We are creatures of habit. You can deny it only so much, we humans do the same thing day in, day out – with little variation.
Sleep, wake, eat, work, eat, exercise and eat again before sleep.
But for me, there is a great deal of comfort and stability in this – in a world where everything revolves faster and change is a given, I have some things I can depend on to help me set the right intentions.
This is a new phenomenon for me. I am blessed to be someone who wakes each day around the same time, but I took this for granted for many years.
Sleeps ins, procrastination and time wasting were my hobbies. Avoidance via distractions was a favourite pastime…there was always a book to pick up, blog to read, item to knit or TV show to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for all those things. But I was wasting the better portion of my day worrying about “starting it right” and never getting going.
Now I can see having a “set” routine first thing in the morning is helping shift me in the right direction – getting things done, whilst still having plenty of time to “be free”.
Recent changes in my job, as well as my diet and lifestyle have highlighted the need for this routine. When I finished up my 9-5 public servant job last year, I was sick – tired, depressed and burnt out. But I was thrilled at the prospect of being the “master of my own destinies”. At first I loved it – freedom to sleep in, coffee dates, long walks, time to cook and indulge my creative side. Quickly this shifted, as I floundered amidst the freedom; I was worried about structure – how to actually find direction and purpose without the confines of employment dictating my routine.
And so slowly (gently) I played around with what I needed.
What works for me?
Actually my routine starts the night before. I try to get between 7 ½ and 8 good hours of sleep in. When you rise at 5:20am to work at 6, that’s a commitment.
Even on days off, I try to rise [roughly] the same time, or at least before 7am – again it’s about setting the intention right from the start.
I average seeing 5-6 sunrises a week. I’ve calculated over the past six months working on a dairy farm, I’ve seen more golden beginnings to my day than in the rest of my adult life.
Before my brain kicks in, I stretch.
Some mornings it’s just a few basic stretches my physio has given me to keep my back strong and flexible. Other days (like today, a day off) I might try and do a few sun salutations or gently yoga stretches. Or even get out and walk.
I’m still working on adding a cardiovascular element to my mornings….slowly slowly.
I also take my supplements.
A contentious topic I know, and I am at the point where I’m happy to ignore the “inconclusive” RCT’s and medical studies; instead listen to my body and what she tells me.
I tend to suffer from volatile blood sugar levels, sluggish digestion and easy weight gain. Things that work for me: magnesium powder, probiotic, and “green” phyto-antioxidant powder. It varies, depending on so many factors, but generally I take these with two glasses of warm water after rising.
I eat to break the overnight fast.
To me, there is no recovering from a bad breakfast start to the day – I am irritable, sluggish, moody and crave food all day. I know a fair few people who can’t eat straight away (or choose a stimulant such as coffee to launch into the day); my one non-negotiable is food. And quality.
It depends what the day holds, but when I work I don’t get to eat a proper sit-down breakfast until 9am. I have trialled different things to get me through – toast, piece of fruit, nuts and finally settled on coconut oil. It triggers my metabolism, cleans my mouth, releases energy that goes straight to the liver (not the fat receptacles!) and keeps me full for about 3 hrs. When I don’t have to work, I’ll sometimes have a mug of herbal tea then a light breakfast later.
By far the most common thing I choose to have is porridge. Served with a knob of butter and good organic yogurt I can go and keep going for 3-4hrs without the slightest dip in energy.
Why is all of this important?
Well, I think too many of us complain about being too busy, too stressed or “lost” in the overwhelming pressures that are thrown at us – the “shoulds”. Stress contributes to 90% of illness, yet many of us out there don’t know where to start in order to be reducing the stressors.
For me, the biggest step to becoming a happier, calmer and more productive person has been setting these rituals in place.
It is also vital to accept that the only person who can know exactly what is right for you, is you. I’ve documented what works for me right now. But I’m sure this will change as my life evolves.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr Seuss
There is no magic pill, or one-size-fits-all formula to apply to achieve the “nirvana” we all strive for. There is some science to support a lot of what I talk about, but I don’t rely on scientists in lab coats to tell me yay or nay [mostly]. It is about us all deciding to own the outcome of our choices – becoming engaged in our health and wellbeing, and listening carefully to what we are being told by our bodies.
My motto at the moment:
“A life without structure is not free”
(thanks to the Cheese Nun)