Ellen Vora, MD is a board-certified psychiatrist, acupuncturist, and author of the bestselling book The Anatomy of Anxiety. She takes a functional medicine approach to mental health—considering the whole person and addressing imbalance at the root. Dr. Vora received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.D. from Columbia University.

“I have three ideas around revenge bedtime procrastination. First, validate. Mamas especially, we have no time to ourselves. We're always in service. Our lives are not our own. So of course we have that drive to rebel against the feeling that we should go to bed: I know I should go to bed right now, but, hey, I need some time to myself. I need to zone out. So we scroll, and then the attention economy that we live in, and our ingenious social media apps that have designed a way for us to scroll endlessly without a natural stopping point, are right there ready to welcome us with open arms. The evil genius algorithms keep us glued. So first, just validate why we're doing this. It’s normal, it’s understandable.

Secondly, understand that it requires two steps to stop doing this. The first step is to fiercely and unapologetically carve out time for yourself during the day so that our lives aren’t something we need to rebel against in the evening. I'll be the first to say, sometimes this feels impossible with work, kids, household, all of these things. We're already not even getting to everything, let alone extra time for ‘me-time.’ But I have learned to reclaim time. Am I behind on work and there are a million emails in my inbox? Of course. But I'm like, you know what? I'm taking a five minute walk outside. I build in these little incremental moments of spaciousness. We need the experience of abundance and spaciousness. Rather than revenge bedtime procrastination, we need revenge self-care and time reclamation during the day. Even though there is very real scarcity in our lives, we can cultivate the experience of abundance.

“We need the experience of abundance and spaciousness. Rather than revenge bedtime procrastination, we need revenge self-care and time reclamation during the day.”

The other part of this is that I had to realize for myself that I'd get to the end of daily household chores, and it's exactly that hour in the night where ideally I would go straight to bed, and instead I'm like, let me just take a peek at the phone. And then 45 minutes elapses without a blink of the eye. The next thing you know, I'm overtired. I get a second wind of energy, and then, when I'm finally crawling into bed, I’m tired but wired. It's harder to fall asleep. It's harder to stay asleep and to sleep deeply. And then the next day, I'm a half zombie the whole day, then the next night, I have the feeling that this has been a particularly hard day, and I deserve/need a little treat, so I think to myself, yet again: let me just take a little peek at the phone. And this is why we doom scroll, night after night, rinse and repeat, stuck in a vicious cycle of revenge bedtime procrastination. I had to realize that those 45 minutes that felt kind of innocent self-loving were actually squandering my energy and well-being the entire next day and keeping me stuck in this cycle.

As a typical woman, I had to frame it as a service to others. We can and should call that whole framing into question, for sure, but I had to realize that I owe it to my patients and my daughter to show up as the best version of myself. They are entrusting me with their care, and I want to do right by them. So when I'm a half-zombie, I'm not a good doctor, I'm not a good mother. So I now put the phone down in service of how I feel the next day. But also, I really want to show up right for the people in my life.”

Want more? This is an excerpt from a longer convo with Ellen Vora, MD — listen or watch here!

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