The morning (and nighttime) routines key to my mental health

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My morning routine is primarily self-care (and hence self-esteem), although it’s also helpful in combating difficult moods.

It’s a bit rigid at the moment, but I feel like it will relax as I move through to a more productive relationship with the feelings of anxiety that I encounter in my day-to-day life.

On days that I wake up feeling lost and overwhelmed and just don’t know what to do, morning routine is my equivalent of just putting one foot in front of the other. When I’m too exhausted to think, I have these decisions I’ve made for myself from a better place so that I wouldn’t have to make them in from this hard place.

It’s not always in this exact order, but more or less.

1. Drink water

Hydration has always been a bit of a struggle for me, so I make it automatic in the morning. This helps me trying to make up at night for the water I should have been drinking throughout the day, which also means I don’t have to wake up as often to pee during the night! I try to fill my water bottle at night and have it ready to go on my nightstand so I don’t have to go looking for it.

This is also a good opportunity to take my probiotic or any other supplements/meds that need to be taken on an empty stomach.

2. Make tea and shake

Tea is just a sneaky way of making myself drink more water. It’s sometimes caffeinated, but I try not to get into any habits that I’ll be tempted to use as a crutch later. If I’m recovering from exercise I like Yogi Muscle Recovery, if I’m feeling under the weather my favourite is Lemon-Echinacea Throat Coat tea. I also really like Earl Grey (I like to put in a few coins of ginger – equally for taste and for digestive health). My fave herbal tea is anything from Algonquin Tea Company, they’re so grassy and delicious. I don’t usually start my day with Chocolate Mint Wuyi Oolong tea, but I do buy it in bulk! In the winter I find the Celestial Seasonings Holiday teas really comforting.

But I digress.

If I have an early appointment, my breakfast shake is ready to go in the fridge from the night before, so I put the kettle on so that the water is boiled when I get out of the shower.

3. Take shower

Also, finish drinking water, make/have some tea, dry hair, get dressed, that sort of thing.

4. Meditations

This includes my morning devotional reading, some tea drinking, stretching and muscle rolling as well as mindfulness meditation practice. I’ve been using the Headspace app for a couple of years now and it’s been a great support to deepening my practice. The founder is a former Buddhist monk, but I find the app to be very neutral and practical.

I spend about 20 minutes on the actual meditation (unless I’m really crunched for time), but I’ll stretch that out to 30-40 if I’m either very scattered or REALLY deeply enjoying the time and want to stay with it. Depending on where my body (and schedule) are on any given day, I could spend upward of an hour with all the mobility work and everything.

5. Breakfast (shake)

If I did a bunch of other concurrent activities before meditation time, I’ll be hungry and eat first. Otherwise it’s usually the last part of my morning routine. Partly because I feel like fasting a little longer has its merits (I haven’t really researched this in detail). But also because it’s the one thing I will for sure never forget to do or let slip. Also, in a pinch, I can blend it up just before I walk out the door and drink it on my way to my first appointment!

Once I’ve got all this out of the way, I start my daily activities.

Bedtime Bookend

I have a somewhat similar, but much looser, method for nighttime routine/sleep hygiene. Maybe I should tighten it up, but for now I’m going easy on myself. There’s not a lot of self-discipline power left at the end of the day, so it’s a bit of a gentler approach.

Mainly, I try and get away from the computer around 8:30 or 9pm, which includes podcasts and audiobooks. I start dimming lights when the sun goes down, put on some Spotify (Dreamy Vibes and Deep Sleep are faves) or use the sleep module of the Headspace app for sleep sounds or wind-down meditations.

In order to dump my rehearsal loop for outstanding tasks, I update my calendar, set reminders or write a list on a sticky note. I’ll often pack my bag or lunch or whatever I need for my first appointment, or do a quick mental rehearsal of tomorrow to see if there’s anything I can quickly do in order to be more ready, and thus sleep more soundly.

Last, I wash my face, brush my teeth, and if I don’t think I’ll fall asleep immediately (or I’m not done drinking my bedtime tea) I’ll read some fiction for a bit. Once I turn out the lights, I basically meditate myself to sleep by getting grounded, letting go and, finally, counting my breaths backward from a thousand.

What are your routines? I’m really curious about how you choose which activities are important enough to prioritize on a daily basis.

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