Just Let Them Be

As part of our Guest Posts series, please welcome to our blog Joy Sereda.

Joy Sereda is a Counsellor and the Clinical director of the Summit Counselling Group in Vancouver, Vancouver_Office_Window1British Columbia, Canada.  Her areas of expertise include dealing with and helping people cope with depression, anxiety, stress management as well as the sleep issues that can be caused by these emotional and mental states.

The following article was written by Joy especially for us here at Calming Music Weekly, so that she could share her suggestions and ideas for getting to sleep – even when your mind is worried, wandering, anxious, stressed and racing at a million miles an hour.

Over to you, Joy….

Just let them be, so you can sleep.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a way to just ‘turn off’ your mind at night so you can drift off to sleep?

Instead, we often end up replaying things that have happened during the day, creating scenarios of events that will most likely never happen, planning for this and worrying about that – and once we realize that we are all caught up in these horrible, anxiety provoking thoughts, we shift little bit to adding up exactly how many hours of sleep we’ll get if we fall asleep right now.

We start to think about all the things we need to do tomorrow:

“what time the baby is going to be up in the morning”,

“what time you have to leave the house by”,

“how many things needs to get done”,

and “how on earth am I going to survive the day with only 5… no wait.. make that 4 ½ hours sleep?!?”

Then we start to beat ourselves up for not being able to turn off the thoughts and go to sleep.

News flash – if there was a way to turn off the thoughts, you would have done it already.

Maybe you've tried taking a hot bath, avoiding caffeine, not watching TV and all the ‘standard’ sleep hygiene techniques to no avail.

Your mind is wide awake and talking up a storm!

The problem isn’t your sleep.

The problem isn’t even the thoughts that you’re having.

The problem is how you’re responding to the thoughts that are coming to mind.

It’s important to start recognizing that thoughts are just thoughts; and even more importantly that you cannot control the thoughts that your mind is bringing to you.

For example, I want you to try your very best not to think about chocolate ice cream… try not to even let the picture of chocolate ice cream enter your mind.icecreams1

How successful were you?

Even if you managed to think about chocolate chip cookies instead (great… now I’m getting hungry), you thought about chocolate ice cream first.

Even if I offered you a million dollars not to think about chocolate ice cream, your mind is going to bring to you the thought of chocolate ice cream.

The more you try not to think about it, the more you’re going to think about it.

The same goes for those anxiety provoking, stressful thoughts that are going on in your head and not letting you sleep.

The more you try to not think about those things, the more you’re going to.

So what to do?

Well, assuming that you have already done everything to try and make your night time routine as relaxing as possible, it’s time to draw your focus and attention to enjoying the comforting and relaxing feelings – instead of focusing your energy on trying to get rid of thoughts that you cannot control.

Just let those thought be, and as a bi-product they will go away on their own.

Sounds a bit crazy right?

For example, I was in the grocery store with my son, who was 3 years old at the time, and who knows what actually set him off, maybe his hair was too heavy, or maybe his sleeve was touching his thumb, who knows – but wow.

Meltdown temper tantrum time!

Although it was uncomfortable and embarrassing, I just let him be.

He lay on the floor kicking and screaming, and I simply stood there and let him be.

I didn’t try to control it, I didn’t try to make it stop or go away, I didn’t respond to it and he eventually settled down.

If I had tried to control it or make him stop it would have been like throwing gasoline on a fire!anxious1

The same goes with our anxious thoughts.

So, as you lie in bed tonight, just notice that your mind is trying to bring you all sorts of useless information and scenarios.

Notice without responding.

Instead, draw your attention to the calming music that you put on earlier, focus on the sound, see if you can notice the different layers of music within the song.

Your mind will naturally try to draw you back into some chaotic, anxious memory or scenario; just notice that’s what has happened (without judging the thought or yourself) and draw your attention back to the sound that you are hearing.

Some clients tell me that they get frustrated that their mind will keep bringing them thoughts.

I tell them that their minds are doing exactly what our minds do… talk to us non-stop.

Fighting with our minds simply doesn’t work.

Just like fighting with a toddler temper tantrum.

You can judge yourself negatively for it, but now you’re basically beating yourself up for being a normal human being.

And really… being self-critical when you’re trying to get some sleep isn’t at all helpful.

So instead, try being compassionate.

Recognize that you are a normal human being and your mind is bringing to you normal thoughts.

They just are not helpful thoughts right at this moment.

Choose to notice when those thoughts come, and just let them be.

Instead, take a mental step back so you can focus on something that is helpful in this moment.

Draw your attention to the calming music that you are hearing, and allow yourself to enjoy it… you deserve it.


About the Author:

Joy Sereda
has her MA in Counselling Psychology, and is a Registered Clinical Counsellor /Joy_Sereda Registered Social Worker.  She is the Clinical Director of the Summit Counselling Group in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  Joy and her colleagues have extensive experience in stress, anger, mood, trauma and anxiety treatment; they utilize various approaches including mindfulness techniques, and acceptance and commitment therapy.
Please visit summitcounselling.ca for more information about Joy, her team and their services.



Joy has suggested and recommended some extra reading and listening:

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Without Meditation

UCLA Free Guided Meditations.

Thank you Joy - for your contributions to this calming music blog !




P.S.  I really feel like an ice cream right now.....


Photo credits - Hans van den Berg, Joy Sereda, Mike Benhken, Ricardo Motti


  • A fellow Canadian! Pleased to meet you Joy!

    I love what you’ve shared here. I’m notorious for having fights and negative internal dialogue with myself. It’s so unhealthy and I’ve become so much more mindful of it.

    Thank you so much for sharing (and thank you Matthew for introducing Joy to us)!

  • Joy

    April 20, 2015

    Hello Jennifer!

    Nice to ‘meet’ you – and thank you for your message.

    The good news is, you’re not alone! Each one of us is our own worst critic, and that internal dialogue can be incredibly mean sometimes.

    I often ask my clients to try and notice when their inner-critic is talking up a storm; and sometimes will ask them to imagine what that inner-critic looks like, even give her/him/it a name. Just as another tool to separate the self-critical thoughts and messages from the valid, helpful ones.

    Again, thank you for your message – remember to be kind to yourself!


    • CalmingMusic

      April 20, 2015

      Hi Jennifer,

      No problem at all – I suspect that I will also be learning a lot from Joy as time goes on 🙂