While the morning can be an invigorating time of day for the early birds among us, for others it can be the most stressful and tiring part of the day. Whether your job leaves you feeling rushed and stressed from the moment you wake up or whether you work from home and struggle to structure your mornings, getting the day started in a way that leaves you calm, focused, and prepared can be a significant challenge.
If you find yourself consistently overwhelmed in the morning, creating a morning routine may help you ease into your day, lower your stress, and make time for activities that are important to your mental and physical health.
How Routines Help Your Mental Health
Research has shown that the creation and maintenance of daily routines is linked to a wide variety of positive health outcomes, from lower stress to improved productivity during the day. Having a consistent morning routine can:
- Reduce the number of decisions you have to make at the very start of your day. This saves you mental energy for the rest of the day and reduces the amount of pressure you put on yourself as your brain and body wakes up.
- Improve your sleep/wake cycle. Along with a bedtime routine, a regular wake-up routine can help you get better sleep, which benefits both your mental and physical health.
- Help manage stress and anxiety. When the tasks and demands of the day seem overwhelming, routines can help establish a clear structure and order, and empowers us to focus on what we can control.
- Potentially help avert manic/depressive episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder by regulating daily sleep and activity patterns.
- Help you make time for important activities and behaviors. Routines can help cement important parts of the day (like eating breakfast, taking a shower, and engaging in other self-care activities) into your schedule that might otherwise be skipped over when you are in a morning rush.
Tips for Establishing a Morning Routine
New habits don’t establish themselves overnight, so it is important to set reasonable expectations for yourself. This is especially true if the routine you are trying to establish involves making big changes to your current schedule or behaviors. Start with attainable, incremental changes first.
Some tips to incorporate into your morning routine include:
- Plan ahead of time. Don’t leave it to your morning self to figure out the schedule for that morning! Reduce the number of early morning decisions you have to make – lay out your clothes for the next day, and pick out what you’ll eat for breakfast the night before.
- Exercise. Whether stretching, taking a walk, or going for a quick jog, exercise can help improve your thinking and focus for the day.
- Let the sunshine in. Sunlight exposure triggers the production of serotonin, which can help regulate your mood. Being out in the morning sunlight also helps regulate your circadian rhythm and can result in being able to fall asleep easier in the evening.
- Don’t rush into your to-do list. Set aside time in the morning for a relaxing activity (listening to music, meditating, reading, etc.) that gives your mind and body time to wake up before asking it to perform.
- Nourish yourself. Don’t rely solely on coffee to get going in the morning. Give your body balanced breakfasts that help control your blood sugar, prevent crashes, and provide enough energy to last you until lunch.
While developing a routine can be a powerful tool to improve your mornings, it can also be a challenging task. If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression in the morning, it can be distressing and difficult to deal with alone. Our English-speaking counselors and psychologists are here to help. We offer counseling and psychotherapy appointments in Tokyo, Okinawa, and online.