There is sometimes this assumption that to focus on yourself means that you are selfish – which could not be further from the truth.  When you are giving your body what it needs you are sending a message of self love, with actions you are saying “I love myself”. This is such a vital part of your treatment.  I want to create a solid base for you to experience self-regulation and emotional decompressing.  When you are taking care of yourself you are in a better place to help others.  It is a cognitive distortion to think you are being selfish by focusing on your needs and healing.  My approach to self care is very much like the food pyramid – if we can create a solid base then you are able to build on those simple (yet powerful) things and have a higher distress tolerance whenever unexpected stress and emotion hits.  In this section we will break down this Wise Zen Therapy approach to self-care:

Blue pyramid divided into 4 sections, starting from bottom to top: Sleep, Water, Exercise/Yoga, Nutrition/Gut (above this) In Case of Emergency, (above this) No Cost Self Care, and on the top point of the pyramid: Cost Self Care.

In this blog post I will address the first item that I check in with clients – “How are you sleeping?”


I like to first address some basic self care that is often overlooked or diminished but can be so powerful in your mental health journey.  Sometimes sleep is impaired and there are countless studies on how sleep impacts your mood. Here is one study by Harvard University talking about just how important it is:


Sometimes sleep can be impacted by our inability to turn off our thoughts and can develop into insomnia, we unknowingly condition ourselves to dread bedtime because we have created a pattern of dread around sleep.  For sleep hygiene to change you first have to change your attitude around sleep.  Create a ritual before bedtime.  Here is an amazing resource to get you started:

Sleep Tracking

  1. Your bedtime is _______________.
  2. Set your alarm and get up at the same time every morning, regardless of how much sleep you got during the night. Your wake time is _______________.
  3. Do not nap during the day*.

* In cases where sleepiness might cause harm to self or others, go ahead and nap, go to bed earlier, sleep in, etc. In elderly, scheduling a nap might be beneficial, but try to limit to 30 minutes (and track this!).

Practice Sleep Hygiene

  • Cut down on caffeine • Don’t go to bed hungry • Avoid moderate to heavy alcohol use in the late evening • Avoid excessive liquids in the evening • Avoid smoking before bed or during the night • Make sure bedroom is quiet (except perhaps for some white noise), very dark, and comfortable in terms of mattress, pillow, and temperature • TURN OFF YOUR PHONE & TV – I cannot stress this enough •

The old way of thinking – The ABC Model

And because I love Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT) here is a diagram that shows just how the brain begins to process thoughts and feelings around sleep.  So say you got into a fight with a friend or a partner (or were having fun celebrating your birthday) this event will produce an emotional response such as anger or happiness.  Because of this event you’ll likely be thinking about it and some of our best thinking is when it is quiet and there is not a lot of stimuli – think dark quiet bedroom.   Try to implement a change when you start to notice thoughts like “UGH! Its 2am, I’ll never be able to go to sleep!” Maybe it’s a self regulation tool you’ve learned like letter writing, progressive muscle relaxation, getting some warm milk or diffusing some calming essential oils.

The new way of thinking – The ABC Model

Just like the previous model another way to intervene is with self talk, start to interject when you’re brain starts with “I’m not going to get a good night’s sleep now!” With positive affirmations around sleep:

“I’m allowing my body to relax and restore”

“I will process that tomorrow” (sometimes it is helpful to keep a notebook by your bed to jot down things that are coming up and that way you can redirect your brain to “remember, I put it in the notebook to handle in the morning”)

“It is safe for me to sleep now”

“I am comfortable in this space”

“I am getting a good night’s sleep”

Adding “D” to the ABC Model

Sleep Resources

I highly recommend:

I suggest white noise, pink noise, sound machines over any playlist of songs that have singing or a melody because there is a difference between listening and hearing, listening tends to be an active process so it requires attention which stimulates the brain versus hearing which can be passive and less distracting.

There are some amazing soft wireless headphones that can enhance the experience and create a calming effect to induce sleep. Please see my website for a link to purchase if you are interested.


Try to create a nightly ritual that sends a signal to your brain to produce melatonin and has a conditioning effect to counter any stress, anxiety and worry that is associated with the bed and sleep.

– Margaret Weisenberger