Stress Less With This Morning Routine
Today’s post is by Find Your Steady co-founder Patrick Alcoke.
Most of my life I was not a morning person. I slept up until the last minute when I absolutely had to get up or I would be late for class (in college) or work (in adulting). This usually led to my day starting with a sense of urgency that I wasn’t able to shake. I would always feel behind, like I was needing to play catch up at every turn. My head was filled with thoughts of what I said I was going to get done followed by an inner dialogue telling me I didn’t have time to do any of it. This caused consistent stress throughout the day.
It wasn’t until I started trying out different ways to approach my mornings that I was able to find a sense of feeling steady (shameless company plug) in the mornings. In the fall of 2014, someone I have a lot of respect for suggested that I look into meditation. I began my practice shortly thereafter. Soon I realized that the later I slept, the less consistent I was with my new found meditation practice. So I started waking up 30 minutes before “I had to” and immediately noticed a difference.
I also realized if I included exercise with my morning activities, I was much more likely to follow through with that as well. Who knew getting important stuff done really early would give me a much better chance at sticking with it? Apparently a lot of people did. There are books dedicated entirely to having a consistent morning routine. I was just late to the party.
So I decided I would take my morning routine seriously from that point on. The benefits of doing this were immediately apparent. Interestingly enough, I was experiencing a lot of ancillary benefits that I hadn’t even thought of before.
All this brings me to why I’m writing this. I want to share this routine with you. It’s not perfect, but I find I have much better days the more I stick with it. I hope you can experience some of the profound benefits the same as I did.
Below is the routine that I currently use each morning. I don’t always stick to it exactly how it is written on weekends or those times life throws me curveballs, but this is what it looks like most days. Keep in mind that this evolved from 8 years of trying different things. Feel free to play around with it and figure out what works best for you.
This routine is based on the fact that all of my family is up by 7:30am. Once that happens, I go into Dad mode.
Wake Up: 5:30am
This one typically catches people off guard. I’ll be the first to admit it, 5:30am is early. I actually worked my way down to this time over a few years. I was able to do this by adjusting what time I went to bed each night. I’ll post another article in the near future about what my nighttime routine looks like.
This works for me because it gives me 2 hours before everyone is up vying for my attention. If you have to be at work early or your family wakes up earlier than mine, play around with this time. The point is to get up and give yourself some time to start your day on your terms.
*Bonus Tip: I have to sleep with an alarm clock across the room from my bed. If my alarm is next to my bed, I will turn it off, go back to sleep and get none of the following done. Knowing that the alarm could wake my family up gets me out of bed as soon as it goes off. Once I’m up, I’m up.
Exercise is something I’ve found not only offers health benefits, it also really helps me clear my head. Some days I’ll do light movement and stretching, others I’ll do something more intense. For you, this could be 10-20 minutes of movement in your living room, or going to the gym. Find what works for you.
I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. This is out of necessity. I have an incredibly active inner dialogue that tends to stress me out. But when I started, I did 5-10 minutes a day of breathing exercises. Even if I have to cut my morning routines short some days, I make sure this is something that always makes the cut.
I follow a five part journaling routine that takes about 10 minutes a day. Here are the prompts I use to get myself in the best possible place mentally:
1) One thing I’m grateful for and why I’m grateful for it
2) My intention for the day
3) My top priority that I will get done no matter what
4) One positive habit I will work on that day
5) The Find Your Steady journaling prompt for that day
We built the Find Your Steady web app that comes with every candle we sell based on our own personal journeys to better deal with stress. I use the web app every morning for the journaling prompt and listen to the playlist while I write in my journal.
I read for at least 10 minutes every morning. This is one of the things that if I have something going on early, or one of my kids wakes up early I will cut out of the routine. However, I make sure I catch up later in the day by picking a book up or listening to an audiobook or podcast.
Throughout my routine I am drinking water. Water has been a big addition to my morning routine over the last year, as I have a daily goal of drinking 100 ounces each day. I try to drink 24 - 32 ounces each morning during this routine.
I also typically have a cup of coffee or tea while I journal and read. I didn’t include this in the routine description because I don’t think it is an integral part of the routine itself. I also didn’t want to sound like a robot, so I thought it was important to mention. This especially helps if I didn’t get to bed early enough the night before.
So there it is. That is the morning routine I use daily. It has changed over time, but this has been the routine I’ve used consistently for the past two years. I don’t always get everything done. But when I do, I feel a lot better and I typically stress much less throughout the day..
One thing I also want to mention. I used to get stressed out if I didn’t get my whole routine done. But I realized that the routine was there to help me better deal with stress, not create more. So I made a deal with myself to get it done as consistently as possible, but understand that life, as well as a 3 year old and a 6 year old don’t always go along with my plans. So I give myself grace and pick back up the next day.