I am a morning person. For most of my adult life, I have not needed an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. When I was a flight attendant and had to be at the airport before the crack of dawn, I would set an alarm as a fail-safe. However, I would mentally remind myself what time I needed to get up before going to bed. And usually anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes before the alarm was set to go off, I would wake up. In my current role working late nights, I am still naturally waking up early. Now I am learning to embrace the suck.
Resistance is Futile
When I started working this shift back in early October, I expected (or hoped) that my circadian rhythm would reset. Unfortunately, and more than a month later, that hasn’t happened. It isn’t fun climbing into bed (on a good night) before 1:30 am and then waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:36, 6:03, or 6:41. My attempts to fall back asleep are futile, so I get up and start the day. Only by 9:00 am it feels like I have ten-pound kettlebells clipped to my eyelids. Logic dictates I nap, so I try. All I do is toss and turn. After fifteen or twenty minutes, I’m up again and determined to embrace the suck.
As you can imagine, functioning on four to five hours of sleep isn’t easy or ideal. It makes concentrating on anything challenging. And it becomes a stressor, one that I have to navigate in order to make progress on my writing projects, and to be alert and on point at work. As Steve Magness writes in Do Hard Work: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, “[…] if we see the stressor as an opportunity for growth and gain, as something that is difficult but that we can handle, we’re more likely to experience a challenge response. […] We shift toward figuring out how to win the game, how to accomplish our goal.” 1
Here’s what I have figured out…
Embrace the Suck
While I remain on this shift, I need to figure out how to accomplish my goals. Knowing that I’m going to wake up early and that napping is ineffective, I’m seeing this as an opportunity for growth and gain. While I have to work hard to hold my focus, especially before 10:00 am, I’m back to writing regularly in the morning. And because of that, I’m making progress again on my writing projects. I’m slowly shutting down the negative-self talk, better managing distractions, and being gentler with myself.
My current work schedule isn’t ideal, but as we inch closer to January and a shift change, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, I can embrace the suck. No brooding. No complaining. No more self-criticizing for things left undone. Every day I have a choice, and I’m choosing to show up and do the work.
- Magness, St. (2022). Do Hard Work: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness, HarperOne, New York, pp. 48–49.