Does this scenario sound familiar?
You’re startled awake by loud, jarring sounds (and then that happens several times over, as you continue to press the snooze button). As soon as you creep into consciousness, you’re noticing your phone notifications, and before you’re even fully awake, you’ve been invaded by updates related to other people’s lives. You skim the headlines and notice your heart pounding as you react to the news of the day. You rush through your morning essentials to get to work on time and feel like you’ve run a marathon before you even arrive at your office. You realize that you’ve forgotten to eat, or you grab something to go and eat on the way to the office. You later realize that you can’t even remember what your coffee tasted like.
Four ways to be less reactive and take control of your mornings:
Whether you’ve got kids or not, here are four powerful yet simple tweaks to your wake-up routine that could signal the end of stressed-out mornings—and days. These small shifts have given me huge results and have allowed me to live each day with much more ease and energy.
1.Wake up early.
Clearly, there really is a psychological reason every productivity and/or anxiety relief self-help article keeps telling you to do this. By easing into the day and giving yourself extra time in the mornings, you can truly start the day on your own terms, before reacting to everyone else’s demands. Giving yourself more time in the morning can also help make room for unexpected setbacks, like traffic or an emergency email you have to respond to before your commute. The longer you can “own” your time in the morning, the longer you can stay out of reactivity. Even 10 to 15 minutes can make a significant difference
2. Wake up gently.
As mentioned, it’s easy to raise your cortisol by jolting awake—and cortisol levels are already naturally higher in the morning anyway, so that’s the last thing we need. Try picking softer music for your alarm so you’re not too, well, alarmed. Then, allow yourself to stay in bed a few minutes thinking about your intentions for the day.
- Journal using the “daily three” method.
Take five to 10 minutes every morning to write the following:
- Three gratitudes: Try to locate the qualities inside of yourself you want to focus on. Honor what already exists, and try to call in more good. Decades of research shows overwhelming positive effects of a daily gratitude practice, including increased life satisfaction and optimism, better health and sleep quality, and more connected relationships.
- Three brags: Provide yourself with evidence of your successes and give yourself space to be proud. We often make inferences about our own personality traits, attitudes, and values through observing or internally commenting on our own behaviors. Thus, “bragging” about your positive behaviors can help reinforce a more positive sense of self (i.e., increased confidence and self-esteem) instead of the negative self-talk that most of us are used to. Try starting the sentence with I’m proud of myself for…
- Three desires: What do you want for yourself today? This can be anything you hope, dream, or wish for. Try not to censor yourself. For example, here are a few of mine: I desire fulfilling and meaningful work; I desire a strong body; I desire more respectful and skilled dance partners; I desire trusting relationships; I desire more play; and I desire less pressure on myself.
3. Stay off social media.
Ideally, our phones don’t come to bed with us. However, if it must be bedside, put your phone on airplane mode during the night, or at the very least turn off the notifications. See how long you can delay checking your messages every morning; try to at least wait until after you’ve had time to ease into your day, do some breathwork or mini-meditation, and write about your “daily three.”
“Most of us want more clarity and focus, but the first thing we do in the morning is cloud our brains with social media, emails, or other reactionary weapons of mass distraction,”
The bottom line is what many of us don’t realize is how much control we can actually have over our mental state. Shifting out of reactivity and intentionally starting your day proactively will likely have a positive ripple effect into every aspect of your life. Making a few changes to how you start your day by establishing a consistent morning routine can have everything to do with your ability to cope with whatever life throws your way.