Check out this scenario with Rachel and Devon.
Rachel had just started working in a peer support role. She was excited to support a fellow student, Devon, through some of his struggles with the stress of university. Having had her own challenges throughout her degree, she knew a lot of good tools and strategies for keeping up with deadlines and staying well. Shortly after introducing themselves, Rachel asked Devon how he was coping with his coursework.
“I’m kinda falling behind. The thing is, I have a really hard time getting to sleep at night, and then I wake up late and miss class,” said Devon.
“What have you been doing before bed?” Rachel replied.
“Well, I usually play video games until really late, to help me unwind. And then I can’t get to sleep, so I just keep playing.”
“Hmm. Yeah, that doesn’t sound very healthy, does it? Having a good sleep hygiene practice is really important. You really should turn off all screens at least an hour before bed.”
Rachel noticed that Devon seemed to shut down, and the conversation stopped abruptly. She tried to get him to talk more about how she could help him, but he was pretty quiet for the rest of the visit. At the end of their time together, Rachel felt satisfied that she had at least given Devon some good suggestions he could apply.
Let’s try this again, and this time we will consider self-determination.
Rachel was looking forward to meeting up with her peer, Devon. Based on her desire to help others, she knew that she might struggle with freely giving advice. So, she reminded herself that each person has the tools within themselves to stay healthy and thrive. After chatting for some time about how the semester was going, Devon opened up about his struggle with sleep.
“I’m really having a hard time getting out of bed. I’ve been staying up really late playing video games or watching movies, and then I sleep in and miss class and don’t get my assignments finished on time.”
Rachel listened and found herself wanting to step in and make a few suggestions. She realized what she was doing and let herself sit with her own discomfort around not being able to fix the situation and help Devon right away. Instead, she decided to trust that he had the knowledge he needed to find a way through the situation. “Mmm…Sounds like it’s a tough cycle to get out of. Sometimes I stream hours of TV when I know I should be doing the course readings. It makes me feel good for a bit, and then I start stressing out even more.”
“Yeah. It’s like… I just get really overwhelmed sometimes. And that stuff is fun and an escape, I guess. I know there are assignments and readings I need to do, and not doing them makes me more anxious and depressed,” said Devon.
Again, Rachel had a lot of suggestions floating through her mind, but she kept them to herself. “What would help you start tackling some of the assignments that you need to do?”
Devon thought for a while. “I really don’t know. I just feel so tired and unmotivated a lot of the time.” Rachel knew from her own experience making choices that impacted her health in a negative way, that often she knew what she needed to do and just flat out ignored it for instant gratification. She always regretted her decision later.
Rachel thought for a bit about how she could reframe her question differently so Devon could tap into some of his inner wisdom. “What do you think is your biggest contributor to feeling so tired and unmotivated?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s because I stay up until almost 3am every night.” Devon said.
“I get that. I feel that way on the nights I binge TV shows. I enjoy it in the moment, but it makes me feel gross the next day. Is there something you can do to support yourself to go to bed earlier?” Rachel said.
“Hmmmmm…” Devon said. “Well, I guess I could set a guideline for myself that I can’t play a game unless I’ve done one reading or assignment that I need to do in my day. That would help me relax a bit, so I don’t feel so guilty in the morning. Maybe setting a timer would help me not lose track of time.”
“That sounds like an amazing idea. I need to come up with a plan like that to control my TV watching!”