If you scramble out of bed in the morning, with the lone goal of getting to work—or these days, your Zoom meeting—on time, you’re not alone. A 2017 survey found that almost one-third of US employees show up late to work at least once a month. Getting in everything you need to in the morning is a challenge, but establishing a solid routine is crucial.
We asked California-based licensed clinical social worker Alison Nobrega to describe the importance of having a habitual routine, and just how to create one. Spoiler alert: if you’re able to carve out a half hour to an hour (we know, we know…) for yourself in the morning, your mind, body, relationships, and work will thank you.
Why You Should: It Sets the Tone For the Day
Having a morning routine is beneficial for your health as it allows you to be more grounded, present, and aware of those minutes you are engaging in your routine. It is time for self-care, and time just for YOU, which will allow you over time to be more mindful and aware of your body and triggers throughout the day.
When we are more attuned with our consciousness, we can better respond rather than react when things are stressful throughout the workday and/or in our personal life.
A morning routine is something that we can look forward to. I would encourage people not to treat a morning routine as another to-do list though. Do things that YOU enjoy and will be beneficial to you.
Creating a Strong Routine
The most important thing, says Nobrega, is to tailor your routine to you. The goal is for you to feel positive, peaceful, and energized, so you can have a successful day. Taking the time to ground yourself, as well as to check in emotionally, physically, and creatively will surely set a steady tone for your day.
1. Activities that are good for the body
- Hydrate: drink 16 oz of water within 10 minutes of getting up to rehydrate the body
- Stretch: ease tension and increase blood flow by stretching for 5-10 minutes
- Exercise: light exercise like walking for 15-20 minutes will improve your energy and focus
Total time for all 3 activities: 30-40 minutes
2. Activities that make you feel grounded
- Journaling: writing down either thoughts from the day before or about the day ahead can help ease anxiety, boost creativity, and keep you organized
- Affirmations: either writing these down or saying them aloud can help you manifest your behavior for the day
- Meditation and mindfulness: even 5 minutes of breathing or grounding exercises will help clear your mind.
- Reading: choose from the news, a short story, or an interview to wake up your mind.
- Drawing: similar to journaling, drawing can boost creativity and ease anxiety
- Walking the dog: although walking could go under exercise, spending time with your beloved companion by giving them what they need will help you and them feel good!
- Making the bed: studies show this habit can make you more focused, productive, and happier!
Total time for one activity: 5-15 minutes
3. Activities that challenge your mind
Choose from a variety of brain games to sharpen your mind, including thinking, decision, and processing skills. Some of the classics are:
- Crossword puzzles
- Word games
Total time for one activity (varies by difficulty and expertise): 8-20 minutes
4. Activities that serve you emotionally
- Checking in with a friend: good connections and social support can improve health and add years to you and your loved ones’ lives!
- Listening to music: this easy activity improves mood, self-esteem, and reduces anxiety and depression. Throw your favorite jams on in the background while you’re making breakfast, getting dressed, or doing your grooming routine. (we have a great AM playlist here).
- Expressing gratitude: This can be as small as thanking your partner or roommate for dinner the previous night, or playing fetch with your pup. Expressing gratitude brings a sense of well-being, and also lets your loved ones know they’re appreciated.
Total time for one activity: 3-5 minutes
5. Typical morning activities
These are all the normal “get ready for the day” type of things. It’s important to factor these into your routine, just so you’ll have enough time!
- Showering or washing your face
- Grooming/brushing your teeth
- Getting dressed
Total time for all activities: ~45 minutes. This will vary anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. It really depends on the person!!
The total time for a full-fledged routine that covers all the bases is a little over an hour and a half. If there’s no way you can make that work, don’t worry! We have some ideas for those who are short on time!
What if You’re Super Busy?
For busy people incorporating a realistic routine can look like engaging in rituals/activities during work breaks or waking up 5 minutes early to do a 5-minute routine.
Routines do not have to be long, and I would encourage busy people to think about what are things they are ALREADY doing in their day that they enjoy or gain a sense of mastery that could serve as a routine so it doesn’t feel like an added to do. For example, if you drink a cup of coffee each morning, you can do a mindful exercise around the senses of the coffee: ask yourself how does it taste, look, smell, sound, and how does it make you feel. If you have younger kids, you can also include them as part of your routine.
Alison Nobrega is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Oakland, CA. She is passionate about supporting helping professionals break free from unhealthy boundaries and patterns in the workplace. You can find out more about her here.
Featured image: @thejessicaexperience