things helping me kick my ass into high gear: waking up earlier

goodmorningcoffeeOkay, bear with me. I know that practically every blog in the therapy/self-development universe has already beaten in the fact that waking up earlier ultimately improves quality of life (that is, if you’re at least sleeping a somewhat reasonable amount.)  There are entire books about this simple idea. And actually, until skimming one of those books, I thoroughly bought into my belief that I would never, EVER, EVER!! be a morning person.

So I want to share a little with you about what I’ve changed so far about my morning routine and how it’s helping me overall. And to offer a little inspiration that even if you're like me, there's still hope that you can become more of a morning person.

A little about me: I have a 2-hour commute everyday that contributes to fatigue that I sometimes struggle with. My fiancé is a teacher and, during the school year (I’m only a teeeeensy weensy resentful that his summer break has just started), he gets up around 5:30-5:45 to make it to school on time.

Even with my hour commute, I don’t really have to be in until about 9, so I set my alarm later and snooze several times before finally dragging my ass out of bed. And that is the most accurate way to phrase that. At that point, I resent the fact that I even have to get out of bed at all (“why can’t I just work for myself already? Waaaah”), which – as you can imagine – sets my day up just swimmingly!

I love sleep, and I was actually starting to get a little concerned that sleeping in had become one of my greatest joys in life. I thought, “What is wrong with me that I l love sleep so much that I look forward to it more than actual things in life that make me feel alive? Isn’t this what my depressed clients say? Oh shit, am I depressed?” And although I’m certainly not clinically depressed, my whole attitude toward sleep – that of scarcity and never feeling that there is enough – was really screwing with my general attitude.

I had thought about trying to make changes to my morning before, but was thoroughly convinced that mornings were just not for me. So, when I finally got desperate enough browsing the Self-Development titles on Audible and saw a book called Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod*, I figured, what the hell – I have 3 Audible credits just sitting here. So I started listening, and immediately something shifted in me. I think a lot of it was that I was ready to make the decision and intention, and I just needed a little push to get there, along with a few logistical tips.

The book didn’t really have tons of ideas that I hadn’t heard before. Wake up earlier! Say affirmations! Exercise, read, meditate! The one thing that was so helpful for me, though, was his advice about how to get said ass out of said bed and stay out. For those of us who feel like pop tarts in a broken toaster, a play-by-play is sometimes necessary. Here’s what I have changed about the way I wake up in the mornings:

First, I put the alarm on the other side of the room.

I’ve heard this tip numerous times, but I was so damn attached to my iPhone that I assumed it only really applied to actual old-school alarm clocks. But I knew this part would be crucial, and it keeps me from Facebooking/emailing right before sleep, too.

Then, I broke up with the snooze button.

I quit cold turkey, and it has been so liberating. All you have to do is Google “snooze button” to come up with dozens of articles about why it’s terrible for you. Again, I knew this, but just didn’t think that I could really do it, and just plain didn’t want to. Since I am already out of bed, it makes the temptation much less powerful.

When I get out of bed, I immediately brush my teeth, down a glass of water, and change into my yoga/barre clothes.

I also wear overnight contacts so I drop in some saline right away to wake my eyes up quicker. Hal talks about how we need to hydrate immediately because dehydration is a cause of fatigue and you haven’t drank anything all night. If you’re a morning shower person, this is the point that you’d shower and then dress for the day, unless you planned on working out in the morning first. By the time I’ve done all these things, I actually do not even want to crawl back in bed. I was shocked!

Finally, I do the things that I know will set my day up with the right tone.

Also, things I won’t be able to fit in that evening if I have plans after work. If that’s the case, I may squeeze in my full workout; otherwise, I’ll start off with about 10 minutes of meditation, 10 minutes of yoga and stretching, read/write as time permits, and then make breakfast and get dressed. I’m still figuring out exactly which activities are best or not great to involve in my extra time in the morning. Email = not good. Journaling = okay if I feel like I have anything to say. Catching up on blog posts via Feedly = not sure yet. Can be inspirational and I may not get to it later if I don't do it then, but possibly too scattered? It's a work in progress.

Whatever you choose to do in #4 will be highly individualized. I’m still working on what my goals are and what tasks I should prioritize in the mornings to work toward those goals, and I’ll share more about that later.

But for now, I am impressed that making such small changes has led to having a much more peaceful, intentional, and productive start to my days. What are the things that help you wake up in the mornings, or to set yourself up for a productive and peaceful day? Please share in the comments!  

*30-second straight-up book review: The author Hal seems like a pretty awesome dude, and he also admits he’s not really a writer. I have mad respect for him both knowing this about himself AND getting his message out there regardless because he believes in it so much. But yeah, the writing is pretty saccharine. If you can tolerate that and want a deep dive into his "Miracle Morning", check it out, but if that's not your style, you should probably stay away. I ended up skimming most of the book, but it was enough to help me get started redesigning my morning, so I'm grateful!

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.