How often do you get to the end of a week and just feel…tired?
Your body is tired. Your mind is tired. Your eyes are tired. Maybe even your spirit feels tired. You don’t feel like yourself.
Maybe you can’t even define exactly what is tired, or perhaps even why. You just keep saying to yourself, “Damn, I feel tired.”
That’s how I felt yesterday.
After a week of getting up extra early for work and not countering it with going to sleep earlier, plus an intense workout schedule, plus not eating as well as usual, plus staring at a computer screen seemingly all day every day … I felt exhausted.
My body and mind certainly felt this way, and I noticed an especially acute sense of fatigue coming from my eyes.
So when I got home from the office yesterday I decided on a whim to put an intriguing suggestion I received this week into practice.
Nicholas Tozier left this comment on my recent post about how I have started employing the same strategies to get into better mental shape that I used to help me get back in better physical shape:
To cut down on nighttime distractions I used to have a “No artificial light stronger than a candle past 8:30pm” rule, which totally eliminated screens. Every night was a blackout party. Maybe it’s time to revive that…
I loved the idea as soon as I heard it, and last night seemed tailor made for trying it out since I wanted to get to bed early and my eyes loathed the thought of looking at any more screens.
As soon as I got home, I walked Rebel and then scurried on over to the store, excited to stock up on candles and give this little experiment a try.
‘No Light But Candlelight Night’
While driving and shopping I determined my “rules” for No Light But Candlelight Night:
- I would not turn on any light switches all night.
- I would not even so much as look at my computer.
- I would keep my phone available for only two reasons: to respond to text messages and to listen to music or podcasts.
To make sure I had enough light, I grabbed the tallest candle I could find and got a little glass stand to set it on. I also got a set of 50 tealights, figuring I’d use a handful of them this time and then have plenty left over for a possible next time. This should provide plenty of light, I figured, in addition to the candles I already had on hand.
(I should note that, because sometimes I’m not very smart, I also bought a cheap oil lantern. Little did I know, not being well versed in such matters, that the lantern would create an annoying stench and steadily billow black smoke out its top. It was quickly extinguished and relegated to the corner.)
The sun had almost completely set by the time I got home, so natural light was shining thin. I placed the tealights around the downstairs area of my apartment. Then I added the bigger candles to the mix.
Collectively, the candles teamed up to light the apartment far less than I’d envisioned in my mind, but it was perfect. My eyes already felt more relaxed.
With the lights set up, it was time for activities. (Because even No Light But Candlelight Night needs activities.)
I decided to throw a load of laundry in. Trust me, it wasn’t really an option.
I also decided that I wanted to read, but I knew it would be a challenge to arrange the candles in such a way that I’d have enough light so my eyes were not forced to strain. I spent the next 15-20 minutes shuffling the candles around into different setups then sitting down with my book to test them. Not enough light.
Finally I found a setup that, with my body and the book angled just so, provided a perfect amount of reading light.
As an added bonus, it was on the couch, which meant Rebel could get some lap time while I read. He was happy.
I read a chapter in The Art of Non-Comformity while the laundry cleaned itself. It was about overcoming fear – or, shall I say, embracing our fears and finding ways to move past them, even using them as driving forces. I appreciated the lesson.
By the time I finished, the laundry was ready to be folded. I put on some music and did just that, all the while fending off confused and curious glances from Rebel, who was undoubtedly wondering why in world we were spending the whole night in the dark.
Once finished folding, I felt like I might be up for a little yoga.
I didn’t know if I’d want to actually go through any asanas, or if I just wanted to lay back in savasanah and breathe/meditate. I realized I didn’t need an answer before getting down on the mat. I could just go where I felt like going.
So I put on some yoga music and laid down on my mat in the middle of my living room floor.
What I had failed to anticipate was Rebel’s lack of respect for the yoga process. He thought that me laying on the ground meant playtime. As you might expect, trying to get into any type of meditative state with a dog jumping on and around you is somewhat difficult.
Thus, yoga time didn’t last too long. But that was okay. Some one-on-one time with the pup was overdue, and it restored me as much as pranayama quiet time would have.
It was getting close to 9:00 by this point, and I was starting to feel sleep tiredness approach. I made some herbal tea (Sleepytime, of course), and decided that this would be a perfect time to listen to my first episode of This American Life, which so many people have suggested to me.
I sat back in a chair, turned it on, and then just relaxed and listened.
The episode I chose was 58+ minutes long, and I felt a bit daunted trying to hold my attention for that long on the stories being delivered. I was afraid my mind would wander, I’d get frustrated, and then end up needing some other activity to wind down.
But that didn’t happen, and the hour breezed by like a eye blink. Before I knew it, the show was over and my eyelids were becoming heavy. My body, too, yearned for the comfort of bed.
So upstairs I went, putting on another episode of This American Life to fall asleep to; and fall asleep I did.
My final thought conscious thought of the night was anticipating how great I would feel in the morning, with my eyes, my mind, and my body all sure to feel refreshed and restored.
And they do.
So, will I be having another No Light But Candlelight Night night in the future? You bet I will.
Last night was fantastic. And it was needed. In fact, I am going to try to designate one night a week as such a night.
If nothing else, I think having one such a night a week will be a great way to counter how much of my time is spent staring at computer, iPhone, and iPad screens. Considering my work, there is only so much I can actually reduce this on a daily basis. Countering this reality by having one candlelit night a week should produce tangible benefits.
My ongoing goal is to continue to live in balance. Based on my experience last night, this is one way to help balance out the effects of living in such an artificially and screen-lit world.
I am so thankful to Nicholas for suggesting what he did. His timing was impeccable.
And he reminded me that sometime to see the light we have to reduce it.