I have made no secret of my mental health journey on this site. My anxiety can get the best of me some days, and it can throw me off balance for any period of time – days, weeks, sometimes months. If you’ve dealt with anxiety, you may have felt the same before. This is where routines have come to save the day.
I have found that routines help my mind get back on track because they are things within my control: I tend to eat the same kinds of things all the time, and I try to wake up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time every night. (It doesn’t always work out that way; socializing or staying up to read can throw a girl off, you know?)
I grew up on a farm, and my mother was always an early riser (like her farmer father before her). I’ve gained some of my sleeping habits from my mother, and being an early riser is one of them. The morning is my creative time, and it’s my time to center myself and mentally prepare myself for the day. Last week I talked about productivity methods that worked for me, and in light of the summer solstice, this time of change, I wanted to re-examine my morning routines: What I’ve tried, what I haven’t, and what’s stuck. I’m writing them here so that hopefully it will inspire some routines for you!
I will admit that I have never tried snoozing vs. no-snoozing during the week. This is something that I just can’t bring myself to try. I rely on that 5-alarm system to get me out of bed and on with my day. Yes, my body wakes me naturally during the weekends, but the weekdays are my days for super productivity and alertness. I’m afraid to try the no-snooze thing during the week. (Has it worked for anyone else? Tell me your secrets!)
With no further ado, I’d like to present a few routines that may help you fill your mental health bucket.
Routines When You’re Craving Physicality
Exercise in the morning
I do this on the weekends, but during the week my exercise tends to come in the evenings after work – it’s my way to de-stress from the day and build up some endorphins. I tried to exercise in the morning as part of my routine during the week, but I’ve found that it rushes me more often than not. Exercising in the evening during the week and in the morning on the weekends fits my schedule so much better.
Eat Your Breakfast
This one seems obvious, right? “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Sure, for some people. This is where I really listen to my body; sometimes, coffee is all I want. (Coffee is my savior. I live for it.) Sometimes coffee is not what I want (and that’s when I know that I’m sick). Sometimes I wake up ravenous and I eat a huge breakfast. Other times all I need is a smoothie to get me going, and even that gets consumed at the office. Intuitive eating has been incredibly healthy (mentally) for me, but it does take some discipline to keep myself on track – I prioritize vegetables first (yep, I do sometimes eat broccoli and lettuce at breakfast), some sort of protein, and healthy fats vs unhealthy ones (but even those I try to get from real sources – good butter, coconut milk, etc.).
Routines When You’re Craving Creativity
Reading in the morning
This is something that I tried for a while and really enjoyed before switching to a creative writing habit in the morning. I still find time for reading during the day and in the evening (re: during my lunch break when I can), so this wasn’t a huge loss, but it did help keep me calm in the morning. My biggest problem: wanting to get back to my book while I was at work! Nowadays reading in the evening before bed has been awesome because it helps wind my brain down (unless it’s a really good book and then I stay up to read. Oops).Getting your routine right can completely change the state of your mental health. It's all about what works for you. Click To Tweet
Writing in the morning
This is something that, as a writer, I should have started to do long before I did. That being said, I’ve very much enjoyed the process. I’ve set a goal of 1000 words per day, and the morning is the best time for me to write creatively. Writing for the blog and for clients comes in the evening, and I don’t count that as part of my writing goal. I dream of becoming a traditionally-published author one day, and this daily writing ritual is a part of that. I put on some music (my Spotify playlists start out with the best intentions of being focused, but they turn a bit unwieldy and all over the place, to be honest), open up my word processor, take a prompt, and just go. Most of the time it’s crap. But it’s words on the page, which is more than what I used to be able to say.
Routine When You’re Craving Connection
Meet a friend for coffee
Admittedly, this is something I aspire to and have never really had time for. My friends and I tend to work different schedules, have different optimized operating times, etc. My “coffee dates” tend to be in the afternoon or during happy hour (in which case they turn into “happy hour” dates). On the off chance that I am able to sync up with friends in the morning, it’s been wonderful, and a great way to catch up and start the day right. (I would actually recommend this for stay-at-home parents or full-time freelancers, but anybody can do it if you get your schedule right.)
Attend a morning networking event
Guys, this is one of my favorite things. There are other early risers out there, making the most of their morning and connecting BEFORE their day job or getting started with whatever their day has to hold. This should not feel as phenomenal as it does, and yet! One of my favorites is an event that’s been held by ChickTech Chicago and General Assembly, called the Women in Tech Breakfast. It’s at a cool hotel here in Chicago and typically has a wide array of female speakers (though men are more than welcome), talking about their initiatives and what they’re working on. Another one that I’ve been dying to try that’s internationally known is Creative Mornings. Different set of folks, great speakers, and guaranteed to be a good time.
These are just a few ways that routines can help your mental health. For me, it’s paying attention to what I really need. Had a rough week at work? A few days to myself to re-center and recharge is key. Feeling a bit frustrated or just need an outlet? Morning writing exercises/goals have helped me so much. Craving connection, but feeling burnt out at work? Getting up a little earlier on Friday morning and listening to some badass women talk about their moving and shaking is exactly what the doctor (er, blogger) ordered.
What about you, my dear? Have you tried setting routines for yourself? Have they helped? Comment below what’s worked for you, and share with others to do the same! Xx
Photos via Unsplash.