Morning Routines

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have an established morning routine, maybe more than one…one for workdays and a different one for weekends.

When I was working full-time, mornings were my most productive time of day – but only if I could drag myself out of bed. It wasn’t a problem in the summer months when I could get up with the room full of light.

But winter mornings were a different story. Rolling out of bed while it was still dark outside was almost impossible. Even in high school, I was often late for school because I just couldn’t seem to function until about 8am. It was a constant source of frustration for my parents – and for me. I really did try, and while it must have looked like I was being lazy, I still believe that there was more to it.

Back then, we had never heard of such a thing as Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder (SAD). But the first time I ever came across that term – and the explanation of what it was – I knew exactly what they were talking about. That was me! Still is. The difference now is that I know about it, know that it’s a reality in my life and so I can prepare for it.

My morning routine is much different in the fall/winter than it is in late spring/summer. In the summer months, I wake up earlier, full of positive energy and can roll out of bed with genuine joy…my body, mind, spirit and soul are all ready and glad to start the day.

Then, seemingly without warning, it all changes. I wake up later, groggy, weary, listless and sometimes inexplicably sad. It’s on those mornings that a good familiar morning routine becomes essential. Over a lifetime of struggling with this SAD stuff, I’ve learned that it’s vital for me to create – and stick to – a morning routine that stays within easy reach of do-ability, while still stretching me beyond the instinct to bury myself back under the covers. I try to keep it as consistent as possible, no matter what season or kind of day it is. And I’ve had to educate my husband on the “why” of me having to stick to a fairly rigid routine in the winter months, because I need his help to keep those mornings positive and as gentle as possible.

We all have different dynamics and demands to deal with in our own lives and households. So what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. But it’s one of the ways I’ve learned to manage my chronic depression, one of the strategies I use to maintain as positive an environment as possible within the safety and sanctuary of my own home. Maybe you already have a morning routine that works for you. But for anyone who struggles with depression, SAD, grief or any emotional distress, mornings can be the most difficult hurdle of the day to get through. Creating a routine that can get you out of bed and into the day is vital. Practicing it when you feel good helps it become easier to maintain when you’re not feeling so good.

So here’s the six-step morning routine that works best for me:

1. Allow myself a really REALLY good full body stretch while still in bed. I stretch every muscle, reaching my arms into the air as if to greet God and the day, allowing myself to imagine Him returning the greeting, and soaking in the gift of being alive for another day…that was not always the way I saw it, but now I do, and so I include a  conscious awareness of what a precious gift another day truly is. Then I might snuggle back into the bed for another five minutes if needed. But no more than five minutes.

2. Then I resolutely, no matter how I feel, roll out of bed, plant both feet on the floor, open the blinds and say out loud “Good morning”! In my heart, I’m saying good morning to God (often thanking Him for the beautiful colours in the sky), good morning to the birds in the tree outside my window, good morning to the world at large (mindful of my four sponsor children who live all around the world) – and good morning to myself too – sometimes adding a wee pat on the back for having gotten myself this far.

3. Take that obligatory trip to the bathroom, splash cool water on my face, etc, etc. One of the major rules here is that no negative self-talk is allowed! All self-talk must be positive, affirming, encouraging and kind.

4. Depending on the demands of the day, and how early I’ve been able to get myself this far, I usually hop back into bed with my laptop for my morning browse through various online networking sites. This is a great time for connecting with friends around the world…friends in Australia are just going to bed, friends here on this side of the world are just waking up…it’s a good time for catching up on the night posts, emails and blogs that I want to read but often don’t have time during the rest of the day. For me, spending these few moments with my online friends has become a really nice way to begin my day.

5. Go downstairs and create my breakfast. Protein, protein, protein! I cannot function well without a really good breakfast of protein. For me, it’s an egg, usually a “fridge omelet”, raiding the refrigerator to see what bits and pieces of veggies and other proteins I can throw in….mushrooms, red peppers, onions, sliced turkey or ham, maybe a little cheese, basil…the possibilities are endless! A different omelet every morning! (Handy tip: whenever we make up a salad, we cut up extra little tidbits and save them for those morning omelets.)  For anyone who has to go to work, a full-scale omelet might not be feasible, but even just scrambling up an egg in the microwave takes seconds to cook and eat. Making time to have a decent, nourishing breakfast is vital for anyone who struggles with SAD or low energy in the morning. Those proteins really wake up my body and mind, and keep me powered up for the rest of the morning, which for me can be half the battle of getting through the day.  (Addendum: I also take Omega 3 and Vitamin D supplements every morning; Vitamin D deficiency is common in people affected by SAD).

6. My morning routine always includes gentle prayer time…this is when I focus on the blessings in my life, gratitude attitude, and is also the time when I love to pray for all of the people in my heart – family, friends (including my online friends), people who have asked for prayers, and situations going on in the world at large. It’s not a long, heavy-duty session, just a gentle morning chat with my God, allowing us to connect with each other on this new day, focusing on the gift of life and the good that is always there to be thankful for. And on those darker mornings when I’m having difficulty seeing the good, a prayer to open my eyes and heart…sometimes all I can do is cry into His shoulder, and that’s okay too. As long as I make the effort and take the time to refocus my mind and heart on the positive…focusing on the blessings and good in my life is just as essential as my nutritious protein breakfast.

From the breakfast table, I get up and start the rest of the day in whatever direction the demands of the day take me…errands, exercise, connecting with online friends all around the world and time with hubby. For me, with that gentle, positive morning routine behind me, I can make it through just about anything. Sounds simple enough – many people just need a good strong cup of coffee to get themselves going – but for far too many of us, it’s a major accomplishment just to get out of bed. Creating a morning routine that we can enjoy waking up to – and just roll ourselves into on those darker SAD mornings – is one of the ways we can manage those difficult patches of life.

For more information on SAD, here are some links:

Canadian Mental Health article

Medicine Net

Mayo Clinic

Kids Health (it’s important for parents to recognize that kids and teens also suffer from SAD!)

Dr.  Weill (thanks Ruth for the link!)

Please note: if you experience persistent symptoms of sadness, depression, despair, etc, please contact your doctor…help is available!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
This entry was posted in anxiety, body changes, coping, depression, empowerment, faith, fatigue, gratitude, grief, health, hope, inspiration, mental health, perseverance, positive, Sadness, Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, self help, social anxiety, survival and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Morning Routines

  1. Another great post, Sharon! I also suffer from a mild form of SAD and have found St. John’s Wort very helpful if I start taking it around October before the symptoms really kick in. Vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin C help, too. Dr. Andrew Weil has a lot to say about SAD here if you’re interested:


    • Sharon says:

      Thanks Ruth! I completely forgot about the Vitamin D connection – so added it to item #5. Thanks for the link too (I added that as well). I couldn’t handle St. John’s Wort for some reason, but have used vitamins B and C in the past too. Taking vitamin D (and Omega 3) every morning has made a huge difference in my energy levels.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s