Mornings Part 1: A morning routine for stressed moms.
Welcome all my stressed moms! I’m really excited to bring you Walking on Mom Mornings, a four-part series to help start your day with less stress and more patience, not to mention a sense of strength, purpose and well-being. That sounds totally hokey, I know, but I believe in the tips I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks and, if you stick with me, I think you’ll find something you can use no matter your personal circumstances. All of these ideas can be adapted to fit your lifestyle. So, let’s get to it!
Let’s talk sleep, or that thing you used to know as sleep before you had little ones. I have yet to meet a parent who has escaped the torture that is sleep deprivation. Whether dealing with frequent night wakers to momsomnia, interrupted sleep is a known path to insanity.
When you haven’t slept well in years (YEARS, people) waking up in the morning can take on a particularly torturous aura. Now, let us recall how we often “get to” combine that interrupted sleep with gruesome early-morning shrieks from a far off tiny, yet oh-so-alarming, voice declaring the sun is up (somewhere, maybe not this time zone) and so the day must begin.
You flop out of bed, sometimes landing on your feet, shuffling as if through quick sand to the person who needs you immediately and begins barking orders at you. Then your morning mom face shows as much patience as, hmm, what monster has no patience? Ah yes, your child. And while I make light, it’s only to help keep my face from screaming.
I cannot stand to be woken up. Apparently, it’s not even healthy to be woken up by a startling noise. It triggers our fight or flight response and sends our blood pressure soaring. I have a vague memory from when I was a kid in which I may have punched my little brother when he tried to wake me up for school. So, it seems, being woken up is not healthy for others, as well.
So I devised a plan, a plan that anyone for whom sleep is a wispy dream will think is absolutely bonkers, but please hear me out. It’s simple, really, but it’s so, so effective, and had me feeling completely different about mornings in just a few days.
A morning routine for less stress
The secret is this: Beat them at their game. Get up even earlier.
I know it’s hard to imagine when your eyes are glossed over as it is. Every moment of sleep is precious. But for just a few more minutes, do you remember that willing suspension of disbelief that you accept when you read a book? Try that here.
Consider this: Think back to the days when your main responsibility was work. You walk into your office and, before you sit down, before you even get a foot in the door, your boss is screaming demands at you. “Did you fix that report? Did you call Melanie to tell her about the problem? Where’s my milk? Pick me up!” You’re starting your day getting beat up and you’re ready to scream: “Can you give me a minute to get my coffee for !%#[email protected] sake?”
From that moment on you’re constantly playing catch-up.
Now imagine how your mood might change (before you get fired) if you were to come into the office just a little early, before the boss arrived, while everything was quiet, and took some time to ground yourself in the day. You make your plan, organize your responsibilities, move about in a calm, less anxious space. Then the boss walks in and you’ve so got this! The sacrifice of time has a huge payoff in less stress, creating a sense of balance and control.
This is how I convinced myself to sacrifice a few minutes in bed, time that I was often already wavering between dreams and waking, to set the stage the way I needed so that I was ready for my kids, ready for my to-do lists.
I want to share this plan as inspiration for anyone who can’t stand feeling stressed in the morning (or any part of the day, really). What I’ll talk about is just an example, a template of things that I love, yet often neglect, that help ease my anxiety and help me to feel stronger physically and emotionally.
The cool thing is, it’s not as an all-or-nothing thing. You can, of course, choose to try everything. But you can also pick one or two things to focus on. And if you feel like this is completely unrealistic for you, consider changing that idea to think perhaps it’s unrealistic now and bookmark it, put a reminder in your calendar for a month from now, just keep it in mind for when you’re ready to make a change, to take some steps to help ease your stress.
Here’s what I do
Walking on Mom Mornings upcoming posts will highlight each of these items in more detail, explain why each aspect of these are important and how they can help ease your stress and set you on a good path for your day. But here are the highlights to get you started.
