Since the beginning of the year, I have been doing something called The Five Minute Journal. I LOVE this journal for several reasons. I have always wanted to journal and start a gratitude list, but the time I thought I had to spend on it overwhelmed me to the point that it just didn’t happen. The beauty with the Five Minute Journal is that there is just one page to fill out per day. About ⅔ in the morning and ⅓ at night. Each morning we are first greeted with a prompt to put in the date (no wasted pages on days you forgot), an inspirational quote, and a place to write three things you are grateful for. The key is you fill out this journal upon waking (for me that means once I get downstairs and make a cup of coffee).
For a while there, I noticed a pattern.
I am grateful for my 7 hours of sleep.
I am grateful for my comfortable bed.
I am grateful for my weighted blanket.
Each and every morning, my gratitude for sleep was foremost.
Then something happened.
Trial. Trial happened. I also thought I could beat the system.
Ok, what does that mean?
Well, I knew how much sleep meant to me . . . and I also know I do so much better in the morning than at night. Thus, I would put myself to bed at 8:30 when the kiddos went to bed, with an alarm for 4AM so I could finish trial prep in the morning/and or trial triage when we were in the thick of it.
Due to no one’s fault, my awesome plan failed. Instead my body woke up at 230AM, wide awake, with a zillion thoughts and questions and theories running through my head. There was nothing I could do to fall back asleep, I tossed and turned . . . and when finally tired, cue snoring hubs . . . going back to sleep was not a realistic option. To my computer I went . . . this happened 3 days in a row last week.
I began to run on empty.
I also had the brilliant idea that I should just stay up later and that would make everything better as I would be so tired I would get some decent Z’s.
When I am running on empty, staying up late, and my defenses are low, I turn to 3 things to make me feel better: television, wine, and popcorn (ok, 4 things, chocolate was in there too). This week I succumbed to that combo 3 days in a row. Each day worse than the next.
Because I check in with myself and because I am journaling, what did I notice?
My anxiety has been through the roof. It has been palpable. I wake up tingly and with a brick on my chest and ON EDGE, maybe even a little rage-ee. When I sit down to journal, it feels painful. It was hard to find gratitude. Going to bed at 11 and waking up at 5 . . . 6 hours of sleep does not work when I go to bed full and doped up on popcorn and tv and sugar. I have not been as kind. At work, I have been pulled into a vortex of emails that are just silly and not becoming of me as a person or the lawyer I strive to be. I forgot my mantra (I am kind, calm, and confident).
I also noticed that I was craving things that I rarely eat anymore and as I was driving through town yesterday I thought. Maybe I should get a caramel mocha at Starbucks, I deserve it because I am tired. Maybe I should eat some candy. Maybe I will have a glass of wine at the hair salon. Again, because I check in with myself, because I know sugar is addicting, because I woke up at my breaking point, I told myself NO, don’t listen to that sugar voice . . . power through.
I said to my husband, my team, and my challengers yesterday that enough is enough!!!!!!! No more. The cycle breaks tonight. I am cracking. I am not me. I am drowning, and this is just not cool.
(Side note: Thanks Jackie for this perfect notepad that made me laugh and cry all at once! AKA wakeup call. AKA my team has my back. AKA snap out of this lady!)
Last night, I broke the cycle. I ate roasted cauliflower and roasted butternut squash for dinner. Drank enough (but not too much) water and went to bed at 830. Miracles happened and I slept straight to 430. 8 glorious hours.
Guess what? My anxiety went from a 10 to a 2. I woke up feeling joyful. I feel proud. I feel more like the me who I want to be.
So, what now? If you are in this vicious cycle too, I am telling you that you can pull out of it. It is hard. It is a little scary. Trust me, I get it that the very things that make you feel better in the moment (tv, booze, chocolate, snacks) are the very things wrecking you. When you wake up wrecked, how can you possibly lead your best life? The one you want? I know it FEELS like you are treating yourself, but when it gets out of control, you are cheating yourself.
Am I telling you to never watch tv, have a glass of wine, or eat a snack again? No! Of course not. But I am asking you to be honest with yourself. Are those habits serving YOU as a person, or are they serving your anxiety? Your undoing? I know my formula. I know sugar and no sleep turns me into a cray cray person . . . I just want to make sure you know your formula and you have the resources to pull out of it when you can.
I am here. I am rooting for you. I am telling you that you ARE strong enough to overcome your downward cycle. Even though it is scary and hard, it is so worth the result.