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19 Ways to Feel Calm, Centered and Stress-Free First Thing in the Morning - by Tad Lusk, LPC

19 Ways to Feel Calm, Centered and Stress-Free First Thing in the Morning - by Tad Lusk, LPC

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

– Marcus Aurelius

While I love Marcus Aurelius’ beautiful sentiment, I’ll admit it, I’m a night owl and a heavy sleeper. Always have been.

It’s always been naturally much easier for me to stay up until all hours of the night than it is to “arise” in the morning. In fact, when I first get out of bed, it’s usually more of a groggy stumble, and my initial focus isn’t always on precious privileges, but fumbling for coffee.

However, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the morning as a time for quiet reflection, and getting myself into a calm, grounded place mentally and physically before facing everything else in the day.

It really does set the tone for the entire rest of the day. Because of this, I now highly value giving myself some extra time in the morning, rather than rushing out of bed and out the door.

In fact, the time I give myself in the morning is my favorite part of the day now. Spending intentional, restful time first thing in the morning has done wonders for reducing my daily stress levels.

Think about the last time you rushed out the door.

We’ve all probably done this–hitting snooze on your alarm for every last minute of sleep you can squeeze in until you literally cannot delay any longer. You have it timed out perfectly. As long as you’re up by 6:47, you have just enough time to splash water on your face, brush your teeth, throw wrinkled clothes on, grab a snack, get in the car and drive, knowing exactly how long it takes you to get to work or school on time. (It’s not just me, right)?

Now consider what that felt like.

Chances are, you might have been out of breath, tense, distracted–in other words, stressed.

Because you haven’t done anything to prepare your mind or your body for the day but just ran headlong into it, you feel unprepared, unfocused, tired and irritable.

That of course contributes to much higher stress, and it carries through into the rest of your day.

That used to be me, and many of my clients.

In the “Try It” section below, I give some suggestions for specific things you can do first thing in the morning that will help promote a calm state of mind and reduce your stress.

But first, I recommend giving yourself more time in the morning.

If there’s one thing that seems to be at the crux of stress for virtually everyone, it’s time.

Yes, there are dozens of other factors too. But when you do a lot–when you have expectations weighing on you, places to be and deadlines–time (or the perceived lack thereof) looms like a relentless taskmaster.

The perception of “not enough time” is one of the main contributors to tension, worry, stress and anxiety.

We all need some time to ourselves. Even the most extraverted people need some alone time. If you’re a parent, a full-time student, a busy professional, (or maybe all of the above!) you’re justified in wishing you had more time to yourself.

As a therapist, I’m here to tell you that having some time for YOU, even if only occasionally, is so important to your mental & emotional wellbeing.

It’s not about being “selfish” at all. It’s just taking care of yourself. And if you never make time to take care of yourself, that’s a very efficient route to burnout.

So you can probably see how making time for yourself becomes especially important if you’re going to carve out any at all. The morning might be one of the best places to start.

Below are some ideas for how you can structure your morning time to reduce your stress, and get your day off to a great start.

These are merely suggestions that myself, and people I’ve worked with have found beneficial, but I also encourage you to add to this list with your own ideas too.

Don’t get hung up on thinking you have to try everything on the list (I’m looking at you, perfectionists!) Just start with one, or do your own thing. It’s all about finding what works for you.

Try It:

  • Identify an amount of personal time you’d like to have in the morning that will be beneficial and do-able for you.  
  • Prioritize your morning time, and make it non-negotiable. That means no other tasks until you’ve done what you need to for yourself.
  • Wait until your morning time is done before looking at phone or email. No electronics or other distractions.
  • Identify what you will do during your morning time that will help you feel relaxed, refreshed, and ready to roll with your day. Not sure? It’s okay; sometimes it’s about the little things. Here are some ideas that many people (including myself) find really effective:
  • Set your alarm to a soothing tone (rather than a jarring, jangling noise).
  • Practice your new deep breathing techniques from my recent blog.
  • Stretch for 5 minutes.
  • Sip your coffee or tea in silence.
  • Inhale some mint, which has energizing effects on mood.
  • Step outside and breathe fresh air.
  • Listen to nature sounds (or if you live in an urban environment, try an app).
  • Meditate (if you’re just getting started, there are many great apps to help with this too).
  • Pray.
  • Make your bed and leave your space looking clean and orderly – a clear living space helps create a clear state of mind.
  • Eat something healthy (i.e. no sugar, which can cause you to crash later).
  • Write down any insights that come to you – dreams, goals, observations. Our mind tends to be very open when we first wake, and you might just be surprised what insights and ideas appear.
  • Like Marcus Aurelius, think about one thing (or more) that you’re grateful for. (For example: “I’m so glad I have this amazingly comfy bed and pillows to wake up in every morning!” “Oh nice, the sun is out today, I’m glad for that.”)
  • Say “Thank You” to God or the Universe for this day, for all the abundance and goodness that is coming to you, for anything you’re grateful for, and feel the energy and positivity this brings into your being.
  • Exercise. (More on this in my next blog, but exercising before you start your day can work wonders for reducing your stress and boosting your mood.)

What Do You Think?

  • What does your typical morning look like? Do you have a routine? What favorite morning habits do you have?

Please share in the comments below!

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