Many of us struggle with mornings, and it’s not just the sleepiness, even though most of us are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on average. The problem is that our mornings, once a time of mental peace and calm, have become burdened with massive amounts of stress. In fact, the majority of Americans now wake up thinking about their anxieties, and that’s the worst way to start your day.
We all know that stress encourages the onset of chronic disease, so the best thing to do for your health and happiness is to take your mornings back! How? Design less stressful morning routines and rituals. Here are stress-busting mornings hacks to get you started.
1. WAKE UP EARLIER.
You don’t have to wake up early, per se, but you should try waking up earlier, as long as you’re not depriving yourself of a full night’s sleep to do it.
So many of us set our alarms so that we have just enough time to get ready for our upcoming day. No time to lollygag. No time to indulge. No time to lounge or meditate.
This type of up-and-out wake up is extremely stressful to your body. One minute you’re sleeping, and the next you’re scrolling through your to-do list and brewing coffee at hyperspeed! Rushing around is just not conducive to a stress-free morning! Wake up a bit earlier and leave yourself time to indulge in quiet time, whether it is sipping tea and watching the sunrise, doing a bit of morning yoga, reading a book, or going for a walk.
And whatever you do, don’t wake up to a blaring BEEP! Set your alarm to your favorite morning song or loud nature sounds to wake you gently without skyrocketing your stress levels. It makes a major difference.
2. JOURNAL YOUR THOUGHTS OUT.
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends every creative start out with three morning pages—essentially three pages of stream of consciousness drivel to clear the mind and lighten up the psyche. It’s super effective for cultivating a better headspace, whether you consider yourself creative or not.
But there are other ways to journal, too. You could write down what you remember about your dreams. You could keep a journal of positive aspects—in which you brag about how awesome your life is. It sounds a little egotistical, but it helps to line each day with a much-needed glimmer of positivity.
Whatever you choose to do, journaling of any form has huge stress-reduction benefits. Grab an old school notebook and a pen and scribble the anxiety away before doing anything else.
3. MAKE TIME TO STRETCH, SERIOUSLY.
Life improves when you stretch. Whether you feel like you store all your anger and anxiety in your shoulders or you exercise a ton and have insanely tight muscles, stretching is one of the most undervalued tools for kicking stress to the curb.
When you stretch, the body releases feel-good hormones that combat worry and anxiety. You don’t have to become a yogi, but touch your toes, roll around on your bed, and move your body in as many directions as you can reach. Stretching first thing in the morning is so balancing, especially mentally, and it feels so so good!
4. AVOID YOUR EMAIL (AND SOCIAL MEDIA).
Yikes, what a way to start a day! Give your eyes some time to open before you dig in to your never-ending inbox, which totally decimates any hope for quiet clarity and focus.
The same goes for those of you who scroll through social media feeds mere seconds after shutting your alarm off. Let yourself bask in your Self for a few wonderful moments and keep technology out of it. Keep an hour to yourself every morning and enjoy the bliss.
Pro tip: keep your phone on airplane mode until you’re about to leave for work, if checking social media and email is more of a compulsion.
5. DON’T RELY ON COFFEE TO OPEN YOUR EYES.
Coffee actually spikes cortisol levels—aka your “stress” hormones, but here’s the deal: cortisol levels tend to be highest in the hour after we wake up. So by chugging a big cup of coffee in the first hour of your day, you’re actually just stressing your body beyond its natural max.
If you’re trying to cultivate a less stressful morning routine, switch to low caffeine tea or drink your coffee a little later in the mornings. It does real wonders for your hormonal balance and will significantly decrease physical stress in your mornings. Don’t worry, with a little weaning and practice, you’ll learn how to wake up again without the help of caffeine. It’s not impossible!