I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this article woke up this morning. Some of you woke up to the sounds of baby crying. (Ok, that was how I woke up today.) Others woke up to a buzzing alarm clock or music. The rest of you may have awoken by the sunlight peering into your windows.
In an ideal world, we would all wake up naturally from a sound sleep after our body has been fully rested. It is the least stressful way of beginning the day. But, many of us do not have that luxury. Thus, we are startled awake through some artificial means and that gets the stress hormones flowing through the bloodstream like a shot of caffeine. Needless to say, this is not a great way to set the tone for your day’s work.
In order to reduce the stress levels and anxiousness that can make for a grumpy morning Jack or Jill, make time for yourself to wake up. Give yourself 5-10 minutes to get your body functions (i.e. heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature) up to speed. A good foundation should be set every morning, so as to give you a solid footing to tackle the day’s obstacles and issues. Call it a ritual, routine, or morning mental cleansing. It doesn’t matter, so long as you go through some regular motions every day to prepare you for the activities you will encounter.
There are certain elements that are important to include in your wake up ritual. They are all listed below. At the very minimum, you should have these basic elements as the structure of your routine:
1. Don’t get out of bed as soon as you wake up. But, don’t fall back asleep either. Take 5-10 minutes to complete a morning ritual before throwing off the covers and heading to the shower. Open your eyes. Look around. Listen to the morning sounds, even if it is interrupted by your partner’s snoring. Use your senses and turn them on one at a time.
2. Focus on deep, slow breathing. Belly breathing is the best way to ease your body into a “rest and digest” state or parasympathetic nervous system response. By slowing the breath and inhaling deep into your abdomen, your body relaxes, muscle tension softens, and blood pressure lowers. Carry this breathing technique throughout the entire time you are laying in bed. If you’re feeling adventurous, try to regulate your breathing with a 4-8 count. Count from 1 to 4 on the inhale and count from 1 to 8 on the exhale, making exhale approximately twice as long as the inhale.
2. Take inventory of your body. Assess yourself. Just lay there and be still. Take a moment to ask yourself some questions, such as: What position are my arms in? Are my feet cold? Does my body ache anywhere? How does my skin feel against the comforter? Are any body parts exposed? Is there a breeze blowing on my face from the fan? This exercise focuses your mind directly onto your body. In a nutshell, you are practicing the art of being present. This is a very large part of realizing and understanding how your physical body reacts and adapts to environmental changes.
3. Tap yourself awake. In the previous step, you are using your brain to wake up your body. In this step, you will be using your body to wake up your brain. Using your index finger, lightly tap the area between the eyes. Do this for 5-10 long, slow breaths. Now, take all of your fingers on either hand and lightly tap your temples for 5-10 long, slow breaths. Lastly, rise to a sitting position. Lightly tap the occiput of your head with the finger pads of both hands for 5-10 breaths, breathing into the abdomen every time. Now, you are ready to get out of bed.
4. Perform the same ritual every morning. Do the best you can. Frequent consistency trains your body to expect when things are going to happen. Though, maybe during the weekend you sleep in. You may not have to do anything until noon on Sunday. That’s fine. Just try to be as consistent as possible. If you can only develop this practice during the week, then great. I assure you that soon enough, you will find yourself wanting to perform this exercise daily and it will become part of you.
If you can’t seem to find 5-10 minutes every morning to perform this sequence, then try setting your alarm clock for 5-10 minutes earlier. Yes, it’s 5-10 minutes less sleep that you may be getting, but the rewards for practicing this morning routine will pay huge dividends in your daytime energy, both mentally and physically.
I’m positive that you will begin to see a change in the anxiety and stress that build up during the day. You may also feel more grounded in the way you deal with others. You may also see yourself becoming a more calm, controlled problem solver and task manager. This routine is a great way to balance the mind and body first thing in the morning. Even if you don’t plan to follow the above steps precisely, find something that works for you. Have a way to set the tone for your day, so you can get out of bed with both feet firmly planted on the ground.