CS Sharada Prasad | How am I fighting winter at Berkeley?
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How am I fighting winter at Berkeley?

Winter in Berkeley for me has always been dreadful – I get to see the Sun for less than 8 hours (50% less than the usual 12 hours of sunlight I am used to India.) and there is no warmth in the light. This pushes me to hibernate. I wake up late, I am drowsy the whole day and I go to bed early. October to February is a disaster. I don’t know what I would have done had I accepted my admission to SNRE at University of Michigan or Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

My PhD qualifying exam is 40 days away and I have a lot of reading to do. So I want to wake up early to get some quality reading time. I find mornings very productive. But I have to fight cold and drowsiness. I never had this problem when I spent summer in Kathmandu. There, the chirping of the birds woke me up at 5:00am. A cup of chai and some breakfast got me going. Here, in Berkeley, nothing is helping – Coffee or Tea has random effect on me. Sometimes, Caffeine keeps me awake and alert but most of the times I go to sleep within 15 minutes of having a cup of black tea. So I came up with a plan.

I went cold turkey with Caffeine. I stopped my caffeine consumption completely. First three days, I suffered severe headaches. Next three days – lethargy, body pain, nausea, lack of appetite. It slowly started getting better after a week. Within 12 days, I was feeling better. In two weeks, caffeine was out of my system. After this exercise, I don’t get any headaches when I miss my afternoon tea or coffee. I am now very sensitive to caffeine. If I have caffeine after 2pm, I cannot go to sleep before midnight. Caffeine now has a very predictable effect on me. My goal is to stop consuming it fully by January 2014 (soon after my quals).

If I can get out of bed early in the morning, there is caffeine to keep me awake. But the challenge is to get out of the bed. To combat cold and to feel comfortable when I am out of bed, I now go to sleep with a pair a socks, beanie, and thermal wear next to me. When the alarm goes off in the morning, I wake up, put on all the layers and then get out of bed. I don’t feel any cold. I am active as soon as I get out of the bed 🙂 It has been almost a month. The practice has been quite effective

I have realized that sitting and reading on bed puts me to sleep (what was I expecting?). I now read either at my desk or in the kitchen. I walk around and read out loud when I feel sleepy. I have to print dense readings as I easily lose track when I read on my computer or tablet.

I am finding qualifying exam as a great opportunity to push myself to confront some of my chronic habits – waking up late, consuming too much caffeine, exercising and meditating infrequently, spending too much time on the internet, not allocating time daily to read and write. My hope is to pass my qualifying exam while fighting these bad habits.

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