Start the day right!
Last blog How are you sleeping? we were discussing our night routines, and how they set us up for the following day. Now let’s chat about our morning routines. Our morning routines allow us to start the day off on the right note and help us set our intentions for the upcoming day. Our morning routines are our time to take control of our time/schedule instead of letting it control us. I have a pretty awesome (in my opinion) night routine and stick to it 95% of the time. Even if I have a late night out and come home wanting nothing but to crash, I still go through my routine. I have a cup of chamomile tea to signal to my brain and body that it is time to wind down. Then head up to the shower and begin my routine laid out in the previous blog. But, I will admit I am not so great at the morning routine thing.
If you are anything like me, then you tend to not be the most intentional with your morning routines. If you are like me then your mornings tend to be more of a wake-up and slog through breakfast only to realize you wasted a lot of time and are now late and rushing around like a crazy person. It has been a long-running joke in our house that I am the late mom, the one rolling up to morning drop-off right as the bell is ringing. Now, as a homeschooler with even less rigid timelines, I tend to get behind schedule a lot. That five minutes of Facebook suddenly has turned into 30 and my cushion of time is gone. And because I got distracted the kid's breakfast isn’t ready on time so now I am rushing them through their morning in an effort to not be too late. So my lack of schedule and time management ends up throwing off the whole house. Because of this, I am working very hard to reshape and take control of my mornings. This blog comes from my research and journey to have a healthy routine for the morning as well as the night.
Morning routines are not simply a list of things to do each day. It is an intentional set of actions that allow you to start your day with a positive attitude, confidence, and peace. Like a bomb night routine, a morning routine's benefits will spill into other areas of your life. You will notice physical and emotional benefits, by starting your day off already behind schedule you introduce stress into your morning. There are a million studies discussing the negative impacts of stress on our health. By creating and sticking to a morning routine you are eliminating an avoidable stressor that often follows you through the day. For instance, if you hit the snooze button one too many times Monday morning and wake up late. Your first cognizant thought will be one of stress. You are late and now have to rush through everything. You spend the rest of your morning watching the clock and stressing as you race to play catch up.
By the time you get to the office you are already frazzled and anxious…come on I cannot be the only one that experiences this right?!? Does anyone else relate to this scenario? And I didn’t even tap into the juicy vein of being a parent trying to get the kids to school in the morning which is a struggle in and of itself. By having a healthy routine, you remove the instant stress that comes with flying by the seat of your pants.
Other benefits of healthy morning routines can be seen in your relationships and productivity in your daily activities. When you are stressed and overwhelmed you tend to have a shorter fuse and have more volatile emotions throughout the day. This crosses over into your interactions with others in your life. How many times have you snapped at your significant other, roommate, or co-worker because you walk in the room stressed and they ask a simple question? Or get over annoyed because a family member is in the kitchen getting breakfast, but you need in right now because you are running late? When you are stressed, you do not show up for the relationships in your life as the best version of yourself. When following a morning routine, you will see increased productivity as well. Because your morning routine sets the tone for your day, if you have a morning routine that leaves you calm and steady, then you are able to focus on each task instead of feeling like you are speeding through them to not be late. Not only will you likely get more done, but you will be able to put forth better quality of work as well. Also, as you hone your morning schedule you will find you might have increased confidence and peace as you move throughout your day. By having a good morning routine, you are able to prioritize aspects of your day and utilize better time management. These things allow you to complete more and better work, which gives you added confidence in your ability to tackle whatever is thrown at you. The sense of peace that comes from feeling in control of your day is amazing! On the days that I stick to my morning routine, I find myself so much calmer and happier and have a sense of peace about me. Also, my morning routine weaves in self-care and time for affirmations to set my intentions for the day from a place of peace and mindfulness.
With all of these benefits, why is it so hard to cultivate and follow a morning routine? Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, I think it stems from years of poor sleep and crappy night routines that created a scarcity mindset. Because I dealt with insomnia for years, and now have a child with special needs that doesn't sleep well, I never feel like I am truly rested. Even when I get eight hours of sleep, I still find myself hitting the snooze button. I believe this comes from a scarcity mindset where I dwell on the lack of sleep I suffered for years, so I am always trying to snatch a few extra minutes of sleep just in case. I also am someone that can get drawn into a book, Instagram rabbit hole, or any mindless game on my phone very easily, and then time just slips away without me even realizing it. Of course, I do that with work as well. I can get tunnel-visioned on a task and suddenly it has been four hours and I haven’t moved because I get engrossed in what I am doing and forget the clock altogether. This single-mindedness can be an excellent tool when I am knee-deep in a project, but this single-mindedness can also be the culprit of my morning routine being totally destroyed.
Here are just a few tips/suggestions for things to help you build a stellar morning routine:
1) Maintain a consistent sleep schedule where you go to bed and wake up at about the same time each and every day. This plays into our body's natural desire for consistency and routine. By waking at the same time each day our bodies will adjust to that schedule and send a signal to our body that it is time to wake up, because that is what we do, so our brain accommodates.
