As I’m writing this it's 2 a.m. It’s the second night in a row that I curled up in bed around 10:30 p.m. and commenced staring at the ceiling for hours on end.
It was a foreign experience; I’m a good sleeper! When I’m tired, I get ready for bed and fall asleep within 10 minutes.
But it got worse.
Last night I was awake until 4 a.m. I felt too tired to get up, yet too restless to doze. You have my profound sympathies if you regularly or have ever struggled like this.
As I got into bed tonight I began to fear that the same thing would happen tonight. For me fear is much worse than worry or anxiety. So, I went through rounds of my positive thinking tricks -- “I am falling asleep; I am falling asleep; I am falling asleep” -- then I took a hot bath. Nothing worked.
By 1:30 am, I finally had enough. I was scared, tired, and fed up!
So, I made a list of all of my choices in that moment:
1. Stay in bed, keep trying to sleep, get more agitated
2. Get up and do something from my to-do list
3. Do a pre-bedtime activity (read, Sudoku, take another bath, etc.)
4. Find another activity that might not help me sleep (watch television, play games on my phone, eat a snack, etc.)
Just by making that list I was changing what was happening. I sat up, turned on the light, got out paper, found a pen; I was taking action and my fear was dissipating.
At that point I had to make a decision. Which option would I choose? I went for number two. I got up and did something that would require me to harness whatever energy I had left. While I thought I didn’t have the energy to focus, I decided to find it.
And here I am, writing this blog. It feels good to do it.
While I was lying in bed, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough energy to get through my day tomorrow. I guess I will have to worry about that tomorrow. Since there wasn’t anything I could do about it at the moment, I did whatever was necessary to help me fall asleep.
This is how behavior change happens. Find something that does not feel good or you don’t like. Write down a list of alternatives. Pick one and put it into action.
This may sound simple, because it is!
I won't say that it was easy, but once I made myself take action I felt better. This is what I hear from my clients – once they start implementing action steps their feelings towards the behavior start to shift.
Insight Into Action
Parents and Teachers: Where else can you use this action steps + taking action formula for behavior change in your life?
P.S. (the next morning) After finishing this blog, I curled up back in bed and feel asleep in 10 minutes. My best guess is that I must have had some extra creative energy that needed to go somewhere.
P.P.S. (the next night) Amazingly, I had plenty of energy for all I needed to do today. It's incredible how our bodies can take care of themselves when we feel good about the actions we take, rather than swimming in fear, frustration, and aggravation!
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