Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day
I work with many experienced , professional women working in health and social work who are struggling to manage stress and anxiety. Often working in these areas of health and social work we are time poor, we are ‘can do,’ and our focus is on working for the best outcomes for our clients and supporting colleagues. We know about the consequences of stress and the potential for burnout but in our industry but we often take a long finger approach – ‘when the time is right, when I get a chance……when this crises, or that busyness is over’….
Sometimes we have a mistaken notion of resilience- thinking our teflon coated bounce back ability will protect us from stress, exhaustion and burnout. Deep down we know that there is the familiar knowing/doing gap. We know that to stay healthy and happy, to model good leadership, to have healthy boundaries and to enjoy a well rounded life outside of the workplace we need to look after ourselves and we often do not do this. We are by nature creatures of habit. By setting up a morning routine we can lay down strong foundations for better taking care of ourselves and more effectively managing stress, anxiety and overwhelm when it shows up.
Morning Routines to better manage stress, anxiety and overwhelm
We know from neuroscience, neuroplasticity and the evidence based practise of mindfulness that committing to a healthy morning routine will greatly help to manage existing stress, anxiety and overwhelm, and set the conditions for blossoming rather than burning out in all areas of our lives. So worth a shot don’t you think?
My suggestion is that you read through these recommendations a few times and then choose which ones to bring into your new morning routine in a way that best supports you to manage stress and anxiety as it shows up in your life. You may have tried these ideas before and fallen away from the practise or these ideas may be new to you. So start fresh now. Commit to only the ones that most appeal to you, make this routine your new habit then for the next four weeks During this time keep an eye on how you feel after the routine — remembering that it will take some time to see the benefits. You know that fierce discipline and attention you bring to your workplace? The invitation here is to bring this focus and attention and commitment to this trial phase of your new morning routine. Then you can decide what you want to integrate into your new morning routine habit, better managing stress, and overwhelm, investing in your wellbeing into the future, ensuring you blossom rather than burnout in your chosen profession.
1. Try to avoid checking your phone first thing.
Those work emails, text messages, Instagram notifications and news alerts can wait a bit. If you charge your phone by your bedside or use if you use your phone as an alarm clock, you will look at it right when you wake up. Before you know it, you’re sucked in, and your intention of two minutes of scrolling easily turns into twenty minutes or more. What about charging your phone in another part of the room so that it is not within reach from the bed? Or what about exploring the more radical step of charging your phone it outside of the bedroom and use an alarm clock instead? We know that when we check our phones on waking up this automatically puts us in ’work mode’,often making us feel stressed and anxious before we are even out of bed. Some of us do have the unhelpful habit (remember the knowing/doing gap?) of scrolling through social media or reading news articles while we are just waking up and still lying in bed. We know this triggers our stress and anxiety but it’s a habit right? I know that it is just unrealistic for us to avoid our phones altogether but I equally know that we can take some small step here to give ourselves some peace and quiet in the morning before the busyness and stresses of the day begin. So take a moment here- what might your particular small step in relation to your phone on waking up?
2.Take some deep breaths.
When we are stressed or anxious we often notice that our breath is quick and shallow, rather than slow and deep. This is a normal part of our bodies response to stress and anxiety, one of several including for example an increased or rapid heart rate, dizziness and an upset stomach. The interesting thing is that while we have no voluntary control over most of these bodily sensations, we can with just a little bit of attention control our breathing. Why bother you might ask? Well when we slow our breathing down with some deeply nourishing inhalations and exhalations, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which brings us home to our own inner calm, to a more relaxed state where we will respond more wisely to stress and anxiety and overwhelm rather than with automatic reactivity. Isn’t that worth a few intentional deep breaths?
First of all decide if you want to this breathing exercise while still in bed or sitting up in a chair Then simply spend a few moments with your eyes closed or your gaze lifted as you prefer, taking some slow, controlled, deep breaths. Try breathing in through your nose and then breathing out through either your nose or mouth. When you inhale, imagine that you are filling up a balloon in your abdomen rather than just breathing into your chest. Don’t worry about your mind wandering even in this couple of moments- perfectly natural, nothing gone wrong – just come back to the breath each time you notice this.
3.Start your day by drinking water.
