Ep 20. Rethinking Progress During Recovery

Jan 11, 2024

All right, my friends. This one is all about measuring PROGRESS.

When you’re going through insomnia, of course you want sleep more than life itself — that's totally understandable. But let’s be mindful of how we measure progress because one can lead to stress, and the other safety. 

In this episode, I challenge the conventional measure of progress and introduce a novel perspective:

Progress is better assessed by how one RESPONDS to sleep than the quantity or quality of sleep itself.

Whatt?! Tune in to learn:

  • Why relying on sleep as a way to define progress might be holding you back
  • How directing attention to our responses brings about profound change
  • The goal versus byproduct concept
  • Strategies to ease pressure and overcome performance anxiety

Overcoming insomnia is a nuanced journey, but it doesn’t have to be hard. (It’s certainly not harder than insomnia itself.)

As you move forward, remember:

  • self-kindness is always an option
  • celebrating the little things is actually the BIG thing
  • progress doesn’t show up as sleep first.

Happy New Year!!! ๐ŸŽˆ

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Full transcription below:


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About Beth Kendall MA, FNTP:

For decades, Beth struggled with the relentless grip of insomnia. After finally understanding insomnia from a mind-body perspective, she changed her relationship with sleep, and completely recovered. Liberated from the constant worry of not sleeping, she’s on a mission to help others recover as well. Her transformative program Mind. Body. Sleep.™ has been a beacon of light for hundreds of others seeking solace from sleepless nights.

DISCLAIMER: The podcasts available on this website have been produced for informational, educational and entertainment purposes only. The contents of this podcast do not constitute medical or professional advice. No person listening to and/or viewing any podcast from this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of the content of a podcast without first seeking appropriate professional advice and/or counseling, nor shall the information be used as a substitute for professional advice and/or counseling. The Mind. Body. Sleep. Podcast expressly disclaims any and all liability relating to any actions taken or not taken based on any or all contents of this site as there are no assurance as to any particular outcome.


How to Measure Progress During Insomnia Recovery 


Hello everyone and welcome to this very first episode of 2024 which is kind of exciting because even though I've never really been one to celebrate New Year's or give a lot of attention to this particular transition in life, I am actually taking pause this year because it's been such a big year. Almost a hundred people came through the Mind. Body. Sleep. mentorship, I started this podcast, and I just really learned a lot about myself and helping others and entrepreneurship and I feel very grateful to be where I’m at. So, for all of you listening on the other end, thank YOU for being here and helping me be better at the work that I do.

So today, we’re talking all about how to measure progress on the recovery path. I think this will be a really helpful episode because it’s one of the ways that I see people get a little stuck in the weeds which is why it's something I cover right away in the first week in my program. The metric of success as you move through the process isn't necessarily what you think it might be, so I'm going to dive much deeper into that.

Differentiating Between Free Content and the Mentorship Program

But before we go there, I wanted to talk about a question that came in several times this past week asking about how the Mind. Body. sleep. mentorship is different from the free content that I offer. Or how does my paid program differ from what I offer for free. This is a great question and one that I would probably would have wondered as well. Usually when I get the same question rolling in, I I think of it as a little nudge that maybe this would be something good to talk because if one person is wondering, then it’s pretty likely that others are as well.

The world of content has become almost prolific in my opinion, what you can learn from a single hashtag on Instagram or Youtube, used to take a whole college degree or at least a lot of different books. I personally think that the work I’m doing in this very emerging paradigm of insomnia recovery and the content of my peers is extraordinary because it was virtually non-existent five years ago. None of this was around and there was no such thing as an adult sleep coach. So, to be a part of a movement like this at such an early stage is really pretty exciting.

Now, that said, even with all of the amazing information that we have currently have at our fingertips, that doesn’t mean that it’s easily applied to our lives. And in this way, I think that our thirst for information can start to trip us up a bit. Because this becomes the new loop — we start seeking and learning and looking for that next hit, right? Or the perfect “a-ha” moment, the one piece of information that’s going to make us sleep without every really integrating what we’re learning into our everyday lives.

