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How do you feel about mornings?
- Yes, please – the earlier, the better!
- Meh – I can survive them when I have to.
- Please don’t make me morning.
- If you talk to me, I will kill you.
If you answered “1,” then save yourself some time and skip this post. I know you – you rise with (before?) the sun without an alarm, you smile before you get out of bed, you’re at the gym door when it opens, you get through an amazingly long to-do list and are still smiling as you fall asleep. Go on, this post is not for you.
5 Things To NOT Do First Thing In The Morning
Those of you who answered 2, 3, or 4: How does your morning start? Do you startle awake to the blare of an alarm, stumble to the kitchen and down a pot of coffee while scrolling through what hit your phone overnight? Are you constantly running late, trying to catch up, never quite getting there?
Full disclosure: I’m one of those people: I’m up well before the sun every weekday, spend a full two hours on my morning routine – a mix of “me time” and activities that fall to the COO of the household, I sometimes have breakfast, lunches, and dinner made (or at least started) before anyone else stirs. BUT I also regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep because I do the morning shift and my husband stays up later and gets up later.
If you think that you’ll never be a morning person, you may be right. Everyone’s rhythms are different, which is why we have the “early birds” and the “night owls” and a host of in-betweens. No one type is right or wrong, better or worse. But in today’s over scheduled world, where sleeping the fewest hours is flaunted as a badge of honor, there are some pretty insidious side-effects of a sleep-deprived lifestyle.
If you are struggling to get your day started AND this is causing stress in your life –in the realms of family, intimate relationships, career, etc. – here are a few suggestions that you might want to experiment with. (Please note that if you struggle with insomnia and/or have trouble falling/staying asleep, you should get a check-up to rule out any hidden physical causes.)
At their most basic, these suggestions help you reclaim some “me time,” something my clients often feel they don’t have. Self-care can mean getting a massage, going away on vacation, or similar luxuries – but it can (and should) also be something you make time for daily in just minutes and with simple acts that reclaim a little time when we don’t answer to anyone else.
1. Don’t use an alarm – wake up naturally.
Waking up without an alarm cuts out starting your day under stress: getting shocked awake makes your body feel as if you were facing a “flight or fight” situation. It can contribute to the many stressors your system probably faces on a daily basis (physical, emotional, work-related, family-related, etc.). In the alternative health field – and increasingly in the conventional medical field – there is a theory that the result of living under chronic stress can be a taxed adrenal system and eventually adrenal fatigue, which comes with a host of unpleasant symptoms. Whether you accept this theory or no, would you rather jump out of bed with your heart pounding or gradually come awake in a calm, natural fashion?
How can you make this happen? Figure out what your natural sleep rhythm looks like – how many hours of sleep do you need to stop thinking that you Just. Can’t. Even? I am a 7-8 hour sleeper, and regardless of when I go to bed, I sleep almost exactly 7 hours and 20 minutes. How can you find our your magic number? You’re going to love the answer: sleep!
For a few days or weeks, track how long you sleep on the days you don’t have to jump out of bed and get moving – in my experience, for most of those who don’t have problems falling or staying asleep, it’s usually 6-10 hours. (By the way, 7-8 is considered ideal for adults.) Don’t go by one night’s results – keep track of this over a few days to get an average number.
Next, see whether you can figure out a way to get that many hours of sleep a night. (I hear you laughing, parents of young children!) If you are losing precious hours of sleep –to “just getting one more thing done,” socializing, watching television, surfing the internet, spending time on social media, getting caught up in a book that doesn’t let you go – stop! Give yourself permission to wrap it up in time to get your ideal number of hours and find a way to compromise on family schedules.
2. Don’t jump out of bed – lie there and breathe.
That’s it – just lie there and breathe. Think about your breath going into your nostrils, down into your lungs, expanding your belly and then your chest. Pause at the top of your breath for an instant, then follow it back out, emptying your chest and then your belly. Push the breath out so that when you release your belly, air just automatically flows back in without any effort on your part.
If your mind immediately runs in all different directions, gently bring it back to your breath. If you still have trouble with this, try counting as you breathe – try out the 4-7-8 breath exercise that Dr Weil teaches on his site.
“But I don’t have time to do that!” I hear you – it may seem that way. But taking just 2-5 minutes to breathe first thing in the morning has multiple benefits: it not only relaxes you and clears out the stale air in your lungs and fills them with new air but also tells your mind that today, you are in charge, so just hold on a sec with that to-do list.
3. Don’t let the first liquid to hit your stomach be caffeinated – make it lemon water!
Your body just fasted for hours (at least 7, right?) – your next order of self-care business is to rehydrate. There are plenty of articles available on the benefits of drinking lemon water, and even if you don’t subscribe to the theories about it jumpstarting your metabolism and alkalinizing your system, it’s definitely not harmful. Try it for a week or two and be sure to really pay attention to how you feel – you may be pleasantly surprised!
4. Don’t skip breakfast – eat something nourishing.
“But I’m not a breakfast person.” Hmmm. Could that be related to “I’m not a morning person?” As I said, you just fasted overnight – get some healthful food into your system! You may find that as you sleep your fill, your appetite for breakfast grows. Try to eat within an hour of getting up, and include some high-quality protein (animal or plant-based) and some beneficial fat (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, or pastured butter), especially if you tend to eat a carb-heavy breakfast (toast, bagel, cereal, hot cereal).
5. Don’t check your email/social media right away – spend some time reading, writing, or just sitting quietly or meditating.
Again, you may claim that you don’t have the time, but consider that catching up on social media or email is really allowing others to dictate what you do with your time. Spend a few more minutes in your “me” zone, and you’ll be surprised at how much more energy and time you feel you have when you do finally have to face the world.