The routines and rituals you practice to take care of your mind, body and soul can contribute to the contentment and joy you feel in everything you do.
We know that self-care is important to living a healthier life in every way. It affects every facet of our lives including body, brain and heart functioning. But our days get so busy so quickly, it seems nearly impossible to give it the time it deserves. Every one of us can use wisdom for integrating more consistent self-care into our daily routines, and creating more time for ourselves in general.
The key is in harnessing the energy of your time, which is the most precious commodity of all.
If you think about how each day starts, it’s easy to see how time gets away so quickly. The To-Do List starts rolling through our minds before our eyes even open. On most days for most people - there is somewhere to be, traffic to drive in, and a day to plan for by 8am sharp. There may be dishes unwashed from the night before, laundry to put away, pets, kids, homework, dinner to plan for... whew!
Ironically, If you want to set the tone for the entire rest of your day, mornings are actually the most fruitful place to start. Starting your day off right can help you live a better quality of life all the way around, manifest your goals, and live more intentionally.
The great news is that integrating a solid self-care routine into your mornings doesn't have to cost much or require you to get up in the middle of the night... but it will take some planning and forethought.
If you are someone that tends to be stressed shortly upon waking because there isn’t enough time to get everything done, you’re busy packing lunches, and hunting down missing shoes, etc.. then preparation might be exactly what you need.
The following tips and suggestions will help you get creative with using your morning routine to focus on better self-care. You’ll find that harnessing the fresh energy of morning can go a long way toward guiding and directing the rest of the day.
Having too many decisions to make first thing in the morning is a terrible way to start the day. So is waking up to a mess, or spending the first 45 minutes of your day running around finding notebooks and socks because you don't have time to get things organized. For parents with small children, it can feel like you're one cup of spilled orange juice from completely losing your marbles!
Keep reading to learn about developing a healthy morning routine for self-care, helping not just you but everyone around you...
To start with, you want to get your brain and body ready for the morning. Having a good morning routine doesn’t start in the morning, but the night before.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the number of decisions you have to make in the morning. Not only will this allow you a calm start to the day - but experts suggest that decision fatigue cuts into your patience, burns too many blood pressure points, and can seriously stress your willpower.
Before you go to bed, put together your clothes for the next day. From the skin out, from skivvies to shoes. If you can, invest in some suit hangers and start hanging up your clothes for the week every time you do laundry. This will alert you to loose buttons or falling hems before they're an emergency. It will also free you from the worry of having to figure out what you're going to wear during the morning rush!
If you're a coffee drinker, consider loading the coffee pot before you go to bed so all you have to do is hit the power switch. For fans of pour over coffee or cappuccinos, this may not be possible. However, if you get up a bit earlier in the day to have time to journal, meditate or exercise, investing in a small basic coffee pot might be a good idea; you can enjoy a cup and wake up before you try handling boiling water or hot coffee under pressure.
For those who hate getting up early, spend a little time in a favorite spot enjoying a guilty pleasure. Love trashy novels? Set the timer on your oven for ten minutes and sip that first cup of coffee in your favorite chair while perusing the latest bodice ripper. Once you're caffeinated and acclimated to the early hour, you can either engage in some serious self-care (or keep on reading!).
Wear your fluffiest, coziest robe and cuddle up under a throw for the first couple of minutes. You've got coffee or another hot beverage; as long as you don't lay down, you should stay awake and enjoy a bit of cocooning all by yourself.
Do not pick up the phone during your self-care time. Do not check your emails, turn on any media of any sort or pick up a newspaper. Avoid earbuds, radio programs, or conversation. This is your quiet and alone time.
Coffee and a little literary guilty pleasure isn't the total work of self-care. The larger goal is to get a handle on your thoughts, build a gratitude habit, and make yourself aware of how calm and positive your brain can be if you work at it.
Putting paper to pen changes up how thoughts move through your brain and how much information you retain. While experts strongly recommend taking paper notes if you really want to retain the spoken word of someone else... it's important to remember that self-care is your time to listen to yourself!
By putting pen to paper, you allow your thoughts to flow in new and creative ways. With a small investment, you can treat yourself to a beautiful notebook and matching pen that will become a precious spot for you to record your dreams. In addition, as you become accustomed to a daily journaling habit, you may notice problems that follow you to bed become solutions in the morning.
Light your favorite candle, or add your favorite fragrance to your space. Make sure you have a lamp that gives you enough light to write and read by. If possible, place the chair near a window so you can see the sky. Whether you're looking at stars or the sunrise, the sense of solitude you'll find under the sky will give you great comfort.