- Get up earlier: I drag my butt out of bed an hour early. I say “drag” because even though it makes me feel better at the end of the extra time, it’s definitely not easy for me to take that first step. But you know what they say about first steps.
- Yoga: I put on a yoga video for 10-20 minutes and just do as much as I feel. The beginnings of recorded sessions are typically more stretching movements and less contortion, so I don’t feel overly intimidated. It’s a peaceful way to wake your muscles and joints. And, bonus, after a couple of weeks, my flexibility and muscle tone improved.
- Gratitude Journal: I’m a tea drinker, so I put on hot water and while it comes to a boil, I write three things for which I’m grateful and why. The “why” is important. It helps set my mind in a healthy and open place to appreciate the people and things I have in my life, even the challenges.
- Meditation: By this time, my tea is steeping. I sit on my couch and try to follow my breath for 10 minutes. Like clockwork I’m fidgeting by seven minutes and so I accept it and move on with the morning. But it’s this habit of always coming back to the breath after my thoughts inevitably flop over to, oh, EVERYTHING else.
- Tea and plan: I sip my tea and jot down a few things I want to accomplish in the day or week, and, if time or my little monsters’ sleep patterns permit, I start working on a project that means a lot to me, like the blog or my novel-in-progress.
When it doesn’t work
Now, here comes the reality check. That list above is my “perfect” morning when everything goes well. But a lot of times, life is crazy and it just doesn’t go as planned. Here are my tips for handling the completely normal nonperfect morning routine:
- Let it go: Do not beat yourself up for it. This is supposed to be strengthening and you do not need one more thing to beat yourself up over. If you can do it, great! Feel the power these things can bring you and be grateful that it worked out for you. If not, ok, maybe try again next week or tomorrow. As long as we are alive we have time to make a choice.
- Make it your own: If an hour is too much, consider how much you can spare and start with that. Can you do a little gratitude journaling while the kids eat their breakfast? Can you swap the times and do something during naps or school or after the kids’ bedtime? Can you commit to once a week instead of daily? Are there other practices that fulfill you that you can commit to?
- Try a short-term trial: Give yourself three weeks to do this plan every day. It’s a short span of time with an end in sight so it becomes a more manageable goal. When you’ve finished, you may have one or two things that just stick with you. If you’re like me, and probably every person on the planet, you will try things, enjoy them, and then life gets in the way so these things that helped you go on the back burner. Eventually, if they are important to you, they will come back around again. (how many times has Michael Phelps retired now?)
- Save it for later: If now is not the right time for you, book mark this page, set a reminder in your calendar, and save it for another time when you are ready.
Why yoga, meditation and journaling for stressed moms?
I have struggled with mood issues for a lot of years, exacerbated by postpartum depression and anxiety and countless random hiccups in my plan for mental health. Some people may find the trendiness of yoga and meditation obnoxious and maybe the idea of these practices has lost some potency, but I want to say that the power and strength and centeredness that comes with yoga, meditation and gratitude journaling (and tea, have I mentioned how much I love tea) have been documented to provide serious, very real benefits, and even more so if you suffer from mood disorders and stress. There are also huge benefits, including stress release, to planning your day or week.
I hope you’ll stick with me through the remainder of the series where we will discuss:
- Part 2: Yoga and meditation with expert instructor Amber Spear who will talk about the mental health benefits of these practices and how you can incorporate them into your life.
- Part 3: Gratitude journaling I’ll talk more in-depth about this simple, effective practice of starting and keeping a gratitude journal.
- Part 4: Breakfast Caitlin Ball, nutrition expert behind Teaspoon Living, will share with you insights into nutrition’s roll in maintaining the balance you just struck by starting your day with yoga, meditation and gratitude journaling, including three delicious recipes that are fast, easy and packed with protein.
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Grab next three parts in the Walking on Mom Mornings series and don’t forget to sign up for your bonus meditation.
Woman stretching via Shutterstock