It's a bit like shiny object syndrome, right? We keep scrolling and scrolling and we feel like we’re helping the problem, but we’re actually just unconsciously practicing the problem.

So, at this point, my program offers quite a bit of content that I haven’t shared on my podcast but that’s mainly because I haven’t been podcasting long enough. My intention isn’t to “hide” anything or keep it all a secret — it’s just going to take some time to share everything because it’s such a rich program.

The Significance of Coaching

Now, my perspective on insomnia recovery is that it isn’t absolutely necessary to join a program like mine to fully recover. Many people have overcome insomnia through my free course alone (which of course makes me very happy). However, I think it can be a difficult thing to go through alone and some people can benefit quite a lot from additional support because we’re dealing with this amazing little organ called the human brain. And our brains like to tell us all kinds of things that aren’t necessarily true and a lot of times we need another human element to flesh that out for us.

I personally do not think that I would have realized how I was unintentionally creating insomnia for virtually my whole life without the skill of another person to show me my mind. If you want to learn more about my story, you can go back to episodes 3 and 4 where I break that down. I needed someone who wasn’t in my story, to show me my story, and that’s really what snapped me out of it.

Plus, I’m just a very big fan of coaching in general. I like to challenge my preconceived notions about things and have more awareness about the patterns that are showing up in my life. So, I tend to invest a lot in my own mind because when I understand what my brain is doing why, it takes me off autopilot mode and creates a lot more room for me to make a more conscious choice about how I want to perceive a situation versus my brain just deciding for me. And it’s that sense of agency that helps me keep growing and expanding in the direction I want to go.

A good example of this would my recent venture into entrepreneurship. As a newcomer to this realm, one of the very first things I did was join a community of people who were much more experienced than me. I knew that my brain was going to come up with some seriously interesting narratives about this whole situation and I was going to need a coach who could help me move from the employee orientation (which is what I’ve been in my whole adult life) to the CEO orientation. So, acknowledging that this was a new way of thinking for me, and getting help on that path saved me a lot of time, money, and frustration in the long run.

It's really the same thing in the Mind. Body. Sleep. mentorship. I help people change the way they think about sleep. I’m moving them from an orientation of effort and problem-solving, to one of trust and ease. So THEY can save time, money and frustration. Having the guidance of a coach who can help you see where you might be unintentionally creating pressure, or where your brain is reaching for control, or what the story is running in the background is priceless and THAT’S the true value of the program. It’s really the human element. Because ALL of us have blind spots, especially when they’re linked to survival. So just having that support in place from people who are on the other side and can see what your brain is doing before you can is what makes the program so valuable.

So, I hope that offers some insight into how the program is different from what I offer in my blogs and podcasts. And you know really, I think it’s also about intentionality. Because passively listening to or watching videos is a lot different than actively investing in your recovery process and applying it to your life. An intellectual understanding of the principles is not the same as internalizing them or embodying them. and I think this is where many of us benefit from some help.

Okay, so on to our topic about how to measure progress during recovery.

Measuring Progress on the Recovery Path

Now, it makes sense when you’re in the throes of insomnia recovery, that you would want to use sleep as the metric of success, right? And I get that because most of you listening here want better sleep.

But you know, here’s the thing… plenty of people that I work with are sleeping fine but they still have insomnia because there’s a lurking fear running in the background that’s keeping them from fully living their lives.

They might still be protecting their sleep, or not going on vacations or still doing very elaborate nighttime routines, or just not doing all the things they want to do in their life because of a heightened sensitivity around anything that could impact sleep.

So I don’t really work from the sleep angle, because insomnia isn’t about sleep, it’s about the conditioned arousal response that’s getting in the way of sleep.

And sleep is an inherently passive process anyway. Trying to control something that not only doesn’t require our control but is also beyond our control is not only exhausting but also unattainable.

So, we don’t use sleep as the metric of success.

Shift in Focus: Response Over Sleep

Instead, we use our RESPONSE to sleep because this is where we do have influence, choice and control.

So let me give you an example of this from a recent exchange I had with a Mind. Body. Sleep. student.

