doing the (personal) impossible
Posted September 8, 2008on:
Before we get into the actual topic, just a random note.
For the past month or so, maybe a little longer, I’ve been going shampoo free. Please, do read the link before you imagine that I’m walking around with a head like a mechanic’s used coveralls. It actually merely entails using baking soda instead of shampoo, and a water-apple cider vinegar rinse every few days. I tried it out, and the very first time my hair felt so much cleaner and lighter than normal. And the clean feeling does last much longer (on the site above she recommends you only actually wash your hair 2-3 times per week). It’s pretty cool. Maybe eventually I will try some of the herbs and such mentioned, but for now it seems to be working well.
Now I’ll share with you something else, that I tried back in the middle of May. (I share this at least partly in the hopes of getting back with it myself – I fell off the wagon hard in the middle of June, gee I wonder why.) I’d read this article about how to become an early riser. Basically, it says the way to get the best amount of sleep is to always get up at the same time, with an alarm, but to go to bed when you’re tired. (Allowing of course that you don’t just push through your tiredness to your second wind or drink a bunch of caffeine to stay awake.) Makes sense to me, and certainly worth a try, because I want so much to be a morning person. First of all, I just can’t stay up as late as I used to – at least not most of the time. And even when I can – it’s just not working for me. Kids wake up in the morning (even my night owl daughter), and my poor sweetie needs his cuddles at night. And I always feel crappy, sleeping the day away, not getting anything done.
Anyway, so I wanted to try it. But the trick is, how exactly do I get up in the morning? Even with an alarm. Cuz I suck at that. I do at least have an alarm that I kind of like now, one that starts out softly and gradually gets louder. Rather than giving me a heart attack right away, blaring, and putting me in an extra bad mood right to start with. But still, how to do it? Because normally, if I even hear the alarm at all, or when I wake up, even if I feel good and like I’ve had a good amount of sleep – I just roll right back over. Luckily the same dude has another article: How to get up right away when your alarm goes off. Just the question I was asking!
The idea in this article is that you have to make getting up with your alarm a conditioned response – no chance to talk yourself out of it. And how do you do that? Well, you practice. As in, physically practice. During the day, when you’re actually awake. Make the room as dark as possible. Put your pjs on. Replicate your waking up conditions as much as you can. Then set your alarm for a few minutes ahead. Lie down and get quiet. Then when the alarm goes off, stretch, sit up, smile, get up and get dressed or whatever you normally do when you get up. Then do it again. Several times, and several days in a row, till it’s automatic. (Read the article, it’s good.)
Let me tell you how it went for me.
First of all, let me just preface this by attempting briefly to get across the history of me and sleep. It’s a sordid tale. I’ve always slept really deeply – to the point of being impossible to wake up. (Just ask my college roommates.) This got a little better (any better is shockingly better) once I had kids, but I’m still highly prone to staying up late, and to sleeping too much generally. Getting up early in the morning (or, often, getting up at all) is hard for me. SO HARD. As in, The Impossible Thing for Me to Do. (Well, one of two or possibly three impossible things, but we won’t go there now.) When I decided to try this method, I was at least to the point where once I did get up I would get dressed right away. But then (assuming I was up before my kids, and not woken up by them) I would go out to the living room and sit on the couch, terribly groggy and with no clear idea of what I wanted to do – in spite of having plenty of things I wanted to spend the pre-kid morning hours doing. Frustrating to say the least.
So I wanted two things: to be able to get up easily with my alarm, and to be able to keep going, after getting up, and do some of the things I want to have time for. So what I did was make a list of how I wanted my morning to go. I will give you a (somewhat) abbreviated version, say:
- Wash up (shower or at least washing my face; normally I take my showers at night but I figured maybe it would help me wake up better)
- Step outside (get a breath of air, maybe have some nice herbal tea too)
- Exercise video
So I wrote this down on an index card, then put on my pjs, set the alarm and climbed into bed. When it went off I sat up, smiled and stretched, and got up and walked through my list. So, no actual shower, just stepping into the tub, pretending to sit down to write, etc. I did it three times through (the last time with my three year old watching me; he thought it was terribly funny).
Three times through. One day. It took maybe 15 minutes total. It really wasn’t truly automatic for me at that point, but I figured I would do some more practice another time.
BUT PEOPLE – IT TOTALLY WORKED. I honestly could barely believe it, but for a whole month I got up right when my alarm went off in the morning, and I did stuff. (Including, happily enough, working on my novel.) It felt SO GOOD, I can’t even tell you, even while it also felt like surely I must be dreaming, how can this possibly be? After “practicing” just the one day. (Honestly, if I’d practiced more, it probably would’ve stuck even through the turmoil of the middle of my June.) My life was not magically all better (haven’t found that wand yet, dangit), but I certainly felt a lot better about it all – and got a lot more done. (Because anything is a lot more than nothing.)
Now moving aside, the real question is, why haven’t I started this up again already? Can’t really explain that, but I think I’m ready to do it again… at the very least I want to be ready to. So hey (I say, to myself and to you), why not try it?
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