Last night I went to bed a few minutes after midnight and set alarm for 7-30 am. However, I could not fall asleep for a long long time. Bad memories decided to pay me a long overdue visit. Past hurts and resentments swarmed around my mind and kept stinging the poor thing. Initially I tried doing mindfulness meditation to stay in the present but wasn’t able to get rid of the unpleasantness. So I decided to cry it out.
Recently I read the book “How to Fix a Broken Heart” by clinical psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. In this book he discusses two specific kinds of heartbreaks that are considered somewhat trivial in general but are no less painful that so-called serious heartbreaks – loss of romantic love not within marriage and loss of a beloved pet. In the book Dr. Winch has discussed in details, among other things, the importance of practicing self-compassion. One of the techniques of being compassionate to one’s own self, he says, is to imagine a dear friend in a similar situation as yours and treat yourself the way you would treat that friend. I gave myself a hug and listened to myself as I vented out throughout tears. That felt therapeutic and I fell asleep after some time.
I woke up around 7-15 am, refreshed, before the alarm rang. I did my morning routine of yoga and meditation. A bright, sunny and uncomfortably hot Sunday welcomed me as I went outside.
Day 8 was another small success just like day 7. Cheesy as it may sound, making an appointment with myself for doing yoga in the morning has now worked for two days in a row.
Last night I got an idea for a short story. I decided to write it instead of putting it off for the next day lest I would forget the details. I wrote for about an hour and finished the story. I finished my pre-bedtime routine and slept within 2 am.
I was able to wake up easily to my 8 am alarm. I practiced yoga for about an hour but again dozed of at the end of the routine while relaxing in Shavasana. After waking up I did not feel like meditating, so I postponed it for later in the day.
I am noticing myself to be more mindful and more present compared to earlier throughout the day. I am often able to catch my inner monologue saying shit and then gently, non-judgmentally change it. I am also realizing certain trains of uneasy thoughts in my mind. I think those will come out clearly during freestyle journaling.
Raising my 3rd (and last) cup of Darjeeling tea to a better tomorrow.
Day 7 turned out to be a relative success compared to Days 4, 5 and 6. I was able to retire to to bed within 1-15 am. I set my alarm for 8 am (again, not wanting to be sleep deprived). What surprised me was that even though I had more than 9 hours of sleep on the previous night, it did not take me more than a few minutes to fall asleep. does it mean that all the hours that I have deprived myself of sleep previously are stored and now being redeemed? I don’t really mind sleeping an extra hour daily if that keeps dementia and Alzheimer’s disease away. Memory loss happens to be my worst fear.
I woke up at 8 am as the alarm rang. Initially I was a little confused since I had been killing at Candy Crush saga in my dream. After the colourful fog of patterned candies and difficult candy patterns lifted, I made a metal note to look up how to get rid of Candy Crush addiction (which I am going to do after writing this post). Then I spread my yoga mat on the floor after about a month and did a few iterations of Surya Namaskār, Shashangāsana (for some reason unknown to me spelt as Shashankasana everywhere on the Internet) and Uṣṭrāsana. I dozed off for a few minutes while doing Shavāsana (literal meaning: the corpse pose; very relaxing) at the end of my routine and woke up when the heat generated by exercise dispersed from my body. It was quite cold for a late March morning and I was lying on the floor on a thin rubber mat.
After practising yoga I did a few minutes of mindfulness meditation. It is amazing how many weird thoughts keep popping up in our minds in a continuous stream. Being mindfulness involves both monitoring these random thoughts and also not judging our own selves for having those thoughts. However, it was with difficulty I kept myself from rolling my eyes at myself for some of those thoughts (perhaps another post for another time).
I had done some freestyle journaling on the previous night since the idea seemed too tempting to not try after I had already written about in yesterday’s post. Today I was running a little late after yoga and meditation, hence I decided to skip journaling for today.
When I reached my lab, I saw with a dismay that the tea shop next door was closed. That meant I would have to settle for bad tea from a place further away for the day. After some time I realized that my dismay wasn’t nearly as debilitating as it used to be earlier if I found the tea shop closed. It felt good to realize and accept that I can function very well throughout the day without drinking a litre of tea. Indeed,
So day 6 was a disaster. I finished watching Ocean’s 8 within 10-30 and was about to go to bed when I remembered I had buy some medicine online. While I was at it, I felt like it would be good to pay some bills even though their due dates were still a few days away. I listened to a podcast on emotional first aid playing in the background while doing these stuff. One thing led to another and I suddenly noticed that it was 3-15 am.
The next day being a holiday I knew that I would be able to get 8 hours sleep even though I slept so late. Today morning I laid out food and water for the cats as usual, and then went back to a deep, dreamless sleep. When I woke up it was 1-30 pm.