2) Set your wakeup time intentionally, by planning out how much time you truly need to get ready and complete your routine without being rushed. Just like at work, you need to know what you need to get done in your morning and map out how much time is needed for each activity and then adjust your wake-up time accordingly. Remember to be realistic too. Don’t try to cram too much into your morning. List out the must-do’s and look for things that you can do the night before to ease your load in the morning. For instance, if you need to pack a lunch, why not pack it the night before as you clean up dinner? That way you do not need to take the time to get everything out and pack it before work. Another awesome time-saver is to meal prep your breakfasts. Not only does it save you time but allows you to be mindful of what you consume in the morning and avoid sugar rushes and inevitable crashes. If your morning schedule is super long look for little places to save time and set yourself up for a calmer morning.
3) Do not hit snooze! Now, this is my nemesis. I am the snooze queen. It feels like a little treat to myself when I hit snooze. I get a few bonus minutes of sleep. Now, I know that thought process makes a lot of people cringe…Rachel Hollis, I’m sorry I haven’t mastered this skill yet. And, I also know that hitting the snooze button is a big part of why I am habitually late in the morning. So, as much as I hate it, I am trying crazy hard to resist the snooze button. Right now, what I am doing is setting two separate alarms. One is a slow, easy wake-up alarm that I set for 5 minutes before my real alarm clock goes off. I use the soothing alarm to gently wake up and have a peppy song alarm that goes off five minutes later, which is when I actually get out of bed. I found that the harsh alarm clock first thing was really stressful for me. Using a two-step alarm system that allows me to wake up gently, so I am not woken with that shock that inevitably means I slap the clock to make it stop and instantly fall back to sleep. This new system has been the only method I have found that has stopped my snooze button habit.
4) Get out of bed. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I know that I used to lay in bed and do stuff on my phone for a while each morning. Where I inevitably lost track of time and then was late, or sometimes I would fall back to sleep…oops! So, when the alarm clock goes off, get out of bed and away from the temptation to go back to sleep.
5) Avoid screens. Don’t instantly go for your phone when you wake up. Not only is it a time suck, but it also often floods your brain with stress and negative emotions. Whether it is because of something you read on the internet or social media or seeing the mass number of unread emails that come through the night, these things instantly inject stress into your morning. Give yourself time to get up, move your body and practice some self-care before you let the rest of the world into your head.
6) Drink water. Drinking water first thing in the morning balances the lymphatic system by flushing out the stomach. This little act helps set your body up for success throughout the day.
7) Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. After flushing your gut, you can take some time to relax and enjoy a warm cup of tea or coffee (I am one of those weirdos that do not drink coffee ever, or anything with caffeine really).
8) Engage in self-care. What are some little things you can do for yourself in the morning? There are so many ways you can individualize this idea. For me, this looks like a few minutes of meditation and yoga to get my mind and body ready for the day. Just adding in 5-10 minutes of yoga and meditation into my morning has had a drastic effect on my mindset. My husband keeps asking me why I am smiling so early in the morning, and saying I am freaking him out because I am all smiley and peaceful in the mornings (when I actually stick to my routine) and it is such a contrast from my usual behind schedule crazy he has seen the past 14 years. For others, this may look like getting a workout in before breakfast. Or I know one of my friends has a multistep skincare routine that she does each morning for her self-care. This part is totally unique to just you. How can you take care of yourself today to help you show up as your best self each day?
9) Eat a healthy breakfast. Within an hour (or two max) of waking up, it is recommended to eat a healthy, balanced breakfast. Breakfast doesn’t just provide you with energy for the day, it jumpstarts your metabolism, balances blood sugar levels and heart health, and cognitive function according to Kim Larson a dietician and nutritionist. So, choosing a well-balanced breakfast is an important step in setting your day up for success. When you eat is important, but don’t forget to be mindful of what you eat as well. I would hate to see your morning routine rendered useless because you chose a sugan-loaded breakfast that set your body off on a blood sugar roller-coaster for the rest of the day, filled with sugar peaks and crashes.
Which tips do you think would help your morning routine the most? Which tips will be the hardest to implement? I would love to hear what your morning routines look like, and what changes you are wanting to make!
Here is my new morning routine that I am working on establishing and practicing.
6:25 am gentle chiming alarm clock
6:30 am music alarm clock
6:30 am stand up and do a few yoga stretches, body movements, and tapping. I am working to find a morning meditation to add to this sequence. I eventually would like to expand on this time and spend closer to 30 minutes doing yoga and meditation.
6:45 am drink a glass of water
6:50 am teatime and breakfast
I am still working on just enjoying breakfast time and not jumping to my screen during this time. Due to living in Hawaii, I am several hours behind the time zones for my job and the group I volunteer with, so I often wake up to a lot of messages and work-related stuff. I am thinking of avoiding screens until after breakfast at least and using this time to chat with my family or read a book, listen to an audiobook/podcast, or just try to work on mindful eating. This is an area of my routine that I am still struggling through, and to be honest I often end up on Facebook or playing a random game on my phone. I would like to be more intentional with my time, so I am trying to look at my usual routine and see what I want to use that time for. After that time to get dressed and begin the next phase of my day. After I am fully ready, I think would be the time to allow myself to get on my phone and engage in work-related activities or social media/news. But I feel that moving this part of my day to the very end of my morning routine will allow me to ground myself and set my intentions before the rest of the world crashes in.