Morning dread — we’ve all felt it. We’ve all been jerked out of sleep by a blaring alarm and wished we could hide under the covers. For some people, it’s a default state, and I find that incredibly sad.
Not looking forward to your day is like saying no to life. But what if you could turn it around? What if you could be more intentional, and not just reactive? A little bit of love goes a long way, and your morning routine needs it.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’m in a continuous search for the perfect morning that balances both self-care and productivity.
When I first listened to Hal Elrod’s “Miracle Morning,” I was pumped. If you’ve never read his book, he invented a morning routine that consists of 6 practices that are “guaranteed” to change your life, called S.A.V.E.R.S: Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing, along with waking up in the wee hours of the morning.
I did my best to implement all the suggested routines and would beat myself up when I skipped a day or two. Unfortunately, the miracle didn’t last. My body was soon screaming for sleep, and my rebellious nature was rejecting such a strict and repetitive schedule because it didn’t feel like my own.
Some of us must come to terms with the fact that we’re simply not high energy people and have trouble following routines. We have other strengths, and we charge differently. Why not create a morning that suits us and gives us purpose and space to be our most authentic selves?
Whether your schedule allows for several hours in the morning or just an extra hour before going to work, there’s always value in implementing at least one of the tips below, along with whatever productivity goals you have in mind.
And if you think that some of these are selfish and outrageous, you’re absolutely right. To take care of other people’s demands, we first need to tend to our own.
1. Purposefully sleep in.
It took Arianna Huffington a broken cheekbone from hitting her head on the desk while collapsing in exhaustion, to prioritize rest and sleep. In her book, “Thrive,” she’s adamant about focusing on getting more sleep and rest to live a healthy, fulfilled life.
She even encourages her employees to take breaks and use the designated office “nap rooms” for literally sleeping on the job.
I don’t have to look too far. In my own life, I can see how a lack of self-care — proper care of my body and my mind — led to chronic pain and mental health issues.
We all want to be productive, and society makes us feel guilty for pampering ourselves too much, but to be efficient, we first need to cover the baselines, namely sleep.
If you don’t get the recommended 8 hours of shut-eye, give yourself the gift of replenishing your energy reserves, and either go to bed earlier or simply sleep in.
This piece of advice is mainly targeted to those of you who have flexible jobs and can create your own schedule. If this is not possible for you, find a way to go to bed earlier to ensure you get enough hours of sleep.
And don’t beat yourself up if your sleep schedule isn’t regular either. In his book, “Own the Day, Own your life,” Aubrey Marcus suggests that an extra nap during the day can actually be more effective than the same amount of time added to normal sleep.
There are plenty of benefits to boosting your sleep time and quality: normalized levels of cortisol, improved mood, enhanced energy levels, only to name a few. So get those zzz’s in until you are replenished, and don’t feel guilty about it.
2. Have a Snuggle Fest.
A full-blown pandemic and extreme social isolation finally made us aware of the importance of touch.
Touch is our love language, even though it may have been lost and considered socially unacceptable over the years.
We are physical beings and need this kind of connection regularly. Research shows added benefits to touch, beyond just emotional well-being: better immune response, vagus nerve stimulation which lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases serotonin, which is anti-depressant and anti-pain.
Kids who are hugged more frequently by their parents are more friendly and show less aggressive behavior than those who didn’t receive enough parental affection. Also, touch that involves deeper pressure, not just a light stroke, seems to be more beneficial.
Touching animals is just as good for our health. Hugging a pet first thing in the morning may be the ultimate stress-ball, a real delight to your senses. Not to mention they’re cute as heck.
I’m guilty of first hugging my dog, followed by hugging my husband in the morning. In fact, my ridiculously fluffy Japanese Spitz and I enjoy a cuddling session as our waking up ritual. My significant other regularly gets up before I do, so he misses out on all the fun.
If you don’t have anybody to hug — first of all, I feel for you. And second of all, don’t act all tough. Get a pet if you can. Animals make life so much better in every possible way.
3. Be selfishly unavailable.
Imagine this scenario: you forgot to charge your phone the night before, so you wake up on your own, feeling calm and surprisingly rested. You stretch and yawn and reach for the phone to see what time it is. Panic sets in as you realize your trusty device is dead, and it’s one hour past your wake-up time.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, besides being late for work, were there any grave consequences for being unreachable for that single hour?
