As we continue to feel icy depths of winter, I hear a common experience going around – mornings have become particularly difficult!
Waking up drowsy, telling yourself you NEED to get out of bed but not being able to stop the doom-scrolling, then rush out of bed in a panic because you have 30 min to get to work so all you can afford to do is a quick wash and muesli bar on the go. The rest of your day is a game of catch-up, realising you forgot your charger and need to duck out during lunch to grab it before the big meeting, thinking to yourself “I’m such an idiot!”. All this left you with no time for a hot meal so a quick servo sandwich it is, but the soggy white bread sparks no joy, and finally at the end of the day you get to come home to the huge mess you made on your way out and end up frustrated at your housemate because they couldn’t take out the trash! Ah yes…sounding familiar?
A good morning has a remarkable impact on the rest of our day, and can influence greatly how productive, peaceful, and organised we feel. Creating an effective morning routine that allows you to do this can help build confidence and even boost your mood, and helps avoid feeling constantly on-edge and overwhelmed.
A morning routine is a set of habits executed from waking up. Notably, the example I mentioned earlier is still a routine, but probably not a good one. An effective morning routine is one that benefits our wellbeing, facilitates us to have effective and meaningful days, and importantly is also flexible and fulfilling our needs.
An effective morning routine has several emotional, psychological, and physical benefits. Cortisol is a hormone responsible for stress, which tends to be at its peak in the mornings and takes about 30-45 min to return to baseline. When we spend this time exposing our brains to stressful content such as work emails, or even our social media feeds, or end up rushing through the morning, our cortisol levels rise even further. This can make us feel more stressed and overwhelmed, impact decision-making and having effective connections or conversations with others.
Instead, if we can expose ourselves to a morning that helps ground and calm us, and even plan for the day, this helps us take better control of the day as well as how we feel. It can help prioritise what is important and meaningful to us. Ultimately, this will benefit various areas of life, including level of productivity, quality of relationships, emotional health, and even boosts our sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.
How can you optimise your morning routines?
Firstly, as with most things in life, there’s really is no “ideal”.
Start with thinking about the “baseline data” – what are you doing now? Pay attention to your feelings, behaviours and even thoughts in the morning. This helps identify where the barriers lie, and we create a plan or routine that tackles them accordingly. For example, if you find that the cold is a barrier for you, invest in that Oodie or make it a point to turn on the kettle first thing upon waking up. If the phone is all too tempting, do your future self a favour and leave it in the bathroom so you need to get there for it anyway, and you can just splash your face with water when you do. Don’t forget your thinking! Identify the thoughts like, “I’ll start fresh next Monday”, these can be the sneaky barriers that can only be addressed by creating attitude shifts.
It’s like any habit, the key is repetition repetition repetition. It is expected to be uncomfortable at first, if it wasn’t you would have made the changes ages ago! Keep reminding yourself of your reasons, and acknowledge how much it can SUCK to try be disciplined, but it will become easier and even automatic before you know it.
• Think about your future self, that’s who you’re doing it for! Focus on the reasons for doing what you’re doing, especially when it seems unappealing at the start.
• Give yourself the time you need. The ultimate goal is to avoid the stress, and that cannot be achieved if a routine gets crammed in 15 mins. So try to wake up with enough time to give to each step.
• Don’t forget the basics. Any healthy routine pays attention to your whole health, including exercise, nutritious food, rest and stillness, and proper emotional regulation.
• Make your routine YOURS. While consistency is key, don’t forget to be flexible to your own needs. If you find that some parts of your routine end up creating new barriers, or don’t work for your goals, change it up until you find the right routine for yourself.
• Try starting small, give yourself a sense of achievement. A task as simple as making the bed can do wonders for your confidence, and gives you a better shot at achieving more of your goals.
• Get creative, make it fun! There is PLENTY of information out there on morning routines, try them out and use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself!