Bright sunshine, the promise of a new day, a nourishing breakfast I can post on Instagram with hashtags describing just how motivated I am- mornings are just great!
… Aren’t they?
I have a love/hate relationship with mornings, heavily dictated by my mental health. When I am mentally healthy, I am able to get up early, as my job dictates often pre-6am alarms. I am able to acknowledge that I need a breakfast which will sustain me throughout the morning, and I can enjoy preparing my lunch to the sound of the radio. I can sometimes spend 15 or so minutes stretching, and take a moment to myself with a cup of tea to just be.
It would be wonderful if every morning was like that, and I can tell you now they definitely aren’t. I’m currently experiencing a very difficult time with my depression and anxiety, and am struggling with mornings in a way I haven’t for a very long time. Instead of the chirpy motivation, I dread acknowledging the fact that I am awake. Although often affected by lack of, or disrupted, sleep throughout the night, I am not choosing to lie in to catch up with sleep that I need. Instead I am stuck. That’s the only way I can describe it. I can’t actually get up. It almost feels like there is a disconnect between my brain and my body, and although I can lie there perfectly awake for 3 or 4 hours, I can’t get up.
My brain flutters between a state of numbness and pangs of guilt and anxiety, which sting at my chest. So much of being a functioning and capable adult requires getting up in the morning, and I can’t even do that.
So this week I’ve started to consider things which can make mornings a little easier. Of course this is just based on my own experience, but it could be a useful exercise for anyone else to consider, as well as some useful things to adapt your own needs. Also, I haven’t addressed the issue which might be affecting you the most regarding mornings: sleep. Although I may have included a few things which help me feel less anxious the night before, I have mostly left this out.I feel that would be a different post in itself.
1. Sunrise Alarm Clock
I can’t begin to express how much difference this has made in my morning routine. Firstly relying on an alarm clock rather than your phone enables me to move my phone for my reach at bedtime, stopping the bright screens before sleeping and ensuring I’m not able to scroll through social media which can often really bring me down. Secondly, waking up by light rather than sounds is a lot better on my anxiety. My clock gets slowly brighter in the 30 minutes leading up to your alarm time, and it has always successfully woken me up. You could always combine this with a gentle alarm if you are nervous it won’t wake you, like I was originally. It brings light into the room before you even have to decide to turn on any lights, which has helped me feel more energised in the morning. I am thankful everyday for the friend who gave this to me as a gift.
2. Listening to the Radio
I have recently bought a DAB radio and it has been such a brilliant decision. I listen to it before bed on a sleep timer, as I feel it enables me to distract myself from my own thoughts in the silence, and this is also the case in the morning too. Switching on the radio enables me to feel connected with the outside world, and breakfast radio has a good mixture of both talking and music to concentrate on.
3. Packing your Bag and Lunch the Day Before
Taking 20 minutes or so before bed to sort out my lunch for the next day, and get my bag ready for the next day helps me feel a lot less nervous both before I sleep and as I wake. It can give me an extra bit of time in the morning, and one less thing to worry about or potentially forget. It means I have to avoid grabbing lunch as I rush out of the door, which often isn’t hugely thought through and is neither sustaining nor enough. I may then have to buy lunch out, which for anyone worried about finances, can be another trigger. Lunch planning has been really useful for me, creating a list at the weekend for the next week, and ensuring I have a good lunch every day. It’s usually nothing that requires a lot of time or thought- fruit, yoghurt, leftovers from the night before, crisps, and a large bottle of water. I don’t give myself a hard time for a bag of crisps, or a chocolate biscuit. Eating is important, and it’s important not to overthink that!
I’d also extend this to planning your outfit for the day the night before, I find it a lot easier when I know I have clean clothes all ready, and that’s one less decision to make when my brain is a little fuzzy.
Now, I’m not going to lecture anyone on the benefits of having breakfast. I know some people just don’t or can’t eat breakfast, and that’s okay. I just know I function a lot better with breakfast. I love spending a lot of time on breakfast if I can: croissants, pastry, hot cross buns (especially at the weekend, as you can see by my scrambled egg effort to the right!). I’m a huge advocate for spending time on breakfast at the weekend, as I enjoy the ritual of cooking and preparing food, as well as eating it! But on the weekday mornings I usually grab two slices of toast from the freezer and cover them in jam or have cornflakes and milk (I use soya milk as often as I can, because my lactose intolerance flares up during periods of stress). I have about three or four cartons of long life soya milk in my cupboard and top these up as I use them. I understand UHT or long life milk is the worst nightmare for some! But I don’t mind it at all. In the summer I also have smoothies- I stock up on frozen berries from supermarkets (Lidl and Aldi are really good for these!), milk, fresh bananas if I have them in, yoghurt, ice, oats (whatever you wish!) and they don’t take much time at all if you need a quick breakfast. I try and drink a glass of water with breakfast, because I get very dry skin and am trying to up my water intake, and also a nice cup of tea (milky, sugary, minty, fruity- so long as it is warm!).
5. Plan Something Lovely for Your Evening!
This is relevant for everyone, whether you are able to get up or whether you are having a difficult morning. You are doing so well. All we can ever do is our best, and that is different to everyone else. As such, you should have an evening of loveliness planned to celebrate doing your best! Sometimes for me this can be having a warm bath, putting my pjs on the radiator and snuggling into bed watching a DVD. You could play computer games, read a book, catch up with a friend, go on a walk. It’s really up to you. But I find life is always easier when there is something to look forward to, and we can plan that for ourselves.
Also it is important to remember that, even if today isn’t going to be the day you can do any of these things, you look after yourself. Acknowledging you need rest and time is one of the most important acts of self-care we can do. If you feel alone, there are listening services available (The Samaritans being a one I can always rely on) and I sometimes find that talking to someone can help lift the cloud which seems to paralyse me, and although not a magic cure which will allow me to jump out of bed, it can lift help me accept that today is a day that I need to rest.
If you have any other things that you incorporate into a morning routine to help you feel motivated, please let me know by commenting on this post or on Twitter at @fortuneandcakes It may prove useful for someone else (or me!).