The truth is that emergencies, even unfortunate ones, happen without you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And most “urgent” calls outside of your work schedule can wait for a few hours.
I love the “Do not disturb” function on my phone. It lets specific calls through — the ones I allow are from my family, or exceptions like repeat calls. Otherwise, any other incoming call, message, or notification will be silenced.
I sometimes forget to turn off my “Do not disturb,” see a bunch of missed calls from work and patients, and still somehow survive and even thrive in my day! It’s miraculous, really.
In all seriousness, though, there are many ways to do this guilt-free. You can let your boss/co-workers know that you have a designated time during the day when you can’t be reached. Your phone can send a customized text to any caller who can’t contact you. Or you can simply do what I do and just not be bothered.
4. Soak up the sun.
Summer vacations are the best thing ever. No wonder we feel so relaxed and rested — we spend so much time outside. We have our coffees on the balcony or the terrace. We spend our days at the beach or by the pool. It’s a dream, and I can’t wait for it to be summer again.
Despite having a huge backyard, I don’t spend half as much time outside as I do on holidays.
We’re creatures of habit, we stay indoors and like controlled environments, but we should be out in the elements for the better part of our day.
Sun may have been made into the bad guy over the years, but it has so many healing properties. Sunlight enhances mood, helps with certain skin conditions, and is needed for vitamin D production, which in turn is essential for immunity, calcium production, gut health, and much more.
And if you’re reading this in 2020, it turns out that vitamin D could be used as a potential supplement for Covid-19 to boost our immune systems, even more reason to go outside.
So how do you soak up the sun? By merely showing some bare skin, like forearms and face, for 15 minutes. Doing this a few times a week could be enough to replenish your vitamin D levels. Make sure you don’t wear sunscreen as it acts as a barrier.
If it’s too cloudy and gloomy outside, there’s always the option of supplementing with vitamin D or eating foods like tuna, mackerel, salmon, or drinking fortified milk. Sunlight and vitamin D rich foods are the perfect combination in keeping you healthy and vibrant.
5. Invest time in yourself.
So many of us are stuck and want to change our lives, but change never comes. We imagine a better future for ourselves but never take action.
Life experiences and hardships shape us, but not aways into the person we want to become. We all need to continually grow and evolve, and what better way to do this than to purposefully invest time in ourselves.
Over the years, my mornings have seen many changes. In high school, I woke up at dawn to go running and shed some extra pounds. As I got older and freed up more time in the morning, I used the first couple of hours for studying. Currently, I’m embracing my creative side and building my writing skills.
Whatever you want to achieve, treat yourself like a project, and create urgency to your mornings. Having a “why” is the most powerful motivation for waking up early in the morning and taking that extra hour to build the kind of mastery that will take you to the next level.
If you’re stuck in a rut, honestly look at your life and see what needs to change right now. What absolutely cannot wait. And start with that: whether it’s your health or your body care, your mental state, your unfulfilling career, your failing relationship.
Put out the fires first, and then start building, and I guarantee you that those hours combined will lead to exponential results that will blow your mind.
6. Go out for a mindful walk.
I used to walk everywhere. I lived in a small town with no taxis or public transportation. That was my childhood, and I loved walking. It was meditative, quiet, refreshing.
As the years went by, I moved and lived in larger cities, started driving and commuting, and didn’t find time in my day to simply walk for the sake of walking. Taking on this sedentary lifestyle wasn’t free of consequences. I started feeling tired and unhealthy, gained weight, and was plagued with all kinds of aches and pains in my body.
I say we give ourselves the gift of walking again — simple, leisurely, undistracted walking.
Mindful walking can be such a stress reliever — noticing your surroundings and feeling the breeze gets you out of your own head, and into your body, into the present moment. It’s like entering a meditative state, except you don’t need to sit still to reap the benefits.
If you’re like me and crave distraction in the form of music, podcasts, and audiobooks, it’s better than not walking at all. But every once in awhile, give it a try, and completely immerse yourself in nature.
Most of us are stressed out of our minds and living in a reactive state. Our workplace, family, and other obligations already put so much pressure on us. On top of that, we put immense pressure on ourselves with setting standards that are impossible to reach.
Mornings, in particular, are spent in a frenzy, with too many tasks already on our to-do list. Some of us get avoidant, stay in bed, and refuse to deal with the harsh world outside, and that’s no good either.
I believe the best way to properly take care of ourselves is through a balanced approach: the perfect combination of pampering, self-care, and work that matters.