A few months ago, I began to notice a pattern. Each morning of the week, I’d wake up to my alarm on my cell phone, begrudgingly pull myself out of bed and, after taking care of a couple basic needs, would begin to wake and ready my kids for school and childcare.
From that point on it would be a non-stop hustle until everyone was dropped off and I would arrive at work already in a mental state of frenzy and anxiety. The rougher the morning, the more likely I was to have a hard day.
I recognized that I probably wasn’t getting enough sleep, or enough restful sleep to take on my mornings. I have always struggled to settle my mind and fall asleep, and in my thirties I’ve struggled to stay asleep through the night, often waking up around 2:30 or 3 a.m. My husband and I don’t stay up extremely late, we’re usually in bed between 10 and 11 p.m., which, if I was falling asleep easily, would equate to enough sleep.
So, I began to address my sleep issues. I found supplements that helped me to fall asleep more quickly. I purchased a weighted blanket, upgraded my pillows, and I began to use a white noise machine more regularly.
The combination of all of those things has resulted in significantly improved rest at night. But, in improving my sleep, I also realized that sleep was not the only factor in the rough mornings.
I was still experiencing a great deal of stress from the morning routine. I started to be aware of the specific things that were stressing me in the morning. I noticed the panic I felt at the sound of my alarm, in contrast to the way I felt when I woke up on my own without one.
I sensed the anxiety in my body around waking my heavy sleeper of an 8-year-old, who takes a great effort to get up and dressed each morning. I acknowledged the stress in my body by the loud, abrupt sound of the blender in the kitchen, and my general lack of interest in squeezing in breakfast before leaving the house.
As I became aware of the things to which I felt sensitive, I was able to begin to find solutions to address each. I stopped using my phone as my alarm and replaced it with a wake up light alarm clock, which I also bought for my daughter to ease her awake as well (it’s working great for both of us).
I made sure that my door was closed as I got ready in the morning, as to dampen the noise of the blender, and instead of trying to cram breakfast before walking out the door, I started eating breakfast at work, giving me more margin in the mornings without neglecting a meal that I enjoy.
As a result of all of those small changes, I’ve had calmer mornings resulting in significantly better days. And, while this article seems to be about sleep hygiene and morning routines, and it is in a way, it’s really about approaching our problems with curiosity and awareness.
I didn’t judge myself for not being a “morning person.” I didn’t give myself a complex about needing to be up earlier in order to handle the stress of the morning. Instead, I gave myself space to recognize the problem and contributing factors, and address them with small changes.
In most cases, there isn’t a silver bullet that will fix your problems. Things that are bringing a great deal of stress into your life often need to be addressed from numerous angles. There’s not usually one contributing factor, there’s often many.
Unless we’re curious and patient with ourselves as we test the possible solutions, it can be easy to let the problems in our life take control.
If something isn’t working for you, don’t give it the power to ruin your days. Do something, or a lot of somethings, about it and live a better life.