I’d love to sit here and tell you that my morning routine is a thing of beauty. That you should be just like me, because I’ve got it all figured out, and here’s exactly what you need to do.
I’d really love to be able to say that. But it would be a big, fat lie.
I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Despite years of trying, I haven’t found a version of my morning routine that sparks feelings of joy. While I do have faith that the one that works best for me is still out there, waiting to be designed, I have several excuses I like to make:
Partly it’s because I wake up early to teach virtual English classes to students on the other side of the world. However, three years into that job, I don’t think I can use it as an excuse anymore. It basically IS part of my morning.
Partly it’s because I’m NOT a morning person. So if I can hit snooze one more time, you better bet I am!
Partly it’s because I get bored doing the same thing every day. I like to mix it up. Which often means I just ignore what I decided to do. Yikes!
Why is it important to improve my morning routine?
Studies have shown a consistent morning routine can be very helpful. It reduces the stress of needing to make as many decisions. You see, our decision making capability is like a bank account with a limited amount of money in it. Throughout the day, as we are faced with decisions, each one drains our account. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be bankrupt and have no resources left to make decisions by the end of the day.
A routine is basically a pre-made set of decisions. We make them once when we set up the routine, and then we can follow the plan. Instead of agonizing over whether to take a yoga class before breakfast, we just go. Instead of wishing we could remember to drink a glass of water when we wake up, we just do. Removing small obstacles lets us reserve energy to clear bigger hurdles later in the day. This has the potential to remove so much stress and exhaustion!
What I include in my morning routine
So, because science, I’m a firm believer in routine and know that my morning routine needs attention. I’m constantly curious about what is working for me and what isn’t. So let’s talk about some key parts of a morning routine.
1. Spirituality/Mind-Body Connection
For some, guidance for this time is specified by religion. Quiet time spent praying, reading scriptures, etc is a great way to start the day. I love to complete a 10 minute meditation to quiet my brain and get me started on the right foot. Positive affirmations also form a foundation of this for me, as I read over the ones I’m currently affirming. I also have started a habit of writing in my gratitude journal, aiming for 5 things every day. Confession: My journaling habit would definitely benefit from a routine. I forget to do it more often than not. 🙁
2. Self Care
Hygiene, hydration, exercise. Start the day off by taking good care of your body! As soon as you wake up, start hydrating! Staying hydrated will make you feel better, reduce headaches, and even help with energy levels. It’s basically magic.
I also love to get some exercise first thing, when my energy is highest. I’ve learned that I am NOT cut out to be a 5 am exercise gal, so I try to go out right after my morning teaching is finished. This can be as simple as a 30 minute walk, or I can mix it up with an online workout class. Now that it’s summer, a pool day is an awesome idea. Swimming is great cross training for many groups of muscles! Getting outside is an awesome idea you can explore more in my article about Ecotherapy.
As for hygiene, we’re all adults, we know the things – shower, teeth, clean clothes, etc. Depending on your mental health journey, though, the gap between knowing and accomplishing can be wide. When I was in a depressive cycle, it often felt like a monumental task just to complete these. Checking them off in the morning can be a win-win because you have more energy and then you feel more human.
3. Planning the day
When I don’t do this I feel lost and like I”m constantly forgetting something. I love using time blocks for my time management. Every hour of the day is planned out for a task. This eliminates the stress of feeling like I”m going to forget something important! It’s a good idea to put tasks earlier in the day that require more mental power, and keep the easy ones for the afternoon.
Ok, but what does a morning routine actually look like in practice?
When my daughter is in school, it’s fairly simple to drop her off, come back home, and move through these three pillars of my morning. Since March, though, we’ve been home together and so instead of grouping this all together, I’ve learned to spread it out.
I try to fit each piece in before lunchtime, but I have to admit, I’ve basically abandoned my time block planning system. That’s part of why my morning routine is so crummy right now! I’m always playing catch up and I miss that feeling of accomplishment.
The keyword is “flexibility”
Especially during this Covid life, a rigid time based routine is not what I personally need. For some people, it might be what’s saving their day. So keep in mind that a routine looks different for everybody. Right now my mantra is “flexibility,” because having an elementary age kid home all day every day is the ultimate test in staying open minded. I work hard to find ways for our needs to coexist peacefully, such as suggesting she reads while I meditate, or makes a plan for her day while I make a plan for mine. This would look different for someone with preschoolers or toddlers!
In fact, that’s one of my biggest takeaways for you today: A morning routine is important and there are many different ways to design a successful one!
How I plan to improve my morning routine
LIke we talked about earlier, a lot of the benefit of a routine (less stress, better mental strength) comes mostly from pre-made decisions. Now, I don’t want one rigidly based on time for myself, but I do plan to make an actual list (not one just in my head) of what I want to do each morning. These are sort of my “non-negotiables” that I have decided I NEED to do.
Then, each morning I’ll outline a flow to how I see myself accomplishing them that day, which will help keep me from getting bored. It will also let me accommodate how my daughter is feeling on that particular day.
So, what are your “non-negotiables” in the morning? I have definitely benefited from overhauling my morning routine, and I bet you could too! Let me know what you plan to do in the comments!