I was participating in a course about Insomnia-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-I). This course was not part of continued education designed to equip me help my clients, no, this course was for me. I needed help overcoming insomnia and paid good money for the darn thing. Week after week I learned new tools to apply every day, and the promised land gleaming in the distance was to experience sound and consistent sleep. The journey there consisted of slowly and consistently training my brain and body to have consistent quality sleep. Developing positive sleep thoughts, learning how to wean myself off Unisom, establishing effective bed- and wake-times and using other tools were tremendously helpful – over time. One tool was to get out of bed after an estimated half hour of wakefulness, then staying up doing something relaxing for an estimated half hour (no screens, oh no!) and then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again. Well, I got discouraged, because after a couple of weeks of doing the 30/30 as we called it, I didn’t see much tangible progress. My trainer chuckled in our zoom call and patiently explained that these tools work in conjunction with each other, and they produce results over time. In the mean-time, he reminded me, I just had to calm down and trust the process. After all, how long had I struggled with insomnia? Did I really expect change to happen – well – overnight? I was just a little offended, or maybe embarrassed – I mean, I am a therapist, for goodness’ sake. But I finally got the point.
I decided to stop worrying about what happened during one specific night and instead entrust myself to the process. I trotted on. Slowly, I began to notice small changes. I wasn’t as anxious about going to bed. I didn’t get bent out of shape if I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time going back to sleep. I used my 3 am time for prayer and meditation, and actually came to enjoy this time -well, kind of! I had some good weeks and some not so good weeks, but after a while, my average hours of sleep began to consistently increase, and my whole attitude and mindset about sleep had changed. Four months later, my new normal is around 6 ½ to 7 hours of sleep pretty consistently. It is amazing to not have to drag myself through the day.
Often, we think that change should happen quickly. After all, we have decided to work through old pain, apply healthy boundaries and stop taking everything personally. But the following day we still seem stuck in old patterns. We still struggle a week later. “This counseling thing isn’t working!” Or, “I am doomed to failure!” Nope. All you have to do is to trust your heart and brain’s incredible ability to grow and change. I see this happen every day, but it doesn’t happen in a day. Look at nature. We can sow seeds in a vegetable garden one day. The next day, nothing has happened. No sign of any life. Nothing the following day either. Or the next. Two-three weeks later something happens. A little sprout has popped out of the ground, so insignificant looking, we almost miss it. But then it grows and produces.
Are you going through a process of change and growth? Get some help, develop a plan, follow it, add knowledge and insight to it, and you will see the wonderous result of steady growth and lasting transformation.