If you’re anything like me, you wake up each morning with an overwhelming amount of anxiety, inspired by the things you haven’t done yet. I’ve learned to start my mornings with the (now second nature) manta: be kind to yourself. But, this wasn’t always the case. At one point in my life, my anxiety was so out of control that I woke up frequently in panic attacks and night sweats from deeply-rooted fears of the “have to’s” and “should haves” (if I was lucky enough to get sleep at all.) For some of us, sleeplessness is this severe and, for others, it’s much worse. The good news: there is a cure and it doesn’t include an orange bottle; the medicine is within.
Louis Cozolino says, “We are not the survival of the fittest; we are the survival of the nurtured.” In a society that’s constantly telling us to be a more beautiful version of this and more productive version of that, we forget to treat ourselves with kindness and our mind can become our worst critic. It’s this sentiment of nurturing that has helped me most in the mornings.
Think of how gently you’d wake a baby… kissing their feet, gracing your warm hand across their cheek, admiring their beauty and peace. A mother would appreciate every moment since your arrival, patiently waiting to see what you can do and gently reminding you to come back, knowing you fought so long and hard for your reserved place here in her life. You deserve to be welcomed back with this type of love and kindness. It’s now your job to show yourself that same kindness. Let the sunrise be your mother’s warm stroke against your cheeks. Let this mantra change the course of your entire day: be kind to yourself.
In addition to including this mantra in your daily routine, below are 5 tips to help you truly master the morning.
1. Go to bed earlier & wake up earlier
No one is more interesting than your bed. Put your phone on airplane mode and dream away the stress. The sooner you start, the more REM & Deep Sleep hours you’re likely to get. REM is dream-filled rapid eye movement sleep, while Deep Sleep hours equate to a dreamless sleep. Both parts of the dream cycle are vital for recharging, so allow yourself the time to receive them.
2. Make your list the night before
Remember when your mom would make you lay out your school clothes? She was on to something. If you prepare as much as you can the night before, you are ready for anything in the morning. Fill in your calendar and write both a personal To-Do list & a work To-Do list. Even the little things, like your waxing appointment, can be written down so they don’t become overwhelming on a day you accidentally over-schedule.
3. Music is your medicine
Hey Google, play “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles… or whatever music is your jam! Any chill, relaxing music can help you wake up more relaxed. Music triggers activity in the part of the brain that releases dopamine and is involved in formulating expectations. A popular study found that listening to music even resulted in less anxiety and lower cortisol levels among patients about to undergo surgery (almost as overwhelming as your job) as opposed to taking anti-anxiety drugs.
4. Get some fresh air
Take time to get fresh air first thing in the morning. Step outside for a moment, and take your coffee with you. Enjoy the fresh air, and practice some deep breathing (your first introduction to morning meditations.) Soak in the Vitamin D (which promotes white blood cell function) and allow oxygen to increase your serotonin levels or happy chemicals—they’re street legal!
5. Keep it light
The New York Times has announced that breakfast is actually not the most important meal of the day. Depending on what you eat the night before, your body needs to properly complete digestion before taking on any more work. I’m not telling you what and how much to eat, GF (you do you!) But, according to Yale researchers and the British Neuroscience Association, the same stomach hormone that stimulates hunger on an empty stomach also promotes new brain cell growth. So, have your banana pancakes, avo toast, smoothie, granola and whatever else when you’re actually hungry, not just because you’ve been told a productive day depends on it pretty much your whole life. There’s finally science to challenge that!