Sleep. It's good
I’ve been thinking a lot about routine this week – writing about it too but I struggle to know what to share sometimes and I’ve chickened out with some of it. But the essence of my thinking has been about sleep, routine, and expectations. What we expect of ourselves can, unintentionally, become what we expect of others even when we know that they are unreasonable expectations.
We might say we know that working beyond the expected / paid hours is not reasonable and yet we do it. We might say we know that a healthy lifestyle requires a balance of work / social / sleep / exercise – whatever balance that is for us- and yet we fail to implement it. I realise life isn’t perfect and we can’t always do everything we wish but ideally (and honestly, I’m quite the idealist), we do need to at least try to be working towards sustainable ways of living – not just climate sustainability but sustainable ways of being. Continual production growth is not sustainable.
We need to model what we believe to be reasonable and sustainable and we need to understand that other people’s may be different. Part of my mission this year has been to try and develop routines and patterns that will help me get through the next 3(?) years’ worth of study, (fully knowing that over time, these might change).
For the past month I’ve been trying to just ever so slightly change my sleeping patterns in order to try and help myself fall asleep earlier (I’m a natural night owl but when I struggle to sleep that gets a bit ridiculous), but it hasn’t worked –for various reasons, I think. That has meant that this week has been a sharp deviation from my normally very strict routine as I really needed to catch up on some sleep. This has meant I have slept just a tinsy bit more, thankfully, but what has been most significant is that I’ve noticed an ever so slight return of the brain fog. Let’s go with brain misting. Extremely light, with very neutral colouring (compared to the thick, black mud-fog I’ve experienced before) and probably not even a little bit noticeable to anyone else, given that even at my best I’m pretty vague, but enough that I’ve noticed. I have been working hard on developing my ability to notice what is happening within myself and it appears to be slowly increasing. It meant that this week I threw out my normal routine and tried to do some different activities that needed to be done but that I’d perhaps been putting off as ‘not important’. But maybe this stuff needs to be a bit more important, not because it ticks the specific boxes of what people expect research to mean, but because it allows me to actually study. I’ve still done my job -reading, had meetings, responded to emails, prepared for meetings etc. but I’ve also re-adjusted some timelines, some expectations and done some necessary but easy admin stuff I’d been putting off, as well as some tidying as the study was getting a bit out of control, and lots of personal writing – all of which allowed me to move a little gentler for the week. I am completely aware that this is the luxury of the period of study that I am in (and that I have a self-managed job - a complete and utter amazing luxury) and of PhD research. This may not be possible in the future and this is what I am trying to prepare for. Prevention whenever possible.
I’ve also tried to really examine what a good and sustainable routine might be for me in this time, with these unique, at-home circumstances, with my unique needs, with my unique living situation etc. Also with my own expectations of what research means, but without the crushing, often unrealistic and extremely ableist expectations of what society tries to tell us is the ‘norm’ for work/study (I use work and study interchangeably in this circumstance): 9-5 office hours with overtime (which, if you are studying seems to include studying well into the night), and with any time that might normally be spent on travel should now be spent on more work etc…..the 9-5 might be good, but there might be a better option.
I live and die by routine and honestly, I’m disappointed that the routine I was trying to implement hasn’t worked out at this time because there was a lot of good things about it. But ultimately, I need to find a way of living where I sleep because without proper sleep it’s a sharp and quick drop off into the abyss. I’m fully aware this might still happen given my ability to plan and predict the future has been clearly demonstrated to have a success rate of about…0. If you want God to laugh, tell them your plans.
But I kind of digress and am rambling as my allocated time spent on the computer is now well over for the day, so let me conclude by encouraging you to develop a sustainable routine that allows you to live, not just do your job, from someone who has experienced a sustained lack of sleep and its consequences. A routine and life that helps you sleep just the right amount that you need, because sleep is good and life should be lived, not worked.
(oh my gosh – so cheesy – but also not untrue… :)