Before you have your tea or coffee have a glass of water ( warm with lemon if you can take this) to rehydrate. We know that rehydrating in this way gives us increased cognitive function ,bringing us more clarity of mind and promoting better emotional regulation. This simple habit takes less than a minute and it can really elevate our mood and energy for the day ahead.
Those of you reading this who know me and my work ( www.jasont251.sg-host.com) know that I am all about the simple, free medicine of nature as calming and healing, free medicine for stress and anxiety if you like. ( my taglineis ‘nature, ancient wisdom, and neuroscience’). But it is not just me! We have such strong evidence now that taking even a very short walk outdoors is a very calming and grounding way to begin the day.
Stepping outside also gets sunlight into our eyes stimulating serotonin which boosts our mood( yes even under the grey winter skies we sometimes have in my lovely northern hemisphere home in Ireland) When we spend even a few moments outside in nature It also ignites our senses, as the wind hits our face, sounds of the environment fill our ears and we smell the world around us. This sensing into the world around us gives us a new perspective helping us to be more present and easing our worries in the process.”
Take a moment in whatever way suits you to acknowledge gratitude for the good in your life. You can list a few things in your head, or share them with a gratitude buddy or family member, or perhaps you would prefer to write them down in a journal. Why do this? Research shows that the practice of gratitude improves our happiness, and our physical and mental wellbeing.
6.Read a few pages from a book.
Instead of listening to the same news headlines and analysis a couple of times or catching up on your social media feeds early in the morning, try choosing picking up a book that inspires you and read this for a few minutes ― even just a few pages each morning. Choose you book intentionally – something that inspires and uplifts you – not anything work related.
7. Move your body.
Try something you used to love and maybe fell away from, or pick something entirely new and strange to you. It could be some stretching, yoga, walking, running, dancing, or cycling, depending on what time is available to you.
A morning exercise routine of low to moderate exercise will resource you to deal with stress and anxiety throughout the day. Specifically you are likely to notice improved focus and energy during throughout the day, as well as better sleep at night, which in turn will dial down your stress and anxiety. Your mood will be enhanced as you get a boost of endorphins and you will start your day with a sense of accomplishment and an awareness of your own inner strength and resilience.
“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day.”
I’ll be honest with you, morning routines are incredible, and they certainly can help to reduce your anxiety. But, they are a piece of work to develop – simple in a way but not easy.
As you explore and experiment you will find your own way but I find that these three tips help me to commit to and maintain my own practise of morning routine as a key strategy in managing stress, overwhelm and anxiety and staying on the blossoming side of burnout.
1. Go to bed earlier as part of my own sleep hygiene routine. For obvious reasons. Sleep is an essential part of a life of balance, calm and happiness where we can accept and deal with the stress and overwhelm that is simply part of the human condition. that does so much more than pass the night. Waking up to my morning routine is far more do able earlier because of this commitment to sleep hygiene.
2. Set priorities the night before. By setting my priorities the night before, I don’t have to waste any energy making these extra decisions in the morning. Once I finish my routine, I am ready to get right into my most important tasks and commitments for the day.
3. Expect that there will be difficult moments By practising self compassion I connect with my own internal voice that offers kind words and encouragement along the way especially when I fall out of my morning routine.
When it does not happen, I do not unleash my inner critic to beat myself up. Rather I am especially kind to myself on that day as I commit to trying again the next morning.
“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day.”
The most important thing is to create your own
Copy and pasting these proposed actions to kickstart your own morning routine to combat stress and anxiety might be the exact recipe for you do wonders …or it might not. The actions suggested here are by no means the route to a healthy morning routine. My invitation is for you to consider these suggestions as a guide or a roadmap, something to get you started as you develop if your own routine.
The actions above are what work for me as a morning routine to better manage stress and anxiety but that does not mean these are the best match for you. Why not create your own helpful morning routine by trying some of the actions I suggest and then tweaking it in a way that best suits your individual needs?
Explore, Experiment, Play
Discover what works best for you then reap the rewards of a calmer life with much reduced stress, anxiety and overwhelm in all areas of your life. Managing stress does not just happen – give it some time, be kind to yourself when you fall off the wagon and watch your inner strength grow.
Join me on my How to Banish Burnout and Blossom Webinar Tuesday Sept 7th 5pm Dublin to learn more. Book your place here: https://mindfulwithdee.kartra.com/page/BanishBurnoutSept7th