I think I need to take a step back here and look at the strategy I am following. Yesterday I was able to stick to my “no caffeine before bed” routine but slipped up on the “no screen before bed” one. The medicine shopping and bill payment could have easily waited a few hours, especially since today I did not have to go to work. I have decided to follow a strategy for the remaining days of the challenge as well as beyond the challenge.
I never fail to wake up early if I have something scheduled like a class, a meeting, an appointment or something like that. If I can wake up early for others, I can also wake up early for myself. I need a purpose to wake up early; something like an appointment with myself. What is so important to me that I want a few extra hours at the beginning of every day to get those done?
- I never find the time or energy to work out at the end of a workday, so it would be a good idea to wake up early to exercise. I actually enjoy doing yoga and it feels great, so I am making a yoga appointment with myself every morning at 7 am.
- I not very adept at mindfulness meditation but I want to be. This I am also going to do in the morning.
- I love to write – like write using physical paper and pen, but never get time to do it. I am going to do some freestyle journaling in the morning.
Let’s see what happens on day 7! I’m going to nail this.
Day 5 was essentially a setback. I finished reading the TED book (which was due for return next morning), went to bed at 1-30 am and was awaken by cats around 7-00 am. Then I felt like going back to sleep again. My alarm rang at 8-30 am but I simply could not get up. Instead of deep sleep I entered a stage of dazed confusion. I was finally able to muster the willpower to get up at 10-30 am.
I did not drink any tea before going to bed yesterday, nor did I use my laptop. That means I was away from caffeine for 6 hours and from blue light for 3 hours before going to bed. I feel good about being able to stick to that. At the same time I feel bad about not being able to go to bed early and not responding to wake up alarm. But it’s okay. Baby steps, baby steps.
Today (20th March) is the International Day of Happiness. When I read that in my daily news feed, I happily thought of everything in my life that I am happy for.
I returned from work last night at around 12 am, tired as a trope used in all superhero movies. My cats were waiting. My roommate had already fed them but they were waiting for my return. I played with them for sometime. I did not turn on my laptop. Did not make tea for myself. These two activities used to be parts of my routine as recently as last week. It felt liberating to not mindlessly follow an old routine like a zombie. I did not even have to put any effort in convincing myself not to turn on the laptop or the kettle.
However, that did not mean I went to bed immediately. Recently I have been exploiting the hell out of Amazon’s lenient return policy with the help of my fast reading speed. I read the first two chapters of a TED book (which I am enjoying a lot and plan to write a post on later) and retired to bed at 2 am.
I did not want to wake up sleep-deprived, so I set the alarm for 8-30 am. It woke me up alright, but I felt like staying in bed a little longer, cuddling with the cats (who were again fed in the morning by my roommate). Cats are incredibly lazy. They don’t need any excuse to flop down on you and immediately purr themselves to sleep. My mom says that my cats are a bad influence on me; they enable and encourage my laziness. My theory is that since I am quite catlike in the first place (at least in terms of lazing around and oversleeping), I bond with them so well.
In my first 4 days of the 4-week sleep challenge I have been able to stay away from tea and screen before going to bed. I have also reduced my daily tea consumption by about 100 ml. Physically I do not yet feel any of the benefits, which is not surprising – but mentally I feel quite well. I have a good feeling about being able to achieve my goals at the end of the challenge, after which I hope I would not have to challenge myself to wake up or sleep early.
I had made my bed and finished all my before-bed routine within 11 pm yesterday. Then I felt like having a chat with my mom. She was pleasantly surprised by my willingness to go to bed early. She, unlike me, is a morning person in the true sense. Now, after more than 3 decades of marriage her daily routine has rubbed off on my dad as well (whom I inherited my night-owlness from). Mom and I disagree on almost everything (I attribute it to generation gap; she attributes it to me being an insufferable know-it-all) but it felt good to chit-chat with her. When she started yawning I finally went to bed.
It was raining outside. The sky visible through the bedroom window was ominously red, lit up by occasional flashes of lightening. The night was eerily silent. No nightbird was calling. No traffic was passing through the road in front of our house. I fell asleep withing minutes of lying down.
Mom woke me up at 5 am with a steaming glass of tea. I groggily sat up with a weird sense of foreboding – like I was being pursued, unawares, by a hungry beast in a dense forest. I tried to remember the dream that I had immediately before waking up, but failed. As I slowly sipped the tea, warmth gradually spread through my whole body, gently wiping away the anxiety from all my organs. Anxiety is our friend. It is a survival mechanism evolved in us over millennia.
I had to get ready and leave within 5-30 am. I hate to leave my parents home in the very early morning as I am too sleepy to properly talk and bid farewell. However, today I felt aware and consequently happy. (Has the challenge started showing results already? I doubt it but so far so good.) I noticed how fresh, cheerful and ready for the day my parents looked, and felt quite good about taking on the task of becoming a morning person. I enjoyed two solid hours of sleep on my way back to university and finally woke up and started my day at 8-30 am.