Why you need morning and evening routines, and how to get them.
According to a Gallup poll conducted in December 2017, 79% of Americans experience stress either occasionally or consistently every day. Seventy-nine percent.
Of course, not all stress is bad. Pressure can be healthy in moderation. But we all know that stress can have a negative – or even dangerous – impact on our mental and physical health. Mayo Clinic lists several health risks of stress including headaches, muscle pain, irritability, depression, and even food, alcohol, or drug abuse.
Many (or, if we are to take Gallup’s word for it, most) of us are overly stressed out.
So what do we do about it?
I propose, that instead of wearing it like a badge, we start to find ways to alleviate some of the stress we are experiencing. As I said before, no stress at all is not a good thing. And it may well be impossible. But to truly live an intentional life, we must have the mental, emotional, and physical capacity to be intentional.
So what’s the first step? I believe it lies in our habits.
First, if you don’t have one, get a morning routine. And I don’t mean just the bare necessities like having clean hair and brushing your teeth. I mean a daily self-care routine that leaves you feeling satisfied and ready to take on your day before you step outside your door. At least in some small way, take care of your body, your mind, your soul, and your home before you leave the house or start your work day. Here are some ideas:
- Get ready first. Don’t leave your hygiene routine until the last minute. If you do, you’re likely to just snuggle into the couch for a little extra snooze time and end up being late – not to mention more stressed!
- Eat something. This is a big one. I am not a breakfast person. I am a grab-an-energy-drink-and-rush-out-the-door person. But every day when 10am rolls round, I’m starving, cranky, and having a really hard time focusing on my work.
- Shut up and get outside. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, go outside, and just be quiet. Meditate, pray, or just clear your mind. Do this for as long as you can afford to.
- Plan out your day. This can be done mentally, but I recommend getting a notebook and writing it down. What do you want to do today? What important things are coming up in the next few days or weeks that you should take small steps to prepare for? Pencil it in.
- Do one small chore. It can be the same every day, or it can be something different. Do one small chore (10 minutes or less). Even if you don’t finish it, you will feel better.
Second, to have a successful morning routine, you need an evening one! This is really, really important. Only you know what time commitments you have throughout the day. The only way to ensure that you are able to take care of yourself in the morning is to also take care of yourself the night before.
- Have a bedtime. You need more sleep than you think you need, and having a morning routine will mean getting up earlier than you're used to. Set a time (time-ish) that you want your head to hit the pillow, then plan your bedtime routine backwards. Test it out, and if you feel too tired after a few days, you probably need to go to bed earlier.
- Exercise or relax. If you don’t have time in the morning, find some time in the afternoon or evening to exercise and relax.
- Reflect. Take a few minutes to be quiet and reflect about your day. Take a look at the plans you made earlier.
- Take care of yourself. If you wear makeup, take it off. Take a bath. Make sure your alarms are set. Decide what you’re going to wear in the morning. Put on some comfy PJ’s. Read a chapter of something (on paper – no screens!).
- Once you’re in bed, don’t get up. It may take time for your body to adjust to a new sleep schedule. If you have trouble slowing down your mind, try some breathing exercises or a soundscape.
At the end of the day, how your morning and evening routines look doesn’t matter. What you do in them doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make time to take care of yourself at the beginning and end of each day – whatever that looks like for you. Taking control of your mornings and evenings can help you maintain control throughout the day and reduce stress levels.