Mornings have been crazy in the four years since I became a mom. Like most mothers of young kids, I found myself perpetually exhausted, so I’d often use James as my alarm clock. But responding to someone else’s needs as soon as I opened my eyes set a stressful, reactive tone for the rest of the day. From the second I got up, I felt like I was playing catch-up but never getting on top of things. Meanwhile, I put my own needs aside.
But over the past few months, James has grown more independent and his sleep habits more dependable. Like all kids, he still occasionally wakes up with a bad dream or a bathroom emergency, but I can generally count on quiet time until 7am. (HALLELUJAH!) This has paved the way for me to create a self-care-focused morning routine that sets a peaceful, productive tone for the day ahead.
Why A Morning Routine Matters
This year, I decided to make self care a priority in a deeper sense. I’ve done that by waking up at least an hour before James does and holding that time sacred for myself.
Just a few days into my new routine, I realized that literally putting myself first each day makes me more present for myself and others, more effective at time management and decision making, and more relaxed and happy.
While my morning routine varies slightly every day, the basic framework remains the same. Here are the five things I do each morning for a happier, healthier, more mindful and productive day ahead:
1. I drink water first thing. I love my coffee. No, really. I lurrrrrrve it. The bubble and hiss of the coffee maker, the bittersweet aroma of steamy grounds, the feeling of an almost-too-hot-to-hold mug between my palms….bliss! But before I allow myself even one drop, I drink at least 16 ounces of water. It not only provides instant hydration, it also makes me more aware of how much water I’m drinking throughout the day.
2. I steer clear of email and social media. There’s something about those kinds of interactions that sets a reactive tone for the entire day. When I wake up in the morning, I allow myself to fire up the Sweat App on my phone, or hop on my computer to write, edit photos, or work on a project I’m really excited about. I find there’s a big difference between productive or creative screen time, and scrolling through my inbox or social media accounts. Not only is it satisfying to accomplish something meaningful, but it also means I’ve begun my day by managing my time effectively.
3. I give myself at least 10 minutes of peace. With my coffee finally in hand, I sit at my kitchen table and simply notice the world around me. Sometimes I close my eyes and listen to the rain on the roof. Other days, I’ll watch crows nesting in a pine tree. After a few minutes, I often start itching to do something. At that point, I force myself to just be for 5 minutes more. When I did this for a few consecutive days, I noticed I felt calmer, made more eye contact with others, and was more in tune with which tasks actually matter versus what I feel like I should be doing.
4. I make myself presentable before James gets up. I generally feel my best when I’m at least wearing mascara and actual pants with a zipper, but sometimes clean teeth, a swipe of deodorant and my favorite pair of leggings is enough to make me feel ready to greet the day. The point isn’t how I look, it’s that feeling of readiness that comes from not having my child barging in on me when I’m trying to shave my legs. By doing this, I can greet James in the morning feeling fresh and ready to give him my undivided attention.
5. I do one thing that feeds my soul. Of all the pieces of my morning routine, this is the one that varies the most. At least three mornings a week, it means working out, as I find I’m a better person when I get moving first thing in the morning. However, that’s not always what my body wants. In that case, I’ll write in my journal, read a book, or even tackle a work project that I find particularly inspiring. What ever I do, I make sure I’m doing it because I want to, not because I feel like I should.
Since I’ve added these five things to my morning routine, I’ve had more energy, gotten more done, felt more connected to my loved ones, and happier and more in control of my life. It’s an essential part of my healthy lifestyle, and one that I’m not willing to compromise regardless of workload or travel. Because it all comes back to what I said earlier: when I put myself first, first thing in the morning, the rest of the day follows.