“I am not a morning person. I have to ease into my day slowly. First I have my coffee. Sans eggshells or anything else one tends to pick out of the garbage. Then I have a low fat, high fibre breakfast. Finally I sit down and read a crisp, new newspaper. If I am robbed of the richness of my morning routine, I cannot function. My radio show suffers, and like ripples in a pond, so do the many listeners that rely on my advise, to help them through their troubled lives. I’m sorry if this may sound priggish, but I have grown comfortable with this part of myself. It is the magic that is me.”
The above “priggish” speech was pompously delivered by the tight-lipped yet lovable radio psychiatrist in the 80’s sitcom, Frasier. He was defending his right to keep to his intensely, precise morning routine in order to perform his best throughout his day.
After my last post about how often the pressure of time significantly increases my stress level, the scene from this episode came to mind along with the memory of the dismissive eye-rolling from the supporting cast and from me. .
I began to consider strategies I use to manage my weekday mornings. Here are my three simple methods of creating space, stress-free morning moments and a way to ease into a world geared for moving constantly in fifth gear.
1. Night Vision
My mother tells the story of a time she came into my bedroom to wake me for school to find me still asleep but already fully dressed for the school day. Apparently, I had put on my clothes the night before. And even more apparently, I was quite an odd child with the quirks to rival those of a sitcom character! Perhaps my motivation was to find calm in the chaos of a busy school morning filled with getting my turn in the bathroom, practicing piano, making lunches, eating breakfast, doing the dishes and packing my schoolbag, all alongside my three siblings who were also doing the same things.
Currently my mornings do not involve jockeying for position with siblings or piano practice but can still induce a level of nerve-jangling tension when the clock ticks closer to the time I need leave for work. For this reason I decided to use the night before more wisely. No, I don’t sleep in my work clothes (often). But I do prepare my lunch, choose my outfit, pick up some of the excess clutter and create a to-do list all before I go to bed. This all takes me no more than half an hour. Not too much work for a huge benefit of a slower pace in the morning.
2. Rush No More
Realizing that rushing is a genuine energy-sapper for me, my goal is to pace my mornings so that there is no need to hurry. To make this happen, I choose to get up as early as possible to leave morning space to pause, to linger, to, heaven forbid, dawdle! By getting up earlier, I have time to sit for a short time of meditation, practice some simple yoga stretches, record three ‘gratitudes” in my journal and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while considering my day ahead. There are those days when getting up so early is not so easy as others. My routine is too precious to be written in stone so there is always room to change it according to the situation. But there is a noticeable difference in my energy levels on the days that begin early with this settling routine.
There was a time that I would regularly check my work email in the morning but I quickly realized that it only served to put my nervous system in work-mode high gear and encroached on the unhurried pace of my personal time. I was no further ahead when I got to work by knowing what new things were going to be added to my ‘to-do’ list and instead, I’d arrive depleted of energy that would be necessary for later in the day.
3. Leave Stuff Undone
A problem for many of us with Chronic Productivity Syndrome, is that we feel the need to fill in any extra space with productive activity. This is true for me. I look at the clock, see that I’ve got plenty of time before I need to leave so I attempt to fit something useful into that space. Wash the dishes, pay a bill online, clean the kitty litter, email a friend or whatever. The pausing, lingering and dawdling are tossed out in favour of “getting something done”. The conflict occurs when I realize that I am soon going to leave my home for a job where i am expected to be “getting something done” for the next 8 or more hours. Where’s the balance?
And if you’re like me, you’ll begin a task that will keep your steady focus on it until you look at the clock and realize that now you’re running late. Nervous system is on high alert and deep breathing becomes more shallow and less nourishing. The trick is to consciously, purposefully leave something undone in favour of a moment of just being. See the task, notice your desire to attend to it immediately, to fix it , finish, manage it, then just leave it! You know it wil still be there later.
With this precious morning routine, I clearly understand that I will most likely be considered priggish, hyper-sensitive, and a quintessential introvert to the n-th degree, but I’m okay with that. This routine provides me with the pace I like, the space I need and energy I love to be the magic that is me. (Cue the eye-rolling!)
Make it a morning of unhurried moments.