Getting out of bed in the morning can feel agonizing: the sun is too bright, your eyes are too tired, the floor is too cold for your bare feet. Anxiety can make morning misery that much worse. It’s the rudest awakening: an influx of panicked thoughts entering your mind from the moment you wake up. I used to rise with with a racing heartbeat and cluttered mind. I’d think about all the tasks I needed to accomplish that day—all the assignments I needed to turn in, the emails I needed to respond to, the kitchen I hadn’t yet cleaned—and I’d feel paralyzed with stress. The morning wasn’t a time of preparation—it was a caffeinated “ball-up-and-worry” session that never proved to accomplish anything.
If you can relate, then this article is written for you in mind. I decided to rethink my mornings and focus my early hours into activities that energized my body and encouraged my spirit. Switching up my routine has made me notice how much my behavior in the early hours affects the rest of my afternoon and evening. I’d like to share with you how I structure my mornings and what habits I’ve included to render more positive and productive days.
Here’s 9 morning habits you can incorporate in your morning routine to combat anxiety and have a productive, positive day:
1. WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERYDAY & MAKE YOUR BED
When you establish a set wake-up time, your body acclimates to a steady rhythm that improves the quality of your sleep and makes you feel rested upon waking up. If you’d like to read more about why waking up at the same time everyday is beneficial— or you’re having trouble sleeping— take a look at Sleep Tips and Tricks to Wake Up Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed.
The second part of this step— “make your bed”— may seem silly and unnecessary to mention. But personal experience has led me to believe in that making your bed first thing in the morning is a powerful way to accomplish several things:
- Making your bed is a symbolic gesture that you’re ready to take on whatever life throws at you. Yes, you may be anxious to the point of tears; yes, you may be so depressed that you’d rather crawl back in bed and hide under the covers for the rest of the day. But you aren’t yielding. Anxiety and Depression may be loudly screaming “you can’t!”— but by springing out of bed and neatly arranging your throw pillows, you proudly answer back: “Actually, I can.”
- A cluttered work space (or bedroom) is a cluttered mind. Making your bed everyday makes your room look significantly cleaner, and, as a result, your mind will declutter and your focus will improve.
- Anxiety can make it difficult to wind down at night and get a good night’s rest, and crawling into a messy pile of sheets at night isn’t exactly calming or conducive to relaxation. Taking a few minutes in the morning to make your bed can ensure that you have a peaceful environment to wind down in.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, check out Nerd Fitness’s compelling argument: Why You Should Make Your Bed Every Morning.
If you’ve been unconscious for 8 hours, you’ve gone without water for 8 hours. Dehydration can lead to increased irritability and lower brain functioning which, in turn, can increase symptoms of anxiety.
People who struggle with anxiety often complain of headaches—and I’ve definitely been there. It’s a two-way street: anxiety can cause headaches, and headaches can exacerbate anxious feelings. While I haven’t entirely got rid of these nasty headaches, proper hydration has significantly reduced their frequency.
I recommend drinking up before your day begins. A large glass of cool water gets your internal organs moving and gives you a burst of energy. It’s also important to be mindful of your ratio of coffee intake to water intake. Caffeine is a diuretic, so make sure you’re drinking an additional glass of water for every cup of ‘jo you put down.
Fruits and vegetables with high water content are also great for hydration.
3. GET OUTSIDE
You may be already be familiar with the health impacts associated with not getting enough sun. Depressive symptoms of SAD ( seasonal affective disorder) are thought to be brought on by lack of sunlight and its resulting interference with your brain’s serotonin levels.
But did you know that not spending enough time outside can have serious implications on your productivity and focus?
Directed attention fatigue associates modern-day stressors to cases of depression and anxiety, pinning mental burnout on the over-stimulation of our fast-paced society. The theory originated in the 1980s with University of Michigan professor Stephen Kaplan, who wished to explore the possibility of nature’s revitalizing qualities.
Kaplan and other collaborators conducted studies to understand the effects of outdoor exposure on mental processes; notably, the findings suggested that this exposure to nature was profoundly successful in raising a person’s energy levels and positive outlook, and furthermore, that nature could effectively restore the brain’s ability to focus.
Kaplan’s studies blamed the overly-technological, toxic environment of many workplaces and classrooms on the disconnect between man and natural earth, and demonstrated how this detrimental environment can have serious implications on long-term mental health.
The morning time I devote to getting outside usually consists of a 20 minute walk around my neighborhood with my dog, Lucy. I love getting out in the early hours when the sun has just started to peek over empty streets. The air is cool and the rising sun turns the sky all kinds of crazy colors.
