I am not a morning person. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
In fact, one of my greatest sources of anxiety is knowing I have to be somewhere the following morning. Whenever I have something scheduled, whether it’s something very important like work, or something less important like a dentist appointment, or even something from home like a conference call, the little gremlin named “insomnia” comes to visit.
No matter how many deep breathing exercises I do to achieve a calm state, fears of oversleeping or letting someone down slip right back in and jerk me back into a frenzied state. This happens over and over so I can’t fall asleep until late in the night, if at all, which wreaks havoc on the following morning.
In the best case, it leaves me feeling tired, stressed, and head-achy, and I have trouble getting through the day.
If I’m not as lucky, and I do manage to fall asleep, I often end up oversleeping. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!
When the obligation is required on an ongoing basis, such as for school or work, I quickly develop a sleep deficit, which then turns into sleep deprivation and greatly affects my health and life on every level. I eventually get extended headaches lasting weeks or months without relief, and stomach pains and flare-ups of an intestinal problem. My thoughts become fuzzy, my vision blurred, and I fall asleep while trying to get work done, and work suffers. I become irritable and overwhelmed and unpleasant to be around. Ultimately, the effects become so bad that I eventually have to take a break, whether by taking an extended leave of absence or quitting altogether, until a period of near-hibernation restores me to my usual self.
This is a pattern that has haunted me since I was a small child. I’m not a great sleeper under any circumstances, but morning obligations make it impossible for me to live anything resembling a healthy, “normal” life.
As a child, I was forced to go to school, of course, and my life was misery during the school year. I was sick and stressed out all the time.
As I grew older, I learned to adapt. In college, I quickly learned that 8 AM classes weren’t the way to go. Nor were 9 AM classes. Even 10 AM classes sometimes kept me up at night. Eventually, I scheduled my classes and work times for the afternoon and evening and something happened: I started sleeping well and feeling (*gasp*) healthier and more relaxed.
It was a huge revelation for me that something as simple as keeping my schedule free in the morning could make such a big difference in my health and well-being.
Unfortunately, at various points since I made that discovery, I’ve been forced by circumstances to schedule morning classes or take a 9 to 5 job… and I’ve fallen into the same pattern every time.
Thankfully, I am now at a point in my life where I have the freedom to keep my mornings open. I work, but I intentionally teach only in the evening or online. I have children to care for and a household to run, but because I don’t have a scheduled obligation to meet with some place I have to get to and some outside person who is counting on me being there, that gremlin named “Insomnia” doesn’t pop up in my bedroom nearly as often. (Hey, sometimes you just can’t avoid an 8 AM emergency dentist appointment!)
So as I go through the process of making changes to my life, I need to be absolutely sure that I respect what I am declaring to be my Truth #1: Morning obligations don’t work for me.