Unlocking the Power of Morning Routines: Elevate Your Mood and Combat Burnout
In the blog post, "How I became a morning person and what night owls could be missing", I confessed to being a night owl who bristled at the idea of waking up early for most of my life.
So what made this reformed night owl even remotely consider creating a morning routine? In my "un-ending quest" to heal my gut post gallbladder removal (you can read more about My Journey here), I kept hearing gut health experts say that if you don't change your relationship to stress, no amount of dietary change will heal your gut. That really hit home for me. While I had made changes to my diet, my sleep, how I moved my body and even to how I managed my mental health, I was still struggling to manage my day to day stress...and gut issues. When I initially sought care for my gut issues, testing confirmed gastroparesis was the "cause" of my bouts with daily nausea. Gastroparesis occurs when damage to the vagus nerve significantly slows digestion. You can read more about the vagus nerve and symptoms of vagus nerve problems here, but in short, the vagus nerve plays a lead role in regulating the nervous system and our body's stress response. It was only after learning about the role of stress in gut health that I connected the dots between my stress and gastroparesis. Living with chronic stress burnt out out my vagus nerve, which slowed my digestion and brought on my symptoms. If you're struggling with gut symptoms (nausea, vomiting, reflux, bloating, etc.) don't forget to look at your relationship with stress.
To examine my relationship with stress, I asked myself two questions. Where was I was most stressed in my day to day and how did I feel in those moments? This helped me make a couple of key observations:
-The morning was, hands down, the most stressful time of the day for me:
I would startle awake to the sound of my alarm clock.
My brain would immediately start flooding with "to-do's" for the day.
I jumped directly out of bed into rushing around to get myself and my daughter ready for school and work.
-I felt resentful about:
Starting my day with this energy.
Not getting enough time to myself - time to be alone with my thoughts and time for self-care.
Not feeling as present and connected and how this impacted my most important relationships.
Being out of alignment with my values.
These observations made creating a different experience in the morning (i.e. trying a morning routine) a pretty obvious place for me to start. From there, I started researching options and experimenting, and the rest is history. Now, I'm not saying that a morning routine is the magic pill that will solve all of your problems, but I am saying that how you start the day sets the tone for the rest of your day, and there were some pretty powerful by-products of having a morning routine that I think most of us are seeking in this day and age:
Finding more time for myself and for my self-care. In my "How I became a morning person..." blog, I refer to this as "steeling time" for myself before the world wakes up. This reframe really made me look forward to this time.
Elevating my mood and carrying that into my day.
Feeling more present and gounded and less stressed and anxious (at a minimum for that portion of the day).
Moving with intention toward the best version of myself, living more in alignment with my values and restoring a sense of agency over my life, all of which help combat burnout.
So what makes a morning routine successful and more importantly self-sustaining? Meaning, something you actually want to come back to once you start. I recently polled my Instagram followers who have morning routines that stick. I'll share a few of their responses in a moment, but as I reflected on their responses and my own experiences, I think what makes a morning routine that clicks comes down to two key elements: mindfulness and a bit of "magic":
Mindfulness can be defined as any activity that keeps you focused on the present moment.
Magic can be defined as micro-moments that spark joy, shift your mood and signal calm and safety to your nervous system. These are typically things you're instrinsically motivated to do because they are enjoyable and nourish a part of who you are at your core.
Some examples of activities that combine mindfulness and magic include movement, meditation, reading, journaling, practicing gratitude, affirmations, listening to a podcast or music, spending time in nature, connecting with a loved one, laughter, pursuing a creative outlet or something as simple as enjoying your morning coffee or tea ritual.
Morning routines don't have to be elaborate or time-consuming. If all you have is 5-minutes, start there. If you need ideas check out my 30-days of 5-min. self-care calendar here. Morning routines also don't have to be the same every single day. Give yourself permission to take a break or change it up when your current routine no longer serves you. This will happen as you grow and are ready for the next thing. Check in periodically and ask yourself what you need. For some inspiration, I'll leave you with some ideas from followers who have morning routines they keep coming back to:
"I no longer use an alarm clock"
"I drink room temperature water with lemon first thing"
"I make tea with real tea leaves. It makes a difference and slows it all down"
"Making my coffee, even choosing which mug I use, is a ritual"
"I know you're not "supposed to" start the day with social media, but I go out and look at specific accounts that inspire me with art or beautiful pictures of nature"
"I hydrate early and get active in the sun without sunglasses" (Fun fact: getting 5-15 min. of morning sunlight supports our bodies regulate sleep & mood)
"I start the day with prayer, meditation and COFFEE (not necessarily in that order). It centers me, reminds me of what's truly important and the things I'm grateful for"
"I start my day with peace and movement"
"I do yoga and/or strength training and then listen to an audiobook or a podcast while I get ready for work"
"I no longer wake up and turn on the news. Instead I play solgreggio sound bath frequencies while my family gets ready in the morning and we all have a much calmer day"
Whether you're new to having a morning routine or you're a seasoned professional, I hope this post sparks your curiosity about the connection between morning routine and your health and opened up some space for self-reflection. If you found this helpful, please share it with someone else who might need it!