If you find yourself starting every day stressed out, it's going to start taking its toll on you. The American Psychological Association (APA) warns that chronic stress can 'trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders' due to prolonged tension in the muscles. These include headaches, respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, excessive stress-hormone secretion, increased appetite and decreased sex drive.
Luckily there are a few things you can do to make the morning madness go away!
So replace your hustle and bustle with a seamless, stress-free experience to help start your day off right, and keep you healthy and top of your game.
1) Do the Prep
One of the key tips for keeping your life stress-free is to get organised, and the same goes for the start of your day. Nearly every aspect of your getting ready routine can be planned and laid out ahead of time, so that when it comes to the morning, not only will getting ready be a breeze, you might even get some extra minutes in bed! Start by making a list of every little thing you need to do in the morning. These things might include:
- Brush teeth
- Shower/Wash face
- Shave or apply make-up
- Get dressed
- Make lunch
- Pack up and bring laptop and electrical equipment
If you are taking the kids to school or have to walk the family pet you may need to add extra tasks for these responsibilities. For instance you'll making sure the car is full of petrol the day before will save you a huge hassle in the morning if you're running on empty! For each of the above, make sure that you have everything you need prior to the task set out ready. For brushing your teeth, keep everything in the same place in the bathroom for easy access, and if you're running out of toothpaste, get a new one set up ready for the morning rather than going to all lengths to squeeze out the remnants of the tube in the early hours.
If possible make your lunch the night before, lay out your clothes for the day, have make-up and razors readily to hand and prepare anything and everything you can. Your morning self will thank you for it!
- Kids Clothes Planning: You can also plan you kids' clothes in advance for the week - perhaps at the weekend when you have more time, and when you can make it a fun activity.
- Quick Lunch With No Extra Work: If you have access to a microwave (or like salads for dinner), easy packed lunches can be prepped by just making extra supper; then you can take in the leftovers. Easy.
2) Create subconscious habits
We are our most efficient when we create habits by doing something over and over again, because when you do this, the task becomes something we can do subconsciously. Think about brushing your teeth or driving your car. There are moments when you are doing these tasks where you are not actively thinking about all the movements you are making; you do them all subconsciously through repetitive motions your body has now learnt. The same goes for many of your morning tasks. The more you can have a set routine that you follow day in and day out, the more you can take stress out of your morning. Try this with:
- Planning your lunch and grabbing it in the morning
- Shaving or putting on make-up (have a system that you follow, and try to make it as efficient as possible)
- Putting laptops, bags, lunches in the same place by the door so you always know where they are
- Having car keys or bus passes always in the same place so you never lose them (or if car keys is a tricky one for you, get a Tile phone finder or other similar tool
- If you take a gym bag, ensure it's always packed with the core essentials (trainers, deodorant) and create a habit in the morning for grabbing the extra bits you need, such as fresh sportswear and a towel
- Create habits for each day of the week - practise thinking about the day ahead if you have specific activities on certain days. For instance, if you go to the gym Monday's, Wednesdays and Fridays, you'll learn to put your gym bag by the door on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday night
One way to take the stress out of the morning is to do your day's exercise in the morning. Not only is it one less thing to do later, doing some cardio or weight training gets your heart pumping, to help wake you up ready for the day, and releases a tonne of endorphins to get you feeling great. Again, if you can make this a habit, you can train yourself to wake up and get at it effortlessly, but at first you might want to bribe yourself out of the warm comforts of the duvet with a hot drink, a dressing down or some relaxing mindfulness.
Mindfulness or meditation is a great way to wake up in the morning, helping you become more focussed for the day ahead and allowing your brain to wake up in a slow, relaxing way - no matter how early you have to get up! There are a huge amount of free mindfulness apps out there, including Breathe, Headspace and Calm, or you can learn to do some breathing exercises or a body scan without guided meditation - just if you're doing your own thing, ensure you set multiple alarms in case you nod off back to sleep!
5) Shower tips
There are a few ways you can use your shower to help wake you up, the first tip being the most relaxing of the three.
