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Jess G

Feeling Conflicted

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The main question here is, how does the way you think about self-care change (if at all) when you feel like you've fallen off the wagon?

Long winded version:

I'm going to level with you guys here--I didn't do a great job with self-care this week.  For a number of reasons, I had a pretty rough week and didn't get ahead on work like I had planned... and realized too late that I needed to draft a research paper by Friday afternoon.  Nothing for it but to work through Thursday night.

It's something we're culturally told (in the US, anyway) is something that college students do.  We know it's not a good thing to do.  Sleep is important.  Health is important--ostensibly mores than grades in college.  But an 18-22 year old in reasonably good health can recover more quickly from a night of lost sleep than a late assignment.  So here we are.

I'll admit I'm feeling odd and conflicted about my all-nighter.  I haven't done that before.  I don't know exactly what I expected, but I thought I'd share a few observations:

  • It was easier than I'd thought to stay awake.  A bit of coffee, a 2 AM shower, and two 90-minute naps got me through.  I thought that would be the hard part, but it wasn't.
  • I got hungry.  I suppose it makes sense, being active much longer than usual, but I hadn't expected that.  Lucky I had some healthy food in my room so the urge to stuff myself with the nearest junk food wasn't a problem.
  • Controlling your environment really does help.  I live in a single room, so I was able to keep the lights on and pace as necessary without disturbing anyone.  Napped in my clothes so I wouldn't mentally transition to "night mode".
  • It went fairly well until about 4 AM.  That was when I really started hitting the wall, and as my body wore out, my mind also became less disciplined: there was less coherent thought about folk music of the Cold War and more "you're never going to finish this.  Why are you doing this?  This was a bad idea.  You don't belong here.  This isn't going to work.  You need sleep.  You can't write like this..." It was very, very hard to get out of that rabbit hole.
  • By midmorning today, I felt... better? I was more or less fully functional today, which was unexpected.  I'm slowing down now, just waiting for something that resembles my normal quittin' time so I can get back on a schedule.  Helps that I got to ride a horse this afternoon.  Don't know if it was the moderate exercise or the animals themselves, but I felt sooooo much better after the ride.

So I guess in the end everything turned out... okay?  I finished my draft.  It wasn't anything spectacular, will need plenty of revision in the coming weeks.  But it was done.  Still, I can't shake the feeling that staying up like that was a mistake.  I didn't like the person I was at 4 AM.  The exhaustion dredged up pretty much every fear and doubt I had in the back of my head and wouldn't go away.

So long story short, I accomplished my goal, but I compromised... something... doing it.  Not sure what yet.  Plan for the weekend: equalize.  Reestablish routine.  Maybe get ahead, because I don't want to do this again.  

I'm no stranger to little sleep, but this felt different.  Curious to know any of your thoughts, if this is something y'all have dealt with before.

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Posted (edited)

Ooh this is a really interesting thread- even though it's a bit of a bummer that you had to pull an all-nighter I'm glad that you documented this for discussion.  I think in my college career I've pulled 2 all-nighters for papers (I think I pulled an almost all-nighter to cram for my organic chemistry final which felt somewhat different than putting off writing papers), though I remember the first one in much more vivid detail.  Before I talk about that though I'd like to touch up on something you were saying about your 4AM mindset.

"Why are you doing this?  You don't belong here" was a very frightening mindset that started occurring fairly frequently to me in college, especially when things were getting down to the wire.  I think there's something to be said for a tired mind making this worse, though I'd be lying if I said that was the only time I felt that way.  That's another story for a different day, though.  My takeaway from the experience is that it seems that it's easy for a tired and aching mind to be overcome with our fears and insecurities.

My first all-nighter, if I recall correctly, happened my sophomore year of college.  I had a lot of early morning classes because I'm actually an early bird but because of this my "4AM brain" existential crisis happened probably around 2AM.  It's been awhile but this is what I remember:

  • 8PM:  "It's okay I've got this"
  • 10PM:  "Why didn't I start this 3 days ago whyyyyyy"
  • Midnight:  At this point I was working pretty steadily I think?
  • 2AM:  Existential crisis, lots of thoughts about how I didn't belong at college and lots of self-loathing thoughts
  • 4AM:  "This is fine"
  • 7PM:  I finished and the stress of doing so was lifted, though since I didn't get to sleep my mind didn't fully reset to normal until I turned in my draft and got to sleep for the night

One difference between our stories that I noticed is that I didn't feel hungry until I had printed out my draft.  I'm usually constantly hungry but I think the stress of the situation prevented me from thinking too much about it past 10PM.  I had a string of morning classes but I was surprisingly fine through them- I think at a point my body was prepared to function as though it was a normal day, though my mind was slightly confused at what day of the week it was since sleep is what keeps yesterday from blending into today.  I think I took a nap after my block of 4-5 classes (so at like 2PM) but I didn't feel normal again until I got a good night's sleep.

22 hours ago, Jess G said:

So long story short, I accomplished my goal, but I compromised... something... doing it.  Not sure what yet.  Plan for the weekend: equalize.  Reestablish routine.  Maybe get ahead, because I don't want to do this again.  

I'm no stranger to little sleep, but this felt different.  Curious to know any of your thoughts, if this is something y'all have dealt with before.

This is really what motivated me to respond to this thread.  Speaking from my own experiences, I think that maybe there's a degree of self-love that gets compromised in the process.  It's one thing to stay up too late and not get sleep.  But it's another to let your mind get too tired during a time when you're susceptible to anxiety and deep-seated fears.  When I was 14 I was told that I had Seasonally Affective Disorder (which sometime along the way morphed into regular depression), so I've found that I have to be mindful of the situations I'm setting up for my future self.  "Preparation is self-love for you future self," or something like that.

I'd definitely try to get back on schedule.  One thing I recommend is installing a computer program that blocks distracting websites while you work (I use Focal Filter) if that's something that contributes to work procrastination.  Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that it's easy to start berating yourself when you fall behind with your work and that that can be more damaging than helpful.  I've found that personifying my future self as another person and doing nice things for them is a more helpful line of thinking:

[Going to sleep instead of staying up an extra hour on Tumblr:] "You'll be tired- go ahead and get some sleep."  [Not eating pizza for breakfast:] "You wouldn't want to be groggy for that thing that you're doing later." [Starting on a task I need to do:] "This one's for you, future me."

All that aside, though, I hope you feel better.  It's a feeling I'm too familiar with so I sincerely hope it's something that isn't eating away at you.  You can do it, don't let your 4AM brain tell you otherwise.

Edited by luvkirby4ever
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Thanks for your thoughtful response and kind words.  For the record, I did feel tons better today.

In retrospect I think it's something not unlike the rage you can get from being "hangry", but instead of resenting whatever meeting, class, or accident of logistics that is separating me from much-needed calories, I could only direct that frustration at the fact that my draft didn't exist yet and by extension myself for not having done it.  It helps to be able to remind myself that this is A Thing(TM) that human brains do.  I would be more surprised if my brain wasn't unhappy with me for subjecting it to stress and sleep deprivation.  

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