Becoming somewhat of a morning person has been a stunning development in my life. Now, in my forties, early rising is part of a long-term program to sustain positive mental health. In short, I have a purpose and a routine that includes getting an early start on my work. I have coping strategies, but keeping a healthy state of mind depends on me fulfilling my purpose as a teacher and writer.
For those awful 8 am courses, the natural-born morning person appears to have been thrust out of bed by some spring mechanism to land upright at a desk, wearing a smile. However, my natural instincts support late nights and a gradual mid-morning roll out of bed. As a college instructor, there is always work to do after sundown.
For as long as I recall, staying up late was a goal always in the back of my young mind. It was fun and exciting. Like most kids, there was an early bedtime during the week and a more relaxed one on the weekends. Making it to midnight or after was a thrill. There was no internet, so I watched late-night comedy talk shows.
In later life, being a night owl resulted from working on school projects as a student or a teacher. Also, the night became my refuge from a bewildering daily grind. My mental illness was not diagnosed until late in life, but it was always there. I realized there was something very wrong about the nagging sadness and anxiety that made each day a monumental challenge. Yet, there was no other person to consult or confide in. I kept it all in.
I have depression and anxiety. My illness made the daytime hours cold, confusing, and unwelcoming. Every day was a struggle to fit in and feel the happiness that, apparently, every other person naturally enjoyed. I was ashamed of myself for experiencing dire despair because I thought there was no real-world cause for the feelings that plagued me.
Daytime people were complete mysteries. I did not understand them, and they did not like me very much. Every day seemed a repeat of the day before, with the impossibility of bonding with another person.
Most things of significance happened under the sun. The busy, socially active, and successful crowd thrived during the day. Large crowds, full of people talking, exchanging phone numbers and flirtations, did not agree with me. I wondered, “How is everyone so adept at this? What are they so happy about?”
As the night crept deeper toward the next day, everyone else went to sleep. There was no one left to judge myself against, and few eyes remained open, so I could finally feel at peace.
I became addicted to alcohol, and my life turned completely unmanageable. Before I received help for my mental health, I had decided life was not worth living. I literally mourned the sun rising every day.
Landing in the hospital began a slow turnaround. I was in a mental health crisis unit, with a wake-up call around 6 am that allowed me to reclaim the good parts of my self. While a patient, I started teaching—an utterly unforeseen development. My mind could concentrate on the intellectual side of life for the first time in a long while.
Only in the last two years did I accept how my bedtime mattered to my health. I still prefer the nighttime to the morning. Bright lights irritate my eyes, and I prefer dark rooms. Even so, I am now a morning person, sort of. I have committed to a life of contributing to the world and expressing myself through writing. Every morning, I sit down and begin. Actually, I do my best writing in the morning.
There are several advantages of becoming a morning person. For one, there are fewer opportunities for mischief and mishaps that might derail my life. It is easier to get more things accomplished every day. The feeling of getting things done is vital, as it boosts my confidence and sense of working toward a purpose. In short, I am not delaying doing stuff, which means I decrease the possibility of feeling overwhelmed. I can move at a comfortable and reassuring pace.
There is a spiritual element to this subject, too. Ancient cultures worshipped the sun, which comes as no surprise. For all kinds of people, the morning symbolizes a renewal or rebirth. These themes are present in every religion I have heard about. So, there is something about the sunrise that gives pause, warms the spirit, and strengthens hope.
With any mental health condition, sleep is crucial. It will help you feel better. Though I have great difficulty sleeping enough, giving me more time to do so provides some hope for a restful night.
True morning people have an obsession with coffee I don’t share. I am unlikely ever to be a coffee drinker, and I will never be a chipper early riser, eager to greet the day.
However, I am not doing badly. It is morning as I write this post.
I suggest that all my peers with mental health challenges give the morning a try. I sincerely believe it will help with your symptoms and improve your life. Do not worry if you do not meet the standard of a true morning person. Your good enough is good enough for you.
About the Author: Kirk Strawbridge has been a lifelong student and teacher of history. He has taught at several colleges and universities across the South. Living in Alabama, he is beginning to pursue writing and publishing on a more serious level. He writes about mental health, philosophy, self-care, and anything that crosses his path as important. In addition, he looks for the heart and soul of life, including every activity worth doing. You can follow his writing at medium.com, but he also hopes to branch out from there.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-grey-jacket-sits-on-bed-uses-grey-laptop-935743/
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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