Oct 16, 2017

Routine Update

Guys.  This is actually working.

I am two weeks in.  There have been maybe one or two nights where I messed up and got 6 instead of 8 hours of sleep.  That's crazy!  I haven't been this well rested since the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy.

And it's funny because I don't always feel that well-rested.  Some days I still feel tired and then I get dejected and defeatist and say, "WHY isn't this working??? I'm doing all the right things!"

BUT even when I feel tired, I'm somehow able to follow that nighttime routine.  I make dinner instead of binge-eating my horrible sugar/peanut butter mixture that I make when I'm sad and stressed.

I'll probably never have the leisure to sleep a full weekend, which means recovering from months and months of sleep deprivation is also going to be a slow process.  Expecting anything else is unreasonable.  But in just two weeks I've seen all kinds of improvements.

1. Having a visual forces me to confront time limitations

I think I mentioned this in the last post, but when an opportunity comes up or I get invited to something, I look at my schedule.  What would have to be left undone and is it worth it?  Certain time blocks are more sacred than others - Friday night date night for example.  And not scheduling things on Sunday because Sunday always, always gets away from us.

2. It cuts waaay back on decision fatigue

This schedule eliminated my need to be constantly forcing myself to do productive things.  Now it's not a battle of willpower to go run - I just go because that's the time I'm supposed to do it.  And I realize this might not work for everyone, because it's definitely a psychological trick.  You have to tell yourself you're sticking to this schedule no matter what OR decide what the exceptions will be and avoid straying.  In my case, I follow the routine unless I scheduled something in advance that conflicts and then there's still no willpower battle - I just do the scheduled thing.  No spur-of-the moment decisions because that's when my discipline will fail.

3. It's not nearly as constraining as I thought

I think in my mind a routine had to be the same thing every day or it wouldn't "stick."  That hasn't been the case at all.  For me, it's not as much about the consistent act of every day the same thing as it is about putting things on autopilot and following the schedule.  So I do get variety because every day on the schedule is different.  Every day has its own theme and within my structured time blocks there is definitely room for choice.  Last week on Thursday (baby-at-home day), I left my mom group and decided to let Orion nap in the car while I got ice cream instead of rushing back home to have him nap in his crib.  He still got his nap in, I got a fun treat, and the day felt more spontaneous without breaking the routine or having to leave things undone.

4. It keeps my irrational night-time brain in check

So one night I was convinced I was way behind with work things and I'd never catch up and all my clients would hate me.  I told Ryan I was going to break the routine and pull an all-nighter.  He talked me down and then the next morning, I completed my tasks in a matter of 2 or 3 hours and was all caught up.  Later (during my first ever business coaching session!), I was discussing this phenomenon where business tasks always feel so urgent late at night and Coach told me that your rational, thinking brain (pre-frontal cortex?) functions best in the morning.  He said by evening it's tired and the amygdala, which runs your fear and fight-or-flight response, takes over.  So now, knowing this, I can ignore that sudden, driving urge to get back to work when the baby goes to bed.

5. I'm rediscovering my own emotions

In my post on joy I said something about how the only times I've felt actual "joy" have been moments with the baby.  I also said that I felt more of those moments when I got more sleep and that trend has definitely continued.  The other night I went into the basement to say goodnight to Ryan and I caught him mid-binge on a pile of Reese's cups.  I don't know if it was the role reversal or the funny mock-panic face he gave me, but I laughed my ass off.  I think that moment was my favorite thing to happen this past week.

I think I'd gone so long feeling angry and unhappy that the lower plateau of not miserable felt like normal.  But now I'm starting to laugh and really feel it deep down inside, and have moments of happiness unclouded by other, negative emotions and I'm realizing I was not "back to normal" and that was not "the new normal."  That was sleep deprivation, and I don't need to live that way.

6. I'm learning what I enjoy

One thing I've never been able to consistently do is go to bed an hour early and follow any sort of bedtime routine or journal.  So the past two weeks have been kind of revelatory in that regard.  I'm discovering that I do like journaling (I always thought I didn't but really I don't like trying to force myself to do it when I'm exhausted and want to collapse into bed).  I also like my particular journal, which has prompts for making lists.

I like the end of the day being "output" time instead of input.  It's easier to sleep when I've emptied my brain out and I feel calmer and more centered.  I've also found a couple other things I enjoy: waking up with clean-feeling teeth, not having clothes strewn all over the floor, making the bed every day, and, oddly enough, brushing my hair at night.  I don't really care about washing my face, but the fact that I'm taking care of my skin and my body makes me feel better in general.

7. I'm getting confirmation that this is a healthier way to live

An unexpected side effect of this past 2 weeks: I've lost a couple pounds.  Without trying.  I made zero diet rules.  The only thing is that this schedule makes room for cooking.  So I'm preparing healthy meals for the family and we're all eating better.  I'm not specifically trying to avoid binge-eating but I desire it less when I'm not so tired and stressed AND this new schedule simply doesn't make time for it.

I'm curious to see if this trend continues but it's totally not a focus or a priority right now.  Forming healthy habits and feeling good are the only things I'm worried about.  Health and happiness > weight.  Always.


It's not always this cut and dry.  Some days my fear brain takes over and I bemoan the fact that I'm behind on everything and I do miss my all-nighters.  Even if I didn't always get a lot done, I enjoyed them in a weird, perverse way.  I sometimes feel like balancing my time so evenly between all the different segments of life means that none of them are going to move forward very fast.  And that's true, but the overall trend is still up for the areas I've prioritize AND for my overall happiness/mental sanity.

I spend the last 8 months building my business as much as I could without dropping dead from sleep deprivation or neglecting my child.  I don't regret it because I accomplished a lot, but it's also not sustainable long term and I'm ready to ramp it down for a while.  Maybe eventually I'll be ready to switch gears again, but for now this schedule, this routine, and these priorities are working.

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