“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts”
If you wake up in the morning with feelings of dread and gloom hanging over you, you are not on your own.
So often I meet people who tell me how much they struggle in the morning. I totally get it, because it used to be me.
When you wake in the morning, it is so common to be overflowing with a feeling of anxiety, knots in your stomach and thoughts of “do I have to do this?”, “I can’t do it?”, “what is life?” – I know, it sounds pretty extreme, but it happens to the best of us, so we need to talk about it.
There is no one reason why this happens, there can be many contributing factors. You may already be experiencing depression, anxiety and stress and the mornings feel worse. There is a natural change in our cortisol levels which can give us that anxiety feeling. You may be prone to the ‘not enough’ mind-set, which sees you thinking of how much sleep you didn’t get, or how much time you don’t have or what you didn’t get done yesterday. There is a whole load of reasons. But one thing will be for sure, there is negative thoughts contributing to your dreaded feeling, and making it worse, on top of that, I expect your actions (or lack of?) aren’t helping.
It can vary how this morning dread affects you. It might be as soon as you open your eyes, that feeling hits you suddenly, or for you it may grow and get worse as you pass through your morning.
Your mornings don’t have to be this way. Though it might not feel like it, you have the power to change it and make it a more meaningful, satisfying part of your day.
There is no doubt, the way you begin your day will influence your mood and reactions for the rest of the day.
Obviously, starting your day well doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen and things won’t go wrong throughout the day, but if you had a good morning, chances are you will cope with your challenges a little easier.
I’m going to talk you through a mixture of techniques and activities that can help shape your morning into being a welcome part of your day. Have a play around and see what works for you. There is not a hard and fast rule of how to do it.
Here are some tips on how to start your day feeling good:
Coping statements are balanced, positive statements. They are new thoughts you create and repeat to yourself, as an alternative to the negative, false thoughts you otherwise say to yourself.
It is important to keep the thought realistic because it’s not easy or helpful to trick your brain into thinking everything is perfect, especially if it isn’t.
Take note of your typical thoughts in the morning (“I can’t get up”, “I can’t face the day”, “I feel dreadful”) and create kinder thoughts (“I can face any challenge that comes my way today”, “I am capable of getting up and having a nice morning”).
Repeat these thoughts to yourself as soon as you wake up. The negative thoughts may creep in first, so you will need to be really strong and force yourself to repeat your coping statement over and over, breaking the cycle of the habitual negative ones. This will get easier over time and it will require less effort.
It’s important you write your coping statements in advance, you won’t think of them on the spot. The anxiety or low mood will be too strong for you to make them up on the spot.
Bring your focus to the here and now. A large part of the issue in the first place is your mind is going to useless, painful places. Focusing on what you did wrong yesterday, what you need to fix, who you need to speak to. Don’t go there yet (or at all if it’s completely pointless) – it’s not helping you. No one needs that first thing in the morning, it’s already hard enough getting up out of bed.
There are so many great apps out there offering guided meditation and mindfulness techniques. Take advantage of them.
For more information on getting present, read my blog ‘Prone to Overthinking and Worrying? Try these Techniques to Help’.
Take time in the morning to focus on what you appreciate. This technique is great because it makes you think of things that make you FEEL good. You can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time.
Similarly to coping statements, you may find it useful to practice gratitude as soon as you wake up. Alternatively, you can take some time out of your morning a bit later and list 3-10 things you are grateful for.
I tend to have it linked to when I am brushing my teeth. Brushing my teeth is a trigger to think of all the things I appreciate from the past 24hours.
I find the happier I am, the more I practice gratitude over coping statements. It really depends on you, definitely try both and see what works for you. (It’s ok to change it up – it’s your morning and your life)
If you feel low at the moment, you may be inclined to say there is nothing you appreciate, you will need to dig deep and find it. It will help.
Here’s the thing; people favour immediate gain over long term gain. Meaning when it comes to it, you will be more likely to hit snooze, stay in bed as long as possible and miss the opportunity to get your day off to a bright start – especially in those winter months.
Avoid hitting the snooze button over and over, pouncing out of bed and rushing around. Getting up with no time to relax or time to breathe is not good for you, it will only add stress. Inevitably you will lose stuff, remember something else you need to do and probably end up running late = stress that you don’t need.
Taking things slower will you get you into a calmer headspace and you will have time to actually introduce this morning routine.
You must have known this one was coming? There really isn’t anything like it, it releases those happy chemicals and it gives such a great sense of achievement before your day has even begun.
It doesn’t have to be anything hugely strenuous, just move your body, however you like, for as long as you like – it’s not supposed to create more stress remember.
Decide on your exercise in advance. If you wait until the morning, you will choose no exercise.
For more tips on how to get active in the morning, read my post ‘Want to Exercise in the Morning? Ask yourself these SIX Questions’.
Take the time to relax and do something nice. Maybe it’s reading for ten minutes, consciously enjoying breakfast, sitting down to enjoy a hot drink, writing out your goals for the day or simply having ten peaceful minutes to do not much at all.
Whatever it is, it can most likely be done in 5-10 minutes. That is plenty of time to introduce an act of self-care. You deserve it before your day really starts.
This activity can give you something to look forward to. It also means your morning is actually part of your day, rather than just an add on before you get on with all the other stuff.
Make as few decisions in the morning as possible, it only gives you extra stress otherwise.
Taking your new, healthy changes into account, decide beforehand how you want to spend your morning. Not only does this mean you don’t have to waste time deciding in the morning, you are more likely to stick to it. If you feel low or anxious, decision making is hard enough.
Prepare as much as you can the night before in terms of having clothes ready, bags packed, gym kit ready, coping statements close to your bed and anything else that you know makes your morning better.
I’ve picked this over hydrating yourself. For me personally, my environment impacts my mood so much. Waking up in a messy room adds to the doom and gloom. As soon as you wake up you see mess? You will convince yourself life is just a mess and be down on yourself for being a grown adult and having a messy room. It’s another vicious cycle you can avoid if you want to.
Let’s be honest, bed is appealing in the morning. Especially in the cold winter months. It’s not easy to get up earlier, but it is good for you. Naturally, you will want to go with what makes you feel good in the moment, because you are a human being. Try to fight this, you know it will help in the long run, you need to strengthen the skill of doing uncomfortable things that are good for you.
A routine doesn’t mean you have to be rigid and never change. I mix mine up all the time, I’ve not found the ideal routine yet but I do have a few staples that I know make me feel better.
It’s not easy to change behaviours unless you really have to. However, you are here, so I’m guessing you want some change. Ultimately you just have to do it. Give yourself that push. Outline the PROs and CONs of why you need to make this change and do it.
If you find your mornings difficult, that is a warning sign that you need to do something different. I have provided you with just a few ideas of how you can get your day off to a better start. How you incorporate these is up to you. If you start work really early, or you’re a parent, or you work away a lot, then you may have to adjust how you incorporate these things into your day.
You won’t always get it how you want and it won’t always go to plan. I still have the odd morning where the snooze button wins, but these days that is few and far between. The trick is to get back on it at the next opportunity.
Trying something once is not enough to know if it will work for you. You need to commit to this if you want it to make a difference. Don’t give up if you didn’t manage it on the first day, keep going.
Remember the way you treat yourself in the morning will indicate how your day is going to go. Don’t start with a negative attitude, give your day the best chance.
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Carly Ann xx