Posted on 29 December 2019
Yep, I’m feeling it. That uncomfortable pressure building as I anticipate the beginning of a new decade and all the healthy habits, big dreams and life goals I ‘should’ lay on the table in a bid to chase!
One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with for so long is the idea of the perfect morning routine. It’s taken me forever to realise that the best morning routine is not necessarily waking at 5am, smashing out a gym sesh, downing a smoothie and then trotting off to work with the promise of endorphins and good vibes, it’s simply one that works for you.
I spent months setting the alarm at 5am to get to the gym and smash out a work-out, only to come home, feel decision-fatigued by 6:30 and not have the energy to even get started on my work day. Those were the worst few months of my year. I spent months feeling so guilty about not achieving the BEST morning routine that I felt like a failure at 9am and wrote off the rest of the day. After weeks of failing at my ‘perfect’ morning routine, I simply gave up. On everything. I remember snoozing an alarm from 5am through to 10am, watching Instagram stories in bed until I got hungry enough to move to the couch with a piece of toast, then flicking through Netflix and YouTube for literally the rest of the day, hating myself for not being able to function like a ‘normal’ person, and waiting for Tim to come home from work. When I say I was in a hole, I was in a deep freaking hole.
Fast forward to today, where I wake up when I feel like it (Tim sets his alarm early so I usually get woken between 5:30-6 but I choose to ‘sleep in’) which usually ends up being between 7-8. My only goal when I wake up is to make myself a chai on the stove. I have an old electric stove so it usually takes a good 10-15 minutes to warm up so I potter around the kitchen, putting clean dishes away or just staring at my chai through fuzzy eyes. When it’s heated up, I wander over the my spot at the dining table which faces outside and has a calm view of trees and some neighbour’s houses. I try not to watch them too much. Then I get stuck into my morning pages.
You’ve probably heard me ramble about my morning pages before.
I live and breathe them, I cannot recommend them enough. I am a different person when I have been consistently journaling and when I have not. In a nutshell, morning pages are freehand writing roughly 3 pages worth of thoughts. Just word vomit on a page. No judgement, no need to correct spelling or grammar. It doesn’t even have to be 3 pages. Draw pictures if you want. Reflect on yesterday. Write about today. Vent about how freaking annoying it was to run out of almond milk this morning. Anything. It clears my mind.
It reminds me that it’s ok not to know everything all the time, that it’s ok to feel frustrated, or to have dreams, and a lot of the time it reminds me to be grateful.
Not because I HAVE to be, but because when your mind starts to feel less crowded and more peaceful, you start to become conscious of the myriad of things you have to be grateful for. You start to notice that you’re thankful that chai brews just as easily with water when you’re out of almond milk, and that the morning sunshine coming through the window is an absolute delight to experience, that the birds singing in the tree outside are not as annoying when you’re awake than if you were trying to sleep, and that life is just bloody good most of the time if you would allow yourself to truly live it.
There’s no phone in sight because I charge it in the study overnight and put it on ‘do not disturb’. A friend was trying to call me one morning and said ‘it was weird, I couldn’t get through for some reason!’ That reason is because I set my phone to do not disturb from the night before until I’m ready to get stuck in work the next day. Try it!
When I’ve finished journaling, I make myself some breakfast (whatever I feel like without spending too much time thinking about it – decision fatigue is a real thing guys!) and then sit down to read the bible a bit, admittedly not as much as I would like. I usually work my way through books and read a chapter a day. Currently I’m in Corinthians. I’ve read through the bible chronologically 2 times now over 4 years. I pray too, which is my form of meditation and teaching my mind to listen and not think so much. That’s still a work in progress, but all things take practice. I also usually start my morning pages with 'Dear Lord Jesus’, which sounds weird but it allows me to write as if I’m really writing to someone. (I guess if you believe in God, then I actually am writing to someone!)
When that’s all done, I wash my face and brush my teeth, and have a quick look through my diary to get a good idea of what I have planned for the day, then get changed into a comfortable outfit that is suitable. Working from the studio is a little messy so usually activewear, or jeans and a tee is most fitting. If I’m working from home I like to dress a little neater than that to remind myself that I’m working and not relaxing! Some culottes and a loose shirt, or jeans and a nicer top maybe.
It’s worth noting that I very rarely drink coffee these days and I’m much better off for it!
I used to be a 2 coffee a day person but I found that my body lends easily to addiction so if I hadn’t had a coffee by 11am I would have a splitting headache. This is fine when I’m home and have my routine in place but when I'm travelling or jet lagged, my body would still give me the same splitting headache and I would find myself frantically searching for coffee. I don’t like to be a slave to anything so in February this year I fasted from coffee for lent. Boy did it hurt. I felt like I was hungover for a week straight. After that week, I didn’t want to go back (mostly because I never wanted to experience that hungover week of hell ever again), hence I developed a chai obsession. (Tea is definitely not as addictive! I don’t know what the evidence is so don’t ask.)
I still love coffee, don’t get me wrong. I love that sweet, sweet aroma that gives me all the good vibes and familiarity that I associate with sitting down at a cute café, or just the feeling of being relaxed. Ironically it doesn’t relax me at all (surprise surprise – it's a stimulant!), it actually gives me the shakes because my body can’t really tolerate it anymore. I also don’t have to pee half as much and for someone who is actively trying to drink more water, this is a huge plus. Anyway, coffee really is a drug!
I guess in the end I felt like coffee was controlling me – my diet, my mood, my productivity, and I didn’t like it. I wanted to be in control of those things so I made some changes and haven’t looked back.
Now I finally get my phone. It’s usually around 9 or even 10 by this time but because I don’t have to commute when I’m working from home it’s a perfect time to start the working day! If I am driving to the studio, it’s a great time to get on the road and miss all the crazy peak hour time-wasting traffic, and I can also use the transit lane without getting a fine after 9:30. Bonus. My working days are varied, but I’ve gotten much better at setting boundaries between work and home. It’s probably why my email replies are always delayed, or why some weeks you won’t hear from me at all, but here we are, still alive!
On a great night, I will have cooked dinner, showered and bypassed the tv completely, settling in bed with a book. Currently I’m working my way through Michelle Obama’s 'Becoming' and LOVING it. Most nights, Tim and I make dinner and eat it in front of the tv watching whatever shows we’re currently into (man, Love Island really got us this year) and scrolling our socials. We don’t have to talk all the time. It’s nice to scroll through other people’s days, catch up on our personal emails or just watch in silence. Other days we have so much to say that our phones seem to get in the way of our conversations and those are the times I’m trying to be more conscious of.
As always, this post was longer than I expected, but the main thing I wanted to share was that there is no such thing as one perfect morning/night routine.
We are each so unique and so wonderfully gifted in different ways that it’s crazy to think we could find a one-size-fits-all approach. Even though there may be some general recommendations for how to maximise this or optimise that, those habits need to be learned over time, allowing room to be patient and accepting of ourselves before we can start to implement them in a way that really benefits us long term.
If your morning/night routine doesn’t serve you (you feel stressed, frustrated, annoyed, or just uninspired daily!) I encourage you to change it. Start small, change just ONE thing, not everything - don’t make the same mistake I did. Change one thing, and change it NOW. Not on Jan 1. The idea of a New Year New You is as bogus as the Easter bunny coming at Christmas time. If you start now, you can muck up 3 more times before it’s even New Years – and the lessons learned and the freedom to muck up is so much better than never starting. Have the courage and persistence to change one small thing, and I promise it will begin to change your life. I hope you had a joy-filled Christmas and look forward to an exceptionally wonderful New Year. I can’t wait for 2020.