As I write this post, the sky is black and the moon is still reflecting on the snow that fell last night. I didn’t get more than a few hours of sleep last night — again — but it is time to get up and write. Sure, I may have procrastinated a bit before starting, having a second cup of coffee while checking Facebook and Twitter. Yet tired is not an option when there is work to get done and children who will be home for another snow day. And so I write.
On days like today I have to make sure I am logging my calorie intake because I am notorious for overeating when exhausted. Seriously, keep me away from the gallon of ice cream in the freezer, or it might just disappear when you blink. The key to keeping my weight in check is getting enough sleep and writing down what I eat, but there are times when life is just too busy for sleep.
Perhaps it’s my subconscious telling me that eating will give me the energy needed to overcome exhaustion. While that may be true on some level, a gallon of ice cream is certainly not going to do the trick. One piece of fruit would likely be more effective, but in those moments it is typically the ice cream that catches my eye.
When people are tired, we have a tendency to go for the extra handful (or six) of a favorite snack and procrastinate on certain tasks. A study from the University of Toronto Scarborough found that people may have a harder time staying on track when fatigued, but it is possible to reprogram ourselves to have more willpower.
In other words, it is not a lack of self-control that leads us toward procrastination or mindless snacking when we are tired, but it is a lack of interest in the activities we are doing that drives that behavior. When we are well-rested, the lack of interest is less likely to lead to a loss of self-control. So the key to performing well, staying focused, and maintaining our willpower while exhausted is to find a way to enjoy what we have to do more than what we want to do. It is like playing a mental game with ourselves, such as telling myself that I don’t want the ice cream at all, but I want the apple instead. Boy, does that apple look amazing. You know what? Apples rock.
According to the study, self-control is simply a mental process that allows us to override other thoughts and emotions and stay focused on the task at hand. We can train ourselves to have more self-control. So those people who are incredibly self-disciplined and who never seem to stray off track? They are masters of self-control. Once we realize we can play and win this mental game, we can alter our behaviors and strengthen our resolves. When we look forward to the activities we must do, we are less likely to lose self-control even when we’re sleep-deprived.
So this morning while the world is still asleep, I will write. And suddenly, I seem to be craving an apple …
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