In my yoga classes I often begin, and end… and generally just fill the entire practice with a series of 3 cleansing breaths. I find it helps everyone relax, release, and settle into the space.
It’s been a hell of a week/month/year so far, so I think we should just start with this today. Seriously, do this with me. Stop multitasking, put your coffee down; relax your shoulders, and exhale everything out.
Take a big inhale through your nose. Exhale out through your mouth.
Let it all go.
Again, inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.
Once more, inhale. Exhale and LET GO.
Close your eyes for a breath or two. Okay now come back, you can’t read with your eyes closed.
Feel better? I do. Let’s begin.
Last week I talked all about self love, but you might still be wondering how to actually practice it. Let's start right at the beginning- making space for YOU first thing in the morning sets a tone for your day and sends a powerful message: you are your first priority. And especially when I'm feeling pulled in different directions, conflicted, or a bit stressed, my morning routine is what keeps me at least somewhat grounded. It helps me slow down and tap in to what I really need and want for myself, which ultimately helps me stay true to myself throughout the day. It nourishes me - body, mind, and soul - and sends me out the door feeling calm.
Let me stress this first: I am NOT a morning person. In most cases, I will sleep every last minute that I can and not get up extra early for anything. However, I have found that these few self-care practices are worth getting up for.
This routine didn’t happen overnight. And I continue to set myself ambitious morning schedules that don’t stick, because it’s too much change at once. But bit by bit I’ve added one thing in at a time, until finally each thing becomes just part of my day, a non-negotiable like brushing my teeth. Here we go:
1. I wake up to a song that makes me happy, Sound & Color by the Alabama Shakes. I love them and this song is perfect to wake up to because it has a gentle, slow build. I find that the jarring noise of most alarm clocks is pretty much the least pleasant way to be woken up in the morning, and literally starts your day with a pang of stress.
2. I keep my phone on the other side of the room, so I have to get up to turn off the alarm. I am a snooze button addict and was snoozing for almost 30 minutes every morning til I started doing this. It also helps keep me off my phone just before bed (that blue light is stimulating and not conducive to good sleep), and from checking email first thing in the morning (I try not to check anything til I get to the breakfast table).
3. I put a few drops of eucalyptus oil in my diffuser and meditate for 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Five minutes is a fantastic place to start, and sometimes it’s all I have time for. I basically know that to be on time to work, I have to be eating breakfast by a certain time, so once I'm showered and dressed I see how much time I can comfortably squeeze in before I eat. I use an app called Za Zen to set a timer so I can close my eyes and focus on my breath until I hear the gentle bell ring again.
4. My uncle gave me my first journal over ten years ago, and for a long time I’d only write in it every now and then - sometimes going many months without picking it up. I’d feel bad and want to write more often, but always felt that I needed to “catch up” my journal since the last entry, as if it was a person that wouldn’t understand the story if I just skipped ahead. Turns out, it’s not a person; it's a journal. And as my uncle once reminded me, even a little bit counts. One line. Seriously, you can write one line a day. It’s a great way to check in with yourself before the day starts, to “air” stuff out, to gather your thoughts. And reading my journals from years ago has taught me a lot about myself, spotting patterns, gaining perspective, or just recalling good times and all the feelings that went along with them.
Note: it helps if you buy a cute journal :) Here are some of my favorites right now:
This one and pretty much everything by Make My Notebook
The Holstee Manifesto journal. Always inspired by Holstee.
This Fucking Brilliant one which I just ordered for myself and can't wait to crack open.
Gorgeous prints from Rifle Paper Co.
5. Finally leaving my bedroom, I enjoy a bowl of my homemade granola for breakfast and sip on some hot water with lemon (note: in the summer I drink it cold). I seriously look forward to this every day. It’s true I used to drink a quad-shot Americano every day (I know), but this is now my daily eye-opener. I started this habit for the fantastic health benefits to drinking water with lemon, but now I just straight up love it. It’s cozy and refreshing and tastes delicious. Try it.
Obviously there’s a shower and getting dressed and packing a bag for the day in the mix somewhere, but these are the self-care parts of my mornings. The things I do for me, not because I have to in order to leave the house, but because I want to show myself some love and set the tone for my day. It took me a long time to work all of these in, to make each one a habit individually before adding the next thing. They became routine when I finally committed to them fully; the time doesn't just show up, I have to make it.
So don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a while for something to stick. Maybe you can work one of these into your morning, or make a ritual entirely your own. Start by listing what would make you feel energized, clear-headed, and ready for your day. Consider how long each will take, and how much time you are willing to give it right now. Choose just one activity that you are ready to commit the time to. Maybe, at the very least, you can start your day with a few deep breaths.
Tell me your story:
How do YOU start your day? What new self-care practices do you want to start incorporating, and what are the challenges you face with creating the habit? Share in the comments below!