Every morning is a challenge. Like you, I have insomnia. My brain turns on at 2:00 AM and I am forced to leave the gentle pastures of the Land of Nod. So I’m tired, and a coffeeaholic. In truth, I love my coffee, and I am particular about it, but that’s for another post. So how to I deal with the stress from the combination of teenagers, carpool, stressed hubby and schizophrenic maltipoo? It’s all about finding my rhythm.
Mornings can be chaotic under the best of circumstances, but I have found ( thank you to several online gurus) a way to keep myself calm and relatively put together. Of course it is coffee first, but dear readers, I am going to enlighten you. Not only is being happy an art, but a morning routine is an art form and a salvation. It will help you to be happy (or at least calmer and task orientated). Morning is your most important time of day – it’s the foundation for the whole day ahead. Without the proper mortar, your day will crash down around you. So build it correctly, and you will know before you finish that first cup of joe, how your day is going to play out.
First things first. The wake up. I do hope you are not the jump out of bed sorts, but if that works for you- by all means keep jumping! I try and stay horizontal until my alarm goes off, somewhere in the 5:00 AM range. Quickly muting the noise, I stretch. Learn from your pets – every muscle, every part that moves- stretch it, crack it, bend it – roll your eyes if you feel you have to, but stretch. I love waking up before the rest of the house. It is still dark, peaceful, and the day is ripe with possibility. Chaos has not yet descended in my corner of the planet, and I like it that way. I advise everyone to wake up first. It is liberating and you can set your own schedule.
Onward. Those following me know that I have repeatedly said I am a new student of meditation. Thanks to websites like sonima, I am learning to breathe and to begin every morning with gratitude. It is a privilege to be alive, and the very first morning prayers I learned as a child thank God for letting me have this privilege. So traditionally, we admit, acknowledge and thank. The Hebrew prayer of Modeh Ani -literally I am thankful basically translates to: “I thank you ever present and living King/God, for returning my soul graciously to me. Even Shakespeare hits upon this theme. Hamlet discusses sleep as a mini-death.
“To sleep; perchance to dream: aye there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.”
Though Hamlet is clearly upset about Ophelia and her permanent state of sleep, he recognizes that we need to realize how precious life is. That we leave our mortal bodies every night, and fate or the Heavens above return us to the “mortal coil.” So dear friends, be gracious and grateful. Stretch languidly and breathe deeply. Meditate for just a few moments on the privilege of being able to move, to see, to think, to feel, to have something to look forward to, even if it is your immediate cup of coffee. Happiness is made from all these little parts of your life, so to get the happy hormones flowing, feel grateful. Make happiness a habit – notice all the good stuff about the day as you wake from hopefully a sweet, restful slumber.
Back to the stretching. It seems so logical, but often we are in a frantic rush to start the day. Sometimes we oversleep, or have been plagued by thoughts of things we must do all night, and we toss the covers back and literally run from the bed. STOP! So simple to keep the stress of morning at bay right here. When you stretch, not only are you increasing mobility in your joints (a good for you!) but you help your coordination. For me, this is a plus. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into the wall as opposed to the bathroom or closet. Stretching has actually been proven (I promise) to increase mental and physical energy levels. Heck, I stretch periodically throughout the day now, but always in the morning. Can’t beat those benefits! If you are yoga inclined, I hear there are some great stretching how to videos on YouTube.
Next, be present. Pace yourself so that you aren’t rushing about between the kitchen, the laundry, the emails, etc. Humans by nature are goal oriented. When we complete a goal, we release endorphins (yup, happy hormones) so that we can smile in the morning. Funnel your early morning energy into the right things, but not the urgent things. Those emergencies will keep until after you have taken your morning coffee and some time for yourself. Keep the morning simple. For me, it’s about the to do list, now second nature. Before 7:15 AM, when the kids need to be shuffled out the door, there’s a list. It is my wake up (can’t rush that – it sets my tone for the day), lunches, walking the dog, and coffee. If the kids need anything, now is the time. We have it down to a science so that I can usually spend about 20 minutes enjoying a peaceful coffee or two in the quiet darkness. That’s our routine.
Finally, establish a routine. Writing gives me a lot of freedom, however, I find that like everyone else with a desk job, I need a set, scheduled block of time daily to write. That doesn’t mean you won’t find me furiously scribbling on a discarded napkin in the car, a gum wrapper from my purse or on the back of my shopping list at the market. Writer’s brains never turn off, and when the words have to flow from the mind to the paper, there can be no time other than the present. It’s all about remembering the details.
So my routine. After the kids are gone, it’s quiet. I take my time working through my pot of coffee, and I meditate. I use guided videos sometimes, or since I am lucky enough to live in Paradise, I sit out on the terrace and let the stillness of nature work it’s way to my often jangled nerves. The point here my friends, is to do something that moves you. Read a little, write a little (journal?), perhaps you enjoy the morning crossword or nice reflective walk. The early mornings should be a gift to yourself. Once the sun rises, it’s pretty much intruded into your to do list, your job, appointments and other banalities. Make a ritual for yourself to begin your day with positive vibes. It will increase your happiness factor and you will be more productive on your daily journey. Don’t forget that happiness is a choice we make for ourselves every day. (see my post The Art of Being Happy)
The difference between a stressed out morning and a relaxed morning is not magic. It’s all in your perspective, your rituals and just a teeny tiny focus on time management.
- Get an Early Start on the Day – If you’re up first, you can wallow in the beautiful silence.
- Stretch – Limber up – open your circulation, move those muscles, especially the eyelids.
- Hydrate – We can dehydrate at night. I take my water poured over some dark grounds – oh yeah – coffee! it counts)
- Be Grateful – Just take a moment to thank whatever Deity you believe in for giving you another day.
- Do the Stuff that Can’t Wait – This should not be anything more than lunches, walking the dog and shoving those kids out the door. By the way- if you play your cards right, walking the dog can be meditative, quiet time as well.
- Meditate or Exercise – This depends on your nature. I enjoy walking, but truthfully, I prefer sedentary exercises. usually ones that include books and coffee. I’m learning to breathe and be positive and stress free. (OK, but it sounds better than I like to be lazy for a hour or so every morning.)
- Keep It Simple and Streamlined – DO NOT fill the morning with things you have to do….the groceries can wait an hour. Early morning ( between 5-8 AM which is what I’m talking about) is for things you want to do, not things you should do. For me- again, it’s coffee, a little reading, some social catch-up.
How do you like to start your days my friends? Challenge yourself if your mornings are hectic. Try something different, even if it is waking up 20 minutes early. You will appreciate your time, your peace and your day. What helps you to start your day on the right track? Feel free to share your morning rituals. Leave me a comment – I’ll answer in between the java sips. Perhaps together we can all get off to a better start daily.
And don’t forget to enjoy your morning beans – I prefer mine strong, french pressed and black!