It’s 6:30 am, and your alarm has just gone off. You turn over in bed, switch it off and tell yourself you will get up in five minutes.
Suddenly your emergency alarm goes off, and it’s 7am. You’re late.
The morning is now a race against time as you rush to get dressed, eat something and pack your bags, before sprinting to the station to begin your commute to work.
Or maybe you work from home and wake up with one minute to spare? Rather than starting your day ‘properly’, you grab your laptop and end up working in your PJs – forgetting to get up to pee until you decide to take a break at lunch.
Whatever the scenario, it doesn’t sound like the most relaxing way to start your day.
Taking the time to start your morning more mindfully, and at a slower pace, can help reduce anxiety and stress and improve work performance, and help you start the day feeling refreshed and prepared for whatever lies ahead.
Why are the mornings hard?
‘Mornings can often be a struggle for many because our brain has not yet properly woken up and so is not working properly,’ Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist and health adviser for Chemist Click, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘This is called sleep inertia, which is the name given to the groggy feeling you experience when you first wake up. It happens because parts of your brain are still in a sleep state.
‘Mornings can also be a struggle for those who perhaps lack motivation in life or are not enjoying their job. It can often be hard for people to wake up if they do not want to go to work or do their daily routine.’
Mornings may also be challenging for people who do not enjoy their work or find their jobs anxiety-inducing.
‘Work anxiety depends on the individual person and the job. Of course, some people have more stressful jobs than others,’ explains Abbas.
‘However, often if a person works extra-long hours, has high stress and a lack of support from managers and co-workers, then this can cause anxiety at work and in the mornings and evenings when you’re not at work.
‘Mornings can often be difficult if you have work anxiety as you know you have a whole day ahead of you.’
So what can we do to improve our pre-work morning and reduce anxiety?
Prepare the night before
‘Start your morning the day before,’ says Jill Cotton, a career trends expert at Glassdoor.
‘Before clocking off, clear your mind by writing down all the things you need to achieve the next day, and have a separate list of the tasks that need to be completed that week/month ahead.
‘Then start your day by checking the list before logging on – this will allow you to focus on what needs to be accomplished and kick-start your day with a clear purpose.’
Sleep expert Phil Lawlor also explains that making a list of things you need to do before bed is a commonly-recommended trick for relaxing and beating the stress that may keep you from sleeping.
Have a bedtime schedule (if you can)
‘We depend on having a regular routine to keep our bodies on track, especially with our sleep cycle,’ Phil explains.
‘And, because your body naturally adjusts to your daily pattern, if you choose the same regular bedtime and waking-up time, your brain will condition itself to feel more wakeful at the time it expects to be switched on.
‘This means that by sticking to the same sleeping hours every day (as much as possible), you will end up getting used to that routine and feel as naturally awake as possible at the right time of day.
‘Sometimes things just get in the way, but if you keep it up as often as possible, you can give yourself a morning boost and make it easier to start your working day.’
Get a good night’s sleep
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning only to discover that you gave yourself a crick in the neck or a shoulder ache for the day.
‘This is usually written off as having “slept funny,”‘ says Phil, ‘but most of the time, the fault lies with a tired mattress not giving your body the support it needs through the night.
‘That’s why having a bed that’s up to the task is so important.’
He suggests investing in your bed, adding: ‘A memory foam mattress or memory foam topper will give you personalised support where your body needs it, while a good quality pillow will ensure your neck and head are as comfy as possible.’
Give yourself time
‘Getting a head start in the morning could help to ease any pre-work anxiety, so get up a bit earlier and have a healthy morning routine,’ suggests Abbas.
‘This could involve meditation, some exercise, enjoying a hot beverage while listening to the radio, or reading a book.
‘If you feel rushed in the morning, this will most likely increase any anxiety, and so allowing plenty of time in the morning to prepare is advised.’
Start the day with something you enjoy
Summon up some youthful excitement and energy by starting your day with something you enjoy, suggests Phil.
He continues: ‘By making yourself happy, even on days you don’t feel like going into work, you will get a nice endorphin boost, so you’ll learn to start looking forward to waking up.
‘The little boost you give yourself could be anything. Whether you love to wake up with a cup of fresh coffee, go for a morning stroll around the park, or just sit down with cereal to watch an episode of your favourite sitcom, make time for it before you start work. You won’t regret it.’
Then, you can go about your day in a great mood.
Abbas recommends a number of activities to start your morning in the right way, including listening to the radio, taking a nice shower, reading a book or preparing a healthy breakfast.
He also suggests adding meditation and yoga into your morning.
‘Morning stretching is also a good idea and can boost those feel-good hormones and allow blood and airflow to the lungs and blood,’ he says.
However, Abbas does suggest avoiding caffeine, if you can. Instead, try switching up your morning coffee for a decaffeinated beverage or herbal tea because ‘caffeine can often heighten any feelings of anxiety.’
Music consultant Linda Coogan Byrne starts her day with a bit of ‘me-time’ by listening to an audiobook while she talks a walk along the beach.
‘I have always had a good set routine. Having worked remotely from the age of 19, I actively chose to be diligent and adopt healthy habits from the get-go,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I usually get up around 6/7am. I eat a good breakfast and go for a walk on the beach, or through the city, and listen to an empowering or educational audiobook or podcast.
‘I genuinely believe what you surround yourself with shapes your mood. And I never read news headlines first thing in the morning.’
Try a morning workout
Experts also advise exercising when you can.
Abbas says: ‘Whether it is in the morning, evening or on your lunch break, exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and it also stimulates the production of endorphins and mood-boosting hormones, which will help you to feel better and more motivated for work and tackling anxiety.’
Phil explains that the morning is the most beneficial time of day to squeeze in a session.
‘Not only will you feel energised for the day ahead, but your hard work will reward you with a release of feel-good chemicals that will help you feel free of stress,’ he says.
‘Plus, getting into a morning workout routine is an excellent bookend for your day, helping reinforce your body clock as you get used to training early.
‘You’ll also be able to sleep better at night, too.’
Be mindful of diet
Simone Thomas, the founder of her own wellness company, says that diet is the key to a happy morning.
‘Eat well, and your day will go well,’ she says. ‘Consuming a balanced diet full of foods will ensure your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling energised.
‘Try to avoid foods high in saturated fat first thing as this causes a diversion of blood and oxygenates your digestive system and away from your vital organs, which can also cause fatigue and a bad mood.
‘The gut needs diversity, so make sure you mix up what you have first thing in the morning. Try smoothies, cooked breakfasts or pre-made overnight oats.’
Start work with something easy
Phil suggests ticking off one of your easiest tasks straight away once you get to work in the morning.
‘It will give you a sense of accomplishment and build that can-do attitude you need to be extra productive through your working day,’ he explains.
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