, what you’re going to do if those fears actually come true.
Example: Let’s say one of my fears at this time is losing all of my savings and having nothing left. That makes me feel panicked and extremely uncomfortable, even though I realize that the point of having savings is for times like these. I will also feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I’m not making enough money. What else? Keep writing until you’ve gotten it all out.
To fix it, I’ll start saving again as soon as I can. I can even save more than usual to build up my savings faster. I’ll start at $100 a month and increase it from there. Even if it takes years, I know I’ll get back to where I was before I lost everything.
Writing down your worst fears will help you realize that it’s not the end of the world and that there’a solution.
Meditation is a form of mindfulness that helps us become more present. I’m sure you’ve heard of meditation and all of its benefits by now but here are some reminders:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Lowers inflammation
- Improves sleep
- Better adapt to change
- Increases creativity
- Connects your left brain to your right
- Increases productivity
- Makes you smarter (it literally increases IQ)
- Reduces pain
If you’ve been resistant about adopting this habit of the most successful people in the world, this time of forced un-busyness is a perfect time to try something new. You don’t have to “clear your mind,” as you may have heard. Instead, you can sit quietly in a comfortable position and let your thoughts come and go without continuing them. It may be helpful to follow a guided meditation when you’re just starting out. Keep in mind that practicing for even 2 or 5 minutes is beneficial.
People who are grateful take better care of themselves, exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than others. Also, gratitude reduces envy and resentment, increases happiness, reduces depression, gives us more empathy and compassion for others and ourselves and helps you sleep better.
My favorite gratitude journal is the 5-minute Journal by Intelligent Change but there are dozens available. Or you can do what I do and bullet point 5 things you’re grateful for every morning when you wake up.
4. Morning routine
Speaking of waking up, I suggest starting your day in a relaxing and peaceful way because this will set the tone for the rest of the day.
Imagine the opposite: waking up to an alarm clock (or to your baby’s cries like I used to), snoozing a couple of times, then jumping out of bed and rushing around to finally get out the door for the day. Starting your day in a such a stressful way elevates your cortisol levels immediately, making it hard for them to lower as your day continues.
Instead, you could go to bed at an appropriate time the night before so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock. Take the time to meditate, review your goals, do some journaling and/ or read something motivational. Then, and only then, turn on your phone, check your emails and start the more busy part of your day. Minimizing stress first thing in the morning will help you stay less stressed throughout the day.
5. Get a good night’s sleep
Prioritizing sleep is even more important during uncertain and stressful times. Your body releases cortisol when you don’t get enough sleep, making it even harder to be calm and peaceful the next day.
Taking the time to unwind at the end of the day will lower your stress hormones and anxiety so you can get the sleep you need. I suggest doing something relaxing that doesn’t involve screens or the news the last hour before bed. Screen make us wired but tired and also emit blue-light which suppresses melatonin, making it hard to fall asleep. Reading, stretching, taking bath, listening to an audiobook and meditating are all perfect, peaceful activities you can do before bed to sleep peacefully and wake up feeling calm and serene.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Recommend that they spend time away from the news. Yes, it’s important to know what’s going on but listening to the news all day can easily create panic and fear. Instead, suggest that they pick a time of day to catch up on news (not first thing in the morning or right before bed) and spend the rest of the day focusing on calm and peaceful activities.
- Remind them of what they have to be grateful for. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity during stressful times. Recalling all their blessings can help lessen anxiety and stress.
- Make a list with them about their fears. Then go through that list and talk about what they have control over and what they don’t. Come up with solutions to what they do have control over and suggest that they let go of the rest.
- Check in regularly. We’re all missing connecting with each other in person during this time. But we can still connect on the phone or video with our loved ones. If you know that someone is feeling anxious, call or text them every day, letting them know that you’re thinking about them and supporting them.
- Encourage them to journal, meditate and have a morning and bedtime routine to lower their stress and anxiety. Taking care of yourself is even more important during uncertain times. Holding them accountable to taking care of themselves can help ensure that they’re doing what they can to feel less anxious.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
I suggest Emily Fletcher’s book Stress Less, Accomplish More about her style of meditation for busy, high performers.
My favorite gratitude journal is the 5-minute Journal by Intelligent Change.
Learn a relaxing and positive way to start your day in The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Anything is possible.” My outlook on life has changed so much since having my son and becoming an entrepreneur. I have found my purpose and I believe that anything is possible when you’re pursuing your dreams and helping others.
I love finding children’s books to read to my son that show that anything is possible. One of my favorites is When Pigs Fly by Valerie Coulman. In the book, there’s a young cow named Ralph who wants a bike. After his father exasperatingly tells him many times that cows don’t bike, he finally tells Ralph that he can have a bike “when pigs fly.” The determined Ralph learns how to fly a helicopter, takes his pig friends flying and finally gets his bike. And every time someone tells him “cows don’t bike” or “cows don’t fly helicopters,” he just says, “not yet they don’t.” I love this story of determination, problem solving and reaching your dreams no matter what because I truly believe that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m passionate about spreading the awareness about the importance of sleep, especially to high achievers who want to do great things for others. I also want to give hope that everyone can sleep well and inspire them to get help if they aren’t sleeping. I believe that getting the sleep you need makes you more positive, motivated and successful so you can make the difference you want to make in the world.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Sleep for Success Facebook group
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!