When an unexpected project deadline coincided with the busiest week of the year, I had to temporarily sacrifice sleep without triggering a mood shift into depression.
Sleep Is Vital to My Mood Stability
The importance of regular, sufficient sleep is underrated in our culture. Adequate, restorative sleep plays a huge role in my ability to avoid all but intermittent bouts of mild depression and to keep mania a distant memory. For me, getting the proper sleep involves more than simply sticking to a sleep schedule.
Up until a few weeks ago, despite working long hours seven days a week, I had not slept less than seven hours a night since the world health crisis began.
Three years ago, I had said goodbye to my role as a corporate copywriter and returned to the classroom, albeit for short-term teaching contracts. Before the corporate writing job, I had taught elementary school, so it was not as dramatic a transition as it sounds.
After the spring semester of 2020 had ended, I could not find a new teaching or corporate-writing contract, and I accepted an offer to substitute teach in my local school district, beginning in the fall of 2020. I proceeded with substitute teaching gigs until the spring semester of 2021, when I ended up teaching high-school French.
At first, I taught exclusively through Zoom and then with a third of the students in the classroom while the rest remained on Zoom. Teaching remotely was frustrating, but engaging in French culture, history, and basic grammar was a delight. My conversational French returned, along with happy childhood memories of growing up with my grandmother’s French friends.
An “Impossible” Deadline
On June 2, 2021, I learned that semester’s grades would be due at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16—the last day of high-school instruction and only one day after administering the last set of final exams.
My heart sank. Grades are traditionally due on the teacher’s “workday,” clean-up day, the day after the last instructional day.
This June 16 deadline was going to prove ugly for me, in part because my daughter was due to graduate high school on June 15. Because of the public-health restrictions that had been in place, two months’ worth of sports-team banquets and other senior events had become crammed into the first 16 days of June instead of being spread out over May and June.
“Ugly,” for me, means not getting at least seven hours of sleep. I can manage this once in a while. More often than that puts me at risk for experiencing more than mild depression. With increased sleep deprivation, I run the serious risk of a painful bout of depression that has the chance to take hold and cost me weeks of a concerted effort to shake.
On June 3, I canceled every social plan and every possible errand for the following two weeks. I also asked for an extension on a short writing assignment.
Committed to a Comedy Festival
Back in February, I had committed to performing in an outdoor comedy festival on Friday, June 11—the weekend before the sudden, “impossible” deadline. At the time, it had looked as if graduation would be a drive-by affair, and few, if any, senior activities would take place. It made sense to participate:
- Humor helps me relax and stay healthy.
- Dark humor releases my frustration at injustice.
Six years earlier, I had given up performing in stand-up comedy shows because the prep time—when combined with raising two children pretty much on my own and working full-time—took away from my time to write. Instead, I participated in local open mics once a month.
Appearing in the outdoor comedy show was my gift to myself for all the ridiculous hours I had worked, for my relentless job searching, and for publishing my book. I had planned to help out by taking photos during the festival, too, but because of this new deadline, I had to settle for taking photos at one show on Sunday night.
As I made it through the weekend, I tried to stay “in the moment” and hang onto gratitude that I was not often placed in this kind of situation.
A Demanding Schedule
The following days were a flurry of activity:
Monday, June 14
That night, all of the teachers donned caps and gowns as we helped guide the nearly 900 graduating seniors through the various stages of a beautiful ceremony held at the local community college’s stadium. I made it home by 8 p.m. and was able to log two hours of grading that day’s finals before bedtime.
Tuesday, June 15
It was the day before grades were due, and I gave my last set of final exams. That night, my daughter graduated from a different local high school at the same stadium I’d been in the night before. As I sat in the bleachers, I was able to squeeze in an hour of grading on my laptop during the procession and opening ceremonies.
Home by 10 p.m., I squeezed in another two hours of grading.
When painful vibrations emanating from behind my eyes overtook my face and skull, I set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. so that I could squeak out five and a half hours of sleep and review grades in the morning.
Wednesday, June 16
Deadline day. Exhausted but with the task completed, I submitted the grades! That night, my daughter and I attended a graduation party. I had considered not going, but the party turned out to be a blast. The parents had hired an excellent DJ, and everyone danced, including me. We were home by 9:10 p.m. and to bed by 10 p.m.
Thursday, June 17
Thursday night, after a couple of hours into my evening writing session, my migraine headache escalated to such a degree that it slowed me down. What should have been an easy, three-hour writing assignment turned into a six-hour marathon, and I was able to sleep only five hours.
Friday, June 18
This was my day off, and I had a 7:20 a.m. appointment at the newly reopened DMV to pick up my driver’s license. I had renewed it online in November, but the card had never shown up in the mail.
Alas, my online application to renew my driver’s license had disappeared.
If I were to explain how much lost time and chaos that caused, I would burst into tears.
Re-Setting My Sleep Schedule
Once home from the DMV, I took two short naps during the day and resolved to go to bed at my regular bedtime. Sleeping too much, especially during the day, can bring me down, too.
I had not been having any trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, but the week of June 14 capped two months of working long hours, seven days a week, and having no time for my own writing.
When I miss sleep, I become more absent-minded and lose my sense of direction. Time slows down, and I tend to overthink.
I used the weekend to get my sleep back on track and settled for planning on reducing my usual weekly workouts from five days to only four. Exercise is a key component to managing my moods, but this week, I needed to refocus on sleep.
And Then I Waited
Although my sleep was back on track by Monday, it took the entire next week before I began to feel grounded.
In the past, bouts of mild depression would terrify me because my manic episodes always stemmed from mild depression that had escalated to severe depression. In my early twenties, I had no clue whatsoever as to how to manage mood swings or that sleep played a role.
Thankfully, I’d learned a lot since then. After the stress, chaos, anxiety, and upended schedule caused by that unfortunate and unexpected deadline, I reprioritized my sleep schedule and monitored my mood for the following week. Sleep interruptions can be dangerous when we live with bipolar; by planning ahead, I was able to ensure that I met my commitments, celebrated my students’ and daughter’s successes, and then recovered my sacrificed sleep.
Originally posted August 3, 2021
The post When Work Deadlines Compete with Sleep appeared first on bpHope.com.
By: Sasha Kildare
Title: When Work Deadlines Compete with Sleep
Sourced From: www.bphope.com/blog/when-work-deadlines-compete-with-sleep/
Published Date: Tue, 03 Aug 2021 13:00:00 +0000
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