- Allow extra time for a long shower - you won't miss the extra five minutes in bed when you see how lovely it is to allow yourself to relax in the shower, and enjoy the warmth of the steamy hot water as you slowly wake up
- For those who need to be on the go quick, try turning the water to the cold setting initially to give you a buzz - wash as much as you can for about 20-30 seconds, and then warm it up. The shock will get your heart pumping and give you an immediate adrenaline rush to get you ready to rock and roll
- Scrub a dub dub - scrub hard and fast when washing and you can treat the cleansing process as a bit of a workout! You could also do this in terms of cleaning your shower, giving the whole thing a quick rub down with a cleaning sponge to keep your shower maintenance easy as well as helping you get the body moving and heart pumping in the morning
One last thing to add to your morning shower, is a moment of gratitude. If you've even been camping or had to survive without a warm shower for an extended period, it's quite easy to remember that feeling when you first got to have a nice warm, indulgent shower again. But if you haven't experienced this, just appreciate the hot shower, the luxury of clean running water that many go without even in this day and age, and the pleasant experience. Gratitude is a powerful way of boosting your happiness levels, so try to be thankful where you can!
Whilst this could have been mentioned within the exercise section, yoga has a separate number of benefits to other exercises you can do. Whilst yoga moves will also get your heart rate up and increase blood flow like cardo or strength work, 5 minutes of yoga in the morning can also:
- Help you clear your mind - with slow, careful breathing techniques, yoga combines mindfulness and exercise seamlessly to help wake you up and calm your mind
- Stretch - we all love a good stretch in the morning and yoga will help stretch out the body ready for the day, charging you with energy and helping increase your flexibility. Just be careful to come into each stretch slowly to avoid injuries and warm up with a few knee bends or squats
- Downward facing dog to de-stress - this position in particular (or any position where your heart is above your head) turns off your fight or flight response to stress by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system. It literally turns off stress!
Check out this great 5-minute yoga routine for your next morning schedule.
Even a few minutes of exercise can be good for you, something discovered by researchers in Utah. So like our shower scrubbers, if you get your heart rate up in short bursts more regularly throughout the day, you could decrease your Body Mass Index (BMI), reduce your risk of obesity, and help you feel fuller for longer. Five minutes of yoga is a great option for this, helping you relax as well as focus up for the day, getting your heart rate going and keeping you fitter overall.
7) Get a programmed coffee maker
There's nothing quite like a good quality coffee in the morning, so fill your kitchen with the aroma and allow yourself an extra couple of minutes to really enjoy the fragrance. Take it all in and wake up slowly with the smell of your favourite drink - then take it with you on your morning getting-ready schedule. Having a programmed coffee maker that syncs with your alarm or that is scheduled to start making your beverage when you wake up will again save time - and give you a nice scent to wake up to!
Of course, coffee is a natural stimulant so is great to get you going in a chemical sense too, just be careful not to become dependant on this as a substance. But there's nothing wrong with mindfully enjoying your morning brew, as and when you have one.
8) Create a Lunch Prep Station at Work (or at home for prep the night before)
Save yourself time by having everything you need all in one place, either in the fridge or in a cupboard/drawer by one of your main work surfaces. Have sections for snacks and drinks, an organiser for your different sized Tupperware boxes, flasks for soups and hot drinks, cutting boards to hand, water bottles, utensils and freezer/lunch bags, plus a lunch bag or other bag in which you carry your lunch in.
9) Be Wary of The Weather
The weather conditions can cause additional stress to your morning if you are unprepared, so make sure you are ready for the worst. If you are driving, snow and ice can cause delays so check the weather the night before and give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes if the temperature is close to (or below) 0. Stock up on some de-icer and have a car scraper handy and get your de-icing technique down for maximum efficiency, so the worst weather won't phase you. Alternatively, you can buy a car windscreen snow cover with which you can cover your car and save time scraping, as well as protecting your windscreen wipers. You can check out the AA winter driving advice for some more useful tips to keep save and save you time.
If you're cycling or walking in adverse conditions, prep your clothing. Good boots will stand you in good stead and some high-vis stickers for your bag is a cheap and easy way to make sure you are seen. Again, leave extra time and perhaps plan to take some music with you to make the journey more enjoyable.
10) Sing the Stress Away
This might not always be possible in your home if you are getting up very early and don't want to wake the household, but singing can brighten up your day no end - so get going with some of your favourite tracks! You also don't have to sing - you can simply listen to some of your favourite tunes, or have a bit of a groove - but singing specifically has been proven to release endorphins that make us feel good, as well as chemicals such as oxytocin which has been shown to decrease anxiety and stress. So even if you're not a singer, give it a go!
Perhaps prepare a playlist for your car so you can sing freely on the way to work, making the journey in more enjoyable and something you can look forward to, or you can get some cheap Bluetooth speakers for your shower for a morning karaoke sesh. Whatever works for you, get grooving and get moving!