One of the best decisions you can make is to learn how to wake up not feeling stressed out. The 6 tips below can help with this.
My wife and I have two boys, aged 2 and 5. Every day for the first year of each of their lives, they’d wake up and immediately start crying. Life is hard.
They’ve gotten better, at least Liam, our eldest has. In fact, today, he shot out of bed. A minute later, by the time I joined him in our family room, the floor was already littered with 27 dinosaurs methodically arranged in alphabetical order. I found him sitting quietly inside his fort. He was laughing to himself.
As a kid, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. In my twenties, I wanted to live as many lives as possible. By the time I hit my thirties, I stopped trying to reinvent myself and actually took the time to get to know myself.
Now that I’m in my forties, I’d be great to be like Liam and attack each day with a massive smile. My primary goal, however, is to simply be a person who doesn’t wake up stressed, anxious, or flat out scared.
I haven’t mastered this yet. Our current situation of being in lockdown hasn’t made this any easier. Losing work contract after work contract has been the least of my worries of late. Yet, still a few times a week I wake up feeling pretty light.
In addition to watching the afternoon news instead of the evening edition, these little exercises below have helped with that.
1. Establish a light-weight evening ritual
You’ve heard about the importance of an evening routine before. I get it. But you don’t have to do every step of the 9 things you have to do before 9pm to reap the benefits. A few small things done consistently will do.
After you wrap up your dinner, play some relaxing music. Even if you still have some cleaning up to do it will serve as a sign-post that your day is winding down. Once that is over give yourself 10 minutes to do nothing. You don’t have to say any chants and sit cross-legged if that’s not your thing. Just allow yourself to breathe.
There’s a reason physicians recommend kids follow a night-time routine. If they don’t, they turn into gremlins. As adults, we aren’t all that different. Our monsters are hard to tame in the morning if we don’t take the steps to keep them at bay at night.
2. Put all your worries down on paper
Ending your day on a high note by breaking out your gratitude journal is a healthy practice. You’ll never get more if you don’t appreciate what you already have. Don’t underestimate the power of flipping this practice on its head by keeping a worry journal as well.
A problem written down doesn’t always mean it’s half solved. Writing your big problems down in little words, however, can help to give you clarity regarding what’s worth worrying about and what’s not.
If you’re stressed about your relationship with your partner, write down what’s bothering you. You may even realize after seeing your gripe on paper it’s not something worth fighting about.
If you’re stressed about work, allow yourself to bleed. You’re allowed to be scared. Get all of your fears out. Having a good cry before going to bed can help our shoulders to feel looser in the morning.
3. Get in a little dose of human contact
Every night, before putting our kids to bed, Liam, our oldest yells, “Tots” — Catalan for “Everyone “ — at which point our little family of four hugs it out. His little brother, Luc, hasn’t yet developed an off-switch once the kisses start flowing. He screams. We laugh. My shoulders drop even further.
No matter what the day throws at us, once we have each other and our little boys in our arms our troubles lose power. More times than not, after the hug, we don’t even waste our breath apologizing to each other if we got on each other’s nerves. We move on. My wife’s extra squeeze and my additional kiss are enough.
Maybe you’re alone right now and hugs aren’t an option. Why not recruit a friend and add a goodnight call into your light-weight evening ritual. We’ve all learned by now just how important human contact is. Lean into this before going to sleep. Knowing you’re loved before going to bed helps us to feel less alone in the morning.
4. Ask yourself what is one thing you can’t wait to do in the morning
Think back to how things were prior to quarantine. Imagine the expressions on people’s faces on their way to work each morning. Not a pleasant site, right? The most important habit we can develop is learning how to start the day off without being miserable.
While you’re laying in bed, think about something you can’t wait to do in the morning. Maybe it’s finishing a book you’re reading. Or maybe it’s carving out an hour to write.
One of my favorite things to do after I get my kids dressed and fed is to sit down for a few minutes on my terrace while I finish my coffee and Dutch caramel waffle cookie. I won’t have a bikini body by June. I’m fine with that. The sound my cookie makes when I snap it in half is gorgeous. It’s my moment.
5. Hit snooze — but don’t go back to sleep
One of the reasons Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was able to make it through four years of concentration camps was each morning he reminded himself of who was going to need him when this nightmare was over.
Once you’ve woken up, hit snooze. But instead of falling back to sleep, sit on the edge of your bed and think about who needs you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Maybe you make a mental list of the short voice messages you can leave people letting them know you value you their friendship. Or maybe you make a commitment to leave a few uplifting comments on the articles of a few young writers who show promise.
It’s great to think about what you are thankful for when you wake up. Reminding yourself that you have everything you need is a valuable exercise. If you want to wake up calm though, ask yourself who you can help each day. Few exercises are more valuable than getting out of our own heads to think about how we can touch the hearts of others.
6. Implement the “Last time” technique to your worries
A few years ago, my father-in-law, an avid hiker, knew going into a walk that it would be the last time he climbed the mountain in front of him. I got choked up when he told me he had to say goodbye to one of his favorite spots. To this day, however, he can tell you about every step he took and how the light took on different shapes at every turn.
The Stoics recommend living every moment like this. In the morning embrace “The Last Time” technique. Instead of going through the motions or complaining about how hard it is to work with your kids around, remind yourself this may be the last time you get to spend so much intimate time with them.
Over the last few weeks, five family friends have passed away. If the coronavirus has taught us anything it’s that everything can be taken away in an instant. Yes, this thought can be depressing. But it can also be liberating.
Imagine you were told this morning that today is the last day you have in quarantine and you have to go back into the office tomorrow. Would that change how you would live your life today?
Some mornings it’s easy. The sun is shining and our moods are light. Other days it rains. You can’t control everything that happens to you. You can control, however, how you choose to wake up each day.