3 key tips for establishing a healthy morning routine

Local mental health and wellness expert Dr. Jennifer Shore shares her advice for creating a proper morning routine that will set the tone for the rest of your day.

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Everybody has a different ritual that sets them up for the day ahead. For some, it’s waking up 20 minutes before you have to be out the door and for others, it’s rising two hours ahead of schedule to read a book while sipping coffee before you have to be at your desk.

But the latter might provide more benefits, according to an article from the Academy of Management Journal, as a bad mood in the morning can affect your frame of mind and productivity throughout the entirety of a day. 

Fairfax-based psychologist Jennifer Shore, Psy.D, owner of Fairfax Mental Health & Wellness, Inc., says the feeling of stress or anxiety one feels when rushing in the morning can be really hard to overcome throughout the rest of the day, as those feelings linger. But with a stable routine, you can start your day with a sense of peace and calmness that will allow you to be less emotionally reactive and more rational.

“There’s comfort and familiarity in routine and it helps us keep a sense of normalcy,” says Shore. “It’s those small things that we can do each day to keep our stress a little more easily managed and anxiety at bay, ultimately feeling grounded.”

Here, we share Shore’s three essential tips for easing into a morning routine that works for you.

Understand your sleep cycle
In today’s society, the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job schedule isn’t as common as it once was, which means everyone’s sleep cycle is different. Whether you start your day at 4 a.m. or work into the late hours of the evening, you need to get the right amount of sleep, which is relative, according to Shore.

“Clearly the standard is eight hours, but everyone has their own individual amount of time that they need,” says Shore. “I need nine hours, for example, if I’m going to be at my peak, but my husband’s requirement is seven hours. You really have to know your body.”

Plus, quality is key. Getting six or seven hours of quality sleep will always trump getting nine hours of restless sleep.

Don’t hit the snooze button
We’ve all had those mornings where the confinements of your bed seem so cozy that getting out of it at the sound of the first alarm is simply impossible, so of course, we hit snooze. But according to research from staff at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, this seemingly harmless act interferes with your body’s natural wake mechanisms, leading you to be more exhausted for the rest of the day.  

“You are not sleeping once that first alarm goes off, so all you’re doing when you hit snooze is prolonging it,” says Shore. “It causes a disruption to your brain, often leaving you with headaches or pain.”

Wake up an hour before you actually start the day
According to Shore, waking up at least an hour before you have to partake in productive behavior, like making breakfast, driving to work, etc., allows your body and mind to really get ready for the day ahead. 

One of the biggest complaints we here from people is there’s no time to do the things they love to do,” says Shore. “But by waking up earlier in the morning, you’ve just given yourself the gift of time. Do something for you, no matter what it is.”

The easiest way to implement this hour-long block into your morning is by easing into it with increments. If you woke up 30 minutes before your day really began today, then set your alarm 15 minutes earlier tomorrow and continue with that routine for a few days until you feel ready to set the time even earlier. Eventually once adjusted, you will have enough leeway in your schedule to really do something you love, like meditate, exercise or watch the news. 

“You suddenly feel as if your world opens up when you add that extra time,” says Shore. “I think if there’s one thing we could all do to better ourselves, that would be it.”

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