Just like most of us, I really struggled with the stay at home orders when the pandemic first became an issue. Whatever mental health issues I already had got way worse.
Iteration One: Self Care Hour
I believe in creating routines that work with your natural tendencies instead of against them. In the early weeks of stay-at-home orders, I noticed that I felt best when I woke up at ten and took an hour for myself before I did anything for work or school.
I called it morning self-care hour. Basically, I took my vitamins, made my breakfast, and ate it in my robe while I watched Brooklyn-99 on Hulu. I would also take a minute to write an intention for the day (On the day I’m writing this my intention is to give myself compliments. You’re an excellent writer, Sarah. Way to get stuff done today!)
Does it sound a little lazy to not get up until ten? And then not even starting my day until practically lunch time? Well, I can’t feel bad about it. I needed that, and it worked for me.
Mental Health Truths
I’ve been journaling a lot for my mental health. This began to expose some truths for me on what makes me happy. So, I had a list of things to do to help me feel better if I was having negative thoughts:
- Breathe–it’s easy to hold my breath when I’m unhappy
- Warm–I’m likely to feel anxious if I’m cold
- Love, toward myself
- Connect–with my friends and family
And I had another list of things that are more preventative. Things that I know make me feel good:
- Play an instrument (usually the piano)
- Go on a Walk listening to a podcast
- Work Out
So, I decided that instead of making my morning routine a list of things to accomplish or to feel like an obligation, I wanted it to be something to nurture myself and set myself up for success for the day. But which thing?
All the things.
- Water & Meds
- Breakfast: avocado, sourdough toast, orange, 2 fried eggs
- Journal and Daily Intention
- Make Bed
- Connect: video chat with family, text friends, etc
- Play an Instrument: usually piano, sometimes guitar or ukulele
- Go on a Walk listening to a podcast
Yes, it’s long. Some days it takes me all morning. I started by making myself do all of it. Then, I would sometimes just do the first six items, up through “Connect.” Once I started a bedtime routine, I would get up nice and early to do all of it, and in general, it made me feel great.
Why it works for me
I had a lot of success actually doing this routine, and I think it’s because of my method for keeping myself on track. I typed it up, printed it, and put it in a sheet protector. That sheet-protected routine is tacked to my wall, and I keep a dry-erase marker nearby. I check each item off as I go in the morning.
I do have a lot of internal motivation, but it’s still easier for me to accomplish things if I have external motivators. Having this list telling me what to do and waiting to be checked off feels like an external motivator. It’s more tangible than being in my head or on my phone. I totally recommend the sheet-protector-and-dry-erase-marker-method.
Iteration Three: New Needs
I am experimenting now with ideas for adjustments to this routine. For example, I play piano because it occupies my eyes, ears, hands, and brain, and that amount of focus makes it easy for me to escape negative thoughts. However, I’m a singer, and I have not been maintaining my skills there. So, I may warm up my voice instead.
Part of my inspiration to start this blog and to start planning my writing career came out of my need to cope with depression, which has been exacerbated recently. I’m sure I’ll write more about that later, but the relevancy now is that I tend to feel worse in the morning. I often write these blog posts ahead of time, and the day I’m writing this was a very difficult morning.
What can I incorporate into my morning routine to better soothe my morning depression?
Have you ever created a morning routine? Did you stick to it? What works for you? What doesn’t?