Starting Off Your Morning During Lockdown

During times of stress, change and mourning, it can be hard to get out of bed. This can be because of grief, fatigue, lack of usual routine, or any number of reasons.
Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about how to cope with having to get out of bed when your body is screaming at you to just lay your head back down on your nice, soft pillow.

So here are five ideas which have worked for me to set up a morning routine that helps you get out of bed and start your day with some gumption.

(For some people there are just going to be days that you’re going to need to be kind to yourself and accept that it’s a crazy time in the world, and your body needs more patience and more rest)

1. Get a good alarm

Our brains are designed to be gently awoken by the light from the rising sun, in a natural progression from deep sleep to light sleep. If we set an alarm and it goes off while we are in a stage of deep sleep, it can be counteractive to our starting the day well.

If you’re happy to spend the money, you can purchase an alarmed light, which will turn on at a certain time and slowly brighten up your room to wake you up in a natural fashion.

Otherwise, there are free apps that can also help. Now, I do want to say that having your mobile in your room while you sleep is not ideal. If you do use an app, I recommend turning your phone onto airplane mode while you sleep (side note: I don’t turn my internet back on until after I’ve finished my routine, which helps to find some peace in the mornings).
I use Sleep Cycle. Different apps might work slightly differently, but the aim is the same: to wake you up by an alarm when you are in a stage of REM sleep (i.e. the stage you should be in when waking up naturally). It helps to create a peaceful rousing, and thus make it easier to start your morning.

2. Make a plan

This is something that has helped me a lot. I’m a list person; when things are ordered, my mind can process the information and I can do the task more easily.

The night before, I will write out on my little white board a step-by-step list of how I plan to go about my morning. The extent of detail might be humorous, but while my brain is trying to wake up, it’s what helps.

Here’s an example:

Morning Routine
Don’t feel like you need to get up this early! In lockdown, my alarm times have varied and been pushed back to allow for more sleep.

(Some mornings I might give myself more “chill” time)

I’m not ticking things off as I do them, and I might do them out of order, but it’s the fact of having a written process to follow which helps motivate me to do the tasks.

3. Splash your face with cold water

You can also dab with your hands or a face cloth.

I usually do this after I’ve brushed my teeth and my hair, so that it’s not the very first thing I’m feeling after waking up. That would be a bit harsh.
Cold water does help to wake you up though, and it’s good for your skin!
It shocks the system a little bit, and washes away the oil on your skin and sleep from your eyes… and it just has a way of making me feel more present.

4. Make your bed

I know we’ve all heard it said, but I can vouch for the fact that making your bed makes a huge difference in how you go about the morning (and day).

It’s not only making your ‘waking up’ official (you’re not likely to get back into a bed you’ve just made), it also helps to add a bit of order and structure into your life. Having made your bed gives you a sense of accomplishment, and puts you in a headspace to accomplish the other tasks that the day ahead of you holds.

It also affects your mental health. When your bed is made your bedroom looks neater, and your mood is very often affected by your surroundings. An orderly (clean/neat) outside environment, like your bedroom, helps to form an orderly inside environment (a good attitude, productivity, calm).

5. Stretch

You don’t have to stretch for 20 minutes (although I would highly recommend it!). Stretching for even 5-10 minutes to start your day brings so many health benefits!

I’m not talking about a flimsy yawn-and-stretch when you get out of bed, but a short period of time you put aside, find some space, and go through a sequence of five or six stretches. You should aim to target the larger muscle groups (back, glutes, legs, shoulders), and each stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds.

Controlled breathing is key (and contributes to the health benefits). Try to breathe in slowly for three seconds, hold for one, then breathe out slowly for three seconds and hold again for one before repeating.
Breathe deep into your belly, too (imagine water pouring into a bottle – it has to hit the bottom before it fills up to the top. In the same way, think about the air moving down to your lower abdomen and filling up to your chest. Breathe out in the same way water is poured out of a bottle: from your chest first, and then out from the lower abdomen (which might feel more like pushing the air out)).

I wrote a bit more about stretching in my post ‘Make the Stretch’, but trust me when I say you’ll feel better for having made some time for it.

Implementing these 5 things (among others) into my morning routine has helped me while I recover from a condition called hypersomnia (debilitating sleepiness); but it isn’t always easy to put them into practise. There is a point where discipline (or sheer determination) will be necessary to get into a good habit.

Be well everyone! Remember to be kind to others and to yourself, and take care of your health.

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