Illustrating Progress Through Response 

So this particular student was about 9 or 10 weeks into the program and when we started talking, he said that he hadn’t really noticed much difference in his sleep. But as I’m listening, I’m noticing that he’s talking about things a lot differently — he sounds much lighter, things don’t sound so hopeless, there seems to be less helplessness around the whole situation. And this happens all the time btw, where my clients will say, “Oh, nothing much has changed” and meanwhile everyone around the client is noticing a LOT has changed but I think because we live with ourselves every day, we don’t really notice this as much.

So anyway, as I’m listening to the words and overall tone of the conversation, I asked this client how he’s defining success, or progress for himself on the recovery path. And he went on to share what he would like his sleep to look like and what normal sleep meant to him, and if met, that would indicate progress on his journey.

So then I asked if he had noticed any changes in his response to sleep during his everyday life.

And he went on the describe all of these massive changes like not researching sleep or insomnia anymore, being a lot easier on himself throughout the process, not calling in sick to work as often, not ruminating as much and just generally feeling a lot less baffled by the whole thing.

So as a COACH, THESE are the things that I’m looking for in terms of progress because these are the kinds of things that generally come first. Recovery doesn’t usually show up as sleep first, it comes as a byproduct of all of these other things. And these are the much more meaningful indicators of progress because they’re working with the root of the problem which is the conditioned alarm bell creating hyperarousal in the first place.

Because remember, a lot of people with insomnia, even when they are sleeping fine, are still living with a fear of not sleeping. So, it’s not about the sleep. It’s about helping the brain out of this perceived threat response.

Each one of the things he shared in amazing because they show a more enduring shift in the mind. When people stop researching, or there’s much more indifference around researching, then I know they have let go of the idea that there is some magical key or fix out there. And this signals safety to the brain, right? When the brain sees that we’re not trying to fix the problem, it re-evaluates the problem.

We kind of have to be the adult of our own brain.

When someone tells me they’re being nicer to themselves on the journey, not only do I think that’s lovely, but it also signals safety to a scared brain, right? Because when it sees that we’re not beating ourselves up for a bad night or blaming ourselves, it will relink sleeplessness with kindness versus danger, and an alarm bell like hyperarousal isn’t really needed in the presence of kindness.

Not calling into work sick as often tells me that the emotional struggle around physically difficult days is starting to subside. This, too, shows a scared brain that hey, we are still getting by here, we’re okay.

When there’s less rumination and less confusion and less effort to try and figure everything out that tells me that the brain is moving out of fix-it mode, and this is really huge because it’s all the seeking that causes the suffering.

It’s all of the constant focus and attention on trying to fix the problem that reinforces the problem.

Had to throw a few paradoxes in there, right? Because what’s a podcast on insomnia without paradoxes.

But remember, this little fear in the brain is looking to us to determine the level of threat in any given situation. So we have the ability, through education and awareness, to influence this threat response and teach the brain to let go of hyperarousal.

Goal vs. Byproduct Concept

So if you find your brain really wanting to use sleep as the measure of progress, you can consider the goal versus byproduct concept.

Sleep, due to its passive nature can’t really be a goal, right? Nobody, no matter how powerful they are, can force or will themselves to sleep.  But it does come as a byproduct of responding differently to insomnia over time.

And again, intention matters. Because if we’re using sleep as our main metric of progress, then this can create a lot of pressure and performance anxiety, right. It can crank up hyperarousal and make us feel like we’re failing at something we can’t control anyway. And that can feel really discouraging.

So I’m going to encourage you to notice some of the less tangible indicators of progress like how you’re treating yourself as you move through the process, acknowledge when you’re more indifferent to whatever’s happening or your less caught up in your thinking. Or celebrating when you shift your focus towards things that actually matter to you in your life versus just the status of your sleep. These kinds of responses are a MUCH truer indication of long-term recovery than sleep itself.

So, understanding the goal versus byproduct concept will help you a lot because sleep itself can be up and down for a while and that’s totally normal. It’s your response to sleep that matters most.

If you find this podcast helpful, please do leave a rating and review. My podcast producer says this is very important and it actually means a lot of me because then I know I’m on the right track.

Wishing you all wonderful things ahead, I’ll see you next time.

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