Up until last December, my mornings were pretty predictable. My alarm went off 45 minutes before I left for work, I hit the snooze button twice, jolted awake, and then stared horrified at the clock before sprinting to the shower. Next, I struggled for the remaining 15 minutes or so to find an outfit that wasn’t either in the laundry, wrinkled, or under a sleeping cat, and rushed out the door without breakfast.
Then last January, when my husband left for his bi-annual grad school retreat up in New Hampshire, I kept waking up early by accident. It was a weird change for me, the house being so quiet. So I woke in the still-dark morning (at this time during the polar vortex) feeling weird and scattered. I’ve learned in the past that rituals and schedules help me escape any impending bad mood funks, so I did just that, thinking that it would only help me through the two weeks with him away.
My new morning
1. Wake up a half hour earlier
Since I couldn’t seem to sleep past 6am those mornings, I would find myself putzing around the house waiting for the sun to rise. And though I would have originally thought the extra half hour of lost sleep would leave me sluggish all day, it really didn’t. Without the worry of launching out of bed for the morning race, I allowed myself to slowly roll around and eventually get up on my own schedule. I also had time to eat breakfast and make coffee, something that seemed like a luxury in the past.
2. Make a mean pot of coffee
Though my husband and I often kept the tradition of morning coffee, we didn’t often have time to sit and drink it with each other. Also, I’ve learned that no matter how much of a zombie I am when I shuffle out of bed, I can make coffee while blindfolded, drunk, and sleepwalking (though I’ve never tried all three at the same time). The rote activity allows my brain to move at my own pace, and I can do it with my hood up before I am able to form sentences or feel like a person. Also, coffee!
3. Write my morning Pages
Taking the lead from The Artists’ Way, I began my morning pages several years ago and it has since become a sacred time of day. The Morning Pages are a way to write whatever is on your mind without judgement, and for me, it allows all the anxieties that were stewing overnight to collapse onto a page opposed to spewing them at my husband. While I am writing, I am not allowed to check my bank account, Facebook, or even the weather. This is writing time, and the only chance to set my brain straight.
4. Glance at my budget, for the one and only time of the day
I used to get to work and have mini-freakouts about my finances. After my husband and I made a budget, something that has significantly turned our finances around, I still obsessed with it throughout the afternoon. It drove me crazy. So after I am done writing, I check out where my bank account stands and plug all the new expenses into our little excel sheet. It gives me a sense of calm for the rest of the day. That part is done, and now I can actually move on.
Yoga is definitely not up everyone’s alley, but alas, it’s my jam, and has significantly helped my back and stomach. I sleep in weird shapes and often wake up grinding my teeth. Stretching really helps release all this ickiness. If you’re more of a cardio person, I highly recommend getting outside in the morning air and going for a jog. As a practicing Buddhist I also tend to tack about 5 minutes of mediation on there, just to clear my head before venturing out into public. This was huge when I used to take the subway to work. It helped me not want to clock anyone on the 6 train.
6. Choose my outfit the night before
By simply making the mental note the night before about what I wanted to wear, and glancing if it was indeed hanging on a hanger, I knew that I wouldn’t have to dig through drawers. I do still struggle with this, but I’m getting better. There is some great law of the universe that hides the one article of clothing you have in mind when you only have 5 minutes left in the morning. After I grab my hopefully cat-hair free, unwrinkled outfit, I get ready (my brain now much more focused) and eat a light breakfast before leaving. I’ve never done well with large breakfasts early on, but having the time to pack something else does help.
Looking ahead to a better morning
I’m not there yet. I’ve significantly decreased the amount of time I spend sauntering around staring at Facebook like a zombie, and I now leave the house feeling centered and awake. But in the spirit of new goals, here are some new ones on my list for the fall:
1. Keep up this lemon water thing
I have started drinking hot water with lemon as soon as I get to work and it’s as if the allergy gods are finally smiling on me! My sinuses no longer feel like they’re trying to escape my head (yes I’ve seen a doctor, and no, they’re not happy). I did something similar back when my internship in 2009 told us that we would be quarantined if we got Swine Flu, and it helped me a great deal then too. I will report back on the results!
2. Do the dishes the night before
One of the only challenges I still struggle with is leaving the house in good shape before going to bed. We’re usually so happy to be home that we just spread out and leave things all over creation. Something about the couch cover not looking like a hot mess gives me comfort, so I may start there.
3. Getting outside
There is a morning bubble that can be hard to escape. Either my house is so comfy that I want to climb back into bed or it’s so hot and dusty that I feel very unqualified to be a contributing member of society. Stepping into the morning air can very often break this spell, so it is on my list of things to try.
Even if you’ve always scowled at morning people, I am proof that anyone can give it a go. It did significantly change my day, and even (gasp!) helped me look forward to my alarm clock. Any tips are welcome! Thanks for reading!