Reducing Stress in Your Morning Routine: Do you ever find yourself hitting the snooze button several times and then rushing to get out the door for work or school in a frenzy? Mornings can be incredibly anxiety-provoking, and this sort of routine can create anxiety that lasts well into your day. Here are some tips for creating a routine that will set you up for successful stress-free mornings.
1. Set a Wake Time that is Optimal for Stress-Free Mornings
When you go to bed at night, you will want to choose a wake time that will help you achieve the optimal amount of sleep for you. One way to figure out how much sleep you need is to make a log of how much you are already getting. Record the amount of time that you slept and how you felt throughout the day (i.e., energy level, mood, etc.). Once you have a range of times, take a look at your sleep log: how many hours did you get on the day you felt your best? Aim for that amount in the future.
If you can fall asleep in less than ten minutes when you go to bed, you may not be getting enough sleep. Most people need ten minutes or more from the time they lay down to falling asleep, so try to add some more time if this sounds like you. If you are getting at least 4-5 hours per night, try to add 15 minutes every day for a week and see how you feel. Add another 15 the next week, and so on; continue to monitor how long it takes you to fall asleep. If you’re getting less than 4-5 hours, you may need to aim for adding a full hour of sleep per night.
If you can wake up with the sun, even better; this will ensure your circadian rhythm, or internal sleep/wake clock, is stable, which is good for your mental and physical health and will aid in creating stress-free mornings. Also, try to skip the snooze button – it is unlikely that you are getting any meaningful sleep in those few minutes between alarms, especially if you are the type to snooze repeatedly.
2. Skip the Internet for Stress-Free Mornings
Try not to check any electronic devices when you first wake up. Whether you are answering emails or browsing social media, being bombarded with responsibilities or outside information can dramatically increase your anxiety levels first thing in the morning. If you can, try to wait at least an hour before engaging in this part of your routine for a stress-free morning. Instead, read a chapter of a book, make your bed, or go for a jog. It may seem stressful to put this off, as you may be using electronic communication to plan your day, but taking those extra few minutes to focus on yourself before engaging with the outside world can be centering and freeing, and is unlikely to have a huge impact on your ability to schedule. Just be sure to leave some time to make adjustments as needed.
3. Meditate to Create Stress-Free Mornings
Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as improve emotional health, attention span, self-awareness, productivity, and more. Meditating for even five minutes can give you a boost of calm and focus that not only leads to a stress-free morning but lasts throughout your day. You can try meditating on your own, or browse the internet or app store for guided meditations that make it easy to follow along. Diaphragmatic breathing is a helpful exercise that can be done in tandem with meditation or on its own. To try diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. When you inhale, let your belly extend and fill up with air while your chest remains as level as possible; when you exhale, contract your diaphragm (the muscle at the base of your lungs that moves when you get hiccups) and breathe out steadily so that your belly falls. This exercise can lower heart rate, increase oxygenation of cells, stabilize blood pressure, and make you feel more relaxed and centered.
4. Eat a Complete Breakfast and Drink Water
When you are in a rush, a full breakfast may be the last thing on your mind. However, eating a good breakfast will give you energy to achieve peak physical and cognitive performance for your upcoming day. Try to get a full serving of lean protein and whole grains and limit sugar so that you will feel satiated and have lasting energy. If cooking seems daunting in the morning, try prepping something quick and easy the night before that you can eat cold or simply pop in the microwave or toaster to make the morning stress-free. Water is also important: drinking water first thing in the morning restores any level of hydration that you lost while sleeping, and will also boost your energy and performance. Also, be mindful of the amount of caffeine that you are taking in; coffee is a diuretic and may decrease hydration levels.
5. Exercise to Create Stress-Free Mornings
Some people balk at the thought of exercising first thing in the morning. However, exercising in the morning can increase your energy, give you a sense of accomplishment, and get the task “out of the way” to make doing it later in the day feel like less of a chore. It also increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, which improves cognition throughout the day. This is especially beneficial for people who have high levels of anxiety or attention difficulties such as ADD/ADHD. If you can fit in a quick jog, a yoga session, or even a few minutes of stretching in the morning, you will reap the benefits of an endorphin rush at the start of your day.
6. Set Your Intention(s) for the Day
Setting intentions each day can have many benefits for your mental, emotional, and even physical health. Take a minute or two – maybe while you are in the shower or having breakfast – to really think about one or two things you would like to accomplish that day. Pairing these habits with things that you are already doing increases the chance that you will be successful in adopting them and will make your morning stress-free. Your intentions can be practical and specific, such as finishing a project or having lunch with a colleague, or something more abstract, like being open-minded or showing kindness to strangers. Defining this intention will give you something to work towards and raise your self-awareness throughout the day so that you are not just running on autopilot. Make sure that your intentions are simple and achievable; you want them to be things you can appreciate and enjoy, not another set of daunting tasks you have to complete.
Try incorporating one new habit into your routine every two weeks. Change can be difficult, so take things slow and be gentle with yourself. Feel free to add anything else that makes your morning happy: music, reading, a cup of tea, whatever you like! Everyone is different, so do a little experimenting and find what works for you.
If you feel that you are struggling with stress in your morning routine or throughout the day, feel free to contact the Center for Growth at 215-922-5683 so that we can help you devise a plan that is tailored to your needs.