Including outside time into my morning ritual allows me to observe the earth in the vulnerable hours of the morning. I love seeing the resilient efforts of dead flowers to come to life again. I’m reminded that every living thing goes through cycles— growth, decay, death, and rebirth—and I remember that my life, too consists of cycles. Sometimes there’s long periods of suffering that don’t seem to have an end. But the bleakest of winters are always followed by spring, and the darkest of nights are always met with dawn. I see that—in nature and in my own life—rebirth must be preceded by death.
And sometimes dead, stagnant periods are necessary for growth.
And sometimes I have to grope through the darkness before I find the light.
I’m reminded—first thing in the morning—of a hope and a beauty that overpowers even the deepest pain. And yes, some days may be unbelievably trying and sometimes life kicks me in the gut when I’m already down. But spending time outside gives me hope. In a short 20 minutes, I gain perspective, and a fresh pair of eyes to see the world with. It’s a really great way to start the day.
Getting your blood flowing first thing in the morning stimulates your mind and body. We frequently hear about the positive benefits of exercise on our bodies, but working out also stimulates your brain functioning and improves your focus.
I’m a big fan of combining steps 2 + 3 in your routine and starting the day by exercising outdoors. If you can’t get outside, still make an effort to get some movement in. There’s a lot of mornings that I drag my legs out the door—going on a walk seems like the last think I want to do. But I’ve never regretted a single one. It wakes my body up by getting my blood flowing and my muscles moving—and it significantly improves my mood the rest of the day.
Here’s a few ideas if you’re stuck:
- Walk the dog
- Bike Ride
- Run stairs
- Jump Rope
- Exercise video
- Stationary Bike
- Group Exercise Class
Your momma was right- breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It revs up your metabolism, increases alertness, and gives you energy. I recommend a meal that includes protein + fiber + healthy fats. This combination of nutrients will keep you full through the morning—allowing you to focus and feel energized throughout the day. I’m obsessed with the Healthy Maven’s Customizable Protein-Packed Muffin Cups. They’re easy to make, tasty, and packed with protein. If you’re a fan of drinking your breakfast, you can find my simple smoothie recipe here.
If you struggle with anxiety, anticipating the day to come can be overwhelming. It can be distressing to walk into uncomfortable environments—especially if it’s not one you’ve encountered before. If it’s the first day of school or the first day of a new job, nervousness can be especially high. The anxiety may push you to the point of tears—but I’ve found laughter is a great rebuttal to anxiety.
There’s nothing like a belly laugh to ease tension and reduce anxiety. Watching or reading something that puts a smile on your face is a fantastic way to begin your day. If you don’t have any ideas, here’s a video of a baby with the most contagious laugh ever.
Having a positive, productive day is so difficult to do when your self-talk is negative and defeating. The morning is an ideal time to squash your inner critic and pump yourself up with positive affirmations.
Here’s a list of positive affirmation examples to get you started:
- I am strong
- I can do anything
- I am brave
- I have what it takes
- I love myself
- I am capable of reaching my goals
- I practice kindness
- I am enough
- I’m going to have a wonderful day
- I am calm and centered
8. SET GOALS
Write out a short list of what you need to accomplish for the day. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew: only focus on 4-5 tasks for today. Getting a solid idea of what your day will look like can reduce stress and give you a visual representation of the day’s priorities. Having a daily planner is helpful in organizing your day—and it just so happens that I’ve created one for you!
This is just a sneak-peak of the daily planner, but it’s 100% free! After you finish reading this article, fill out the short form and receive instant access to the printable.
Shower, brush your teeth— whatever you need to do to feel clean and presentable. Appearances aren’t everything, but feeling confident about how you look makes a huge difference in the way you feel.
Prepare for your day by packing your lunch, gather your keys, phone, and whatever else you may need to get through the day. I recommend filling up a water bottle for all-day hydration, and sticking a couple healthy snacks in your bag to keep your energy levels steady throughout the day. You’re good to go!
BUILDING YOUR MORNING ROUTINE
If you want to revamp your mornings, start by choosing a wake-up time your that allows you to complete your entire routine without feeling rushed. This will vary from person to person, depending on how long each activity usually takes you.
I recommend you list out each component of your morning routine, record how many minutes you want to devote to each, and then work backwards from this point.
You may need to try have a few trial runs before you figure out your ideal early morning schedule—but once you get into a consistent rhythm, I guarantee you’ll see the positive impact a consistent morning routine has on the rest of your day.
- Wake up at the Same Time Everyday & Make your Bed
- Get Outside
- Set Goals
Here’s to brighter mornings + positive, productive days.