In addition to a hot beverage, make sure you have cool water within easy reach. This will rehydrate you and boost your energy.
While many people find meditation easier first thing in the morning, others find it makes them sleepy. If you can meditate, do so. If you've never meditated, remember that meditation is a gradual practice to develop over time.
Some people tend to meditate at the end of the day; they find it very soothing and it calms the mind before sleep. If you’re especially tired, meditation can give you more of an energy boost than any nap ever has.
If morning meditation doesn't work for you, consider a visualization exercise where you can express thanks for all the things in your life. Rather than waking up and thinking, "I didn't get enough sleep!" ... try being thankful for your soft mattress or your comfy sheets.
Starting your day in gratitude rather than in lack is a great way to get your energy moving forward.
If early morning is the only time you have to exercise, make it easy on yourself. Set out your workout clothes the night before; if possible, put them in the bathroom. You can be dressed and on your way to a great workout without any hard decisions.
Maintaining positive thoughts during your workout is easy if you start gently and incorporate a cool-down. Walk a couple of laps on the track, grateful for the facility you get to work out in and the people who start their day at the counter, smiling and handing you a towel.
Be thankful for your body and that you can move it through space. If possible, spend part of your workout in the water; time in the water can reduce the pressure on your joints.
Why are you engaging in self-care? Are you trying to break the snooze habit? Working to eat better? Just trying to get your brain working more effectively?
If productivity is your goal, the positive affirmations about how truly wonderful life can be will lift your spirits and get you out of the mental quicksand of worry. In addition to planning your day for maximum productivity, be sure to set a quitting time.
The book The Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins encourages a terrific balance. Yes, focus on what you want. Yes, determine the next step in getting there. Yes, turn off the laptop and stop working when you promised yourself you would.
For those working toward healthier dietary choices, treat yourself. No, you probably shouldn't have a donut. However, a cup of your favorite tea will boost your spirit, warm you up and remind you of the health you're working for.
To keep your brain moving straight ahead once you've woken, journaled, meditated and exercised, study Getting Things Done by David Allen. This brilliant book keeps us mindful of the difference between a task and a project.
If "finish your taxes" is your goal, it will be hard to stop because you don't have the steps in place. "Gather all your W-2s" is a much better goal, and it will lead to the next step.
For many busy people, the idea of getting up even earlier to engage in self-love seems silly and perhaps a waste of time; if I truly loved myself, I'd let me sleep longer right?
However as previously stated, there are things you can do the night before to make your morning routine a bit more gentle, give you time for some journaling, some alone time, and even some exercise.
Before bed, load the dishwasher or at least rinse the dirty dishes in the sink. There are few things worse than waking up to dirty dishes!
Encourage your family members to follow your lead and put together the things they'll need for the next day the night before. This may mean clothes, homework, or trade journals. If possible, put some of this stuff in the car the night before, so there's no risk of forgetting anything.
Spilled milk, hangnails and jerks who insist on passing on the right are going to happen. A great self-care routine doesn't mean that the ugly bits of life aren't going to crop up and cause fusses and hassles.
However, by putting yourself first, you can prepare your mind for the messy junk of life that gets in the way of accomplishing what you need to get done. For example, let's say you hit the snooze bar three times, making yourself late to get in the shower. Your spouse can't find all the pages of the report they were working on last night and your six-year-old needs you to sign a very special form that they may or may not have brought home in their backpack.
You finally get everyone lined up with their reports and permission slips, grab your purse, and find, upon reaching the car, that you've got a flat tire. In your hyper-stressed state, you begin to cry. Child notes this and completely loses it while spouse gets frustrated and grumpy at your tears.
Meditation and self-care will not stop the irritants of life; this is not about creating any form of Nirvana. What a steady habit of self-care will change is just you. Your ability to handle stress, to solve problems and to see problems as detours instead of roadblocks.
Will irritations keep showing up in life? Absolutely. Will horrible crap happen to you and the people you love? Sadly, yes :(
However, you will have built a new brain path to a quiet, cozy space where you can focus on the people and things you love. The calm that lives in your self-care morning routine is accessible any time of the day or night; all you have to do is reach inside and bathe in it.
That is, once you build the routines.
Keep working on your morning routine, tweaking it as needed. Get a journal, change the time of your alarm, and start your morning off right. Whether you journal in the morning, enjoy some quiet time with your cup of coffee, or watch the news to get your brain more alert before leaving the house, this can help a lot with the rest of your day.
1. Allen, David. (2015). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Penguin Books, NY.
2. Robbins, Mel. (2017). The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage. Savio Republic, U.S.