If I had my way my morning routine would likely last until at least noon, some days maybe longer. It is an important part of my day that has become a non-negotiable over the years. The positive impact it has on me, and therefore those around me, has proven invaluable.
But when I travel or have busy days it’s easy for it to get pushed aside. I’m not in my regular space for yoga or meditation. Or maybe I’d rather sleep in a little. It can be easy to let it slip away, but I’m finally learning that even a few minutes can make a difference for the rest of my day.
Why is a Morning Routine Important?
If you already carve out this time each day, you know there is an intrinsic value. You may not even be able to name it or quantify it. You simply know how it makes you feel, and recognize the difference when you skip it.
All it takes is a quick google search to find the stacks of articles written on the benefits of a morning routine. Parents, professionals, freelancers, athletes...busy people from all walks of life swear by the advantages of maintaining their daily practice.
Your morning routine sets the tone for the rest of your day. Are you rolling out of bed and rushing out the door? Trying to fit in a “nourishing” breakfast while you are driving to work?
When you start your day this way how does your nervous system feel? Chances are you are putting yourself right into “fight or flight” mode. This will often show up as an increased respiratory and heart rate, slowed function of the digestive system and release of cortisol, the stress hormone.
On the flip side, taking the time for a consistent, regular routine can make us more productive for the rest of the day. The habitual process can be soothing for the nervous system, allowing the body to remain in the “rest and digest” function of the nervous system.
This is where the body functions optimally. The mind is clear and able to process information and make rational decisions. Have you noticed what happens when you try to do this from a state of stress and overwhelm? Usually not as effective.
When approached in the right way, meaning not just another item on the To-Do List, a morning ritual can be an amazing act of self care. It is the first thing we do for ourselves each day. The message is...I’m worth it.
Self care is not a selfish act, it’s actually a selfless act. When we take care of ourselves first, we are better equipped to serve those around us. That might be your family, your co-workers, students or clients. Just the like flight attendants on the plane remind you...put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. This is how you can view self care, putting on your oxygen mask.
Life is uncertain. Just when we have a pattern or routine, change happens. Work schedules shift, the kids have to get up early or you are on the road. How do you keep the consistency you have so carefully crafted for your morning? Maybe your time is shorter some days or you are in a new location.
Ask yourself...what do you need most from your routine that day? Is it movement, grounding or meditation? If you can’t have them all what is the most important?
Simplify. Maybe you only have five to ten minutes. You can still create consistency around that time. Choose one, maybe two pieces, and practice regularly. Sit quietly with your tea or coffee and focus on your breath. Visualize the day and what you need to accomplish. Try a short meditation.
If you are traveling try shifting your regimen for that time. Routine can be soothing, but we can also become too rigid. Take the time to try something new. Really, the important thing is that you are carving out the time, not as much what you choose to do.
At the beach? Go for a walk at sunrise. Make it a moving meditation as you engage all five senses. In the city? Maybe your hotel has a gym and movement can be your act of self care that day.
Need it all that day, but don’t have the time? Try simply compacting the routine. Journal three things you are grateful for, move for ten minutes and practice five minutes of meditation.
The tendency is often to scrap the whole thing when we have less time. See how simplifying can still start the day in a way that soothes the system.
Most importantly, create a routine that you will stick with, whether you are at home or traveling. Choose the pieces that you love and don’t worry about the others. Maybe you read that yoga is best in the morning, but your hamstrings are so tight you could scream. Try a meditative walk instead. Find what nourishes you.
And allow your pattern to be fluid. Not necessarily every day but over time. We change and the rhythm of our days may need to as well. When you fall off the wagon, be gentle and start again. It’s about process, not perfection.