My Morning Ritual Changed My Quarantine
You can benefit from a morning routine to increase happiness, productivity, and confidence.
My timing seemed impeccable. On March 15th, 2020, I worked my last shift as assistant manager at a not-to-be-named breakfast chain known for their “fluffy” pancakes.
The looming pandemic was the farthest thing from a reason when I put in my two-week notice on March 1st. Due to anti-climatic disciplinary meetings with my general manager and his boss, in response to my growing inability to perform my duties as a manager and be a full-time college student, I had two delightful choices.
I could either quit school and work harder than I was willing to, at a job I loathed, or quit my job and attend school full-time, supported in part by my husband’s income.
I chose the latter.
As I handed over my key ring choked with overused keys on that last Sunday, I was more confident than ever in my decision. The week before, the first cases had started to materialize in my city. Being diagnosed with OCD and a self-described germaphobe, I was prepared to stay inside, lock the door, stock up on hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, and no, not toilet paper, (I already had six months worth anyway).
The first days of my state’s stay-at-home order were petrifying. I felt trapped. My car was out of gas, the air in the tires was low, and the reusable masks I ordered off of Etsy had yet to come in. Feeling suffocated by the stuffy air of our townhouse, I had to do something. So, I started to exercise. I walked loops around our neighborhood, crossing the street every time I got within fifty feet of another pedestrian.
Soon enough, my morning walk routine was born. And the previously occasional yoga, meditation, and mindfulness followed suit. Simply by spending the first hour and a half of my day focusing on my breath, body, mind, spirituality, and worries, I have effectively reduced my anxiety to embers, increased the quality of my sleep, completely erased my panic attacks, and enabled myself to feel free, relaxed and in control, even when I am stuck in a 980sqft condo with my husband for days at a time.
As the cases have fluctuated in my area from low to high and then plateaued, evening off, I now feel cautiously safe running through drive-thrus to pick up takeout or medicine.
Sometimes, I even venture out of my house for hours at a time, visiting family in safe ways, which would have been out of the question in my former way of life.
Even if you don’t suffer from OCD, anxiety, or a general fear of the entire coronavirus family, you can still benefit from a morning routine to increase happiness, productivity, and confidence. Read below as I break down my usual morning rituals:
First things first. Undoubtedly, I can’t start my day until I wake up. I prefer to do this without an alarm. I find that allowing myself the luxury of unrestricted and undisturbed sleep is essential to feeling rested, energized, and ready to conquer the day.
I tend to get about eight to nine hours each night. My husband slumbers at about ten. Everyone is different.
Water The Plants
Now, this is something that is probably second nature to so many of us, as embedded in our days as feeding the dog or opening the blinds.
But as I don’t currently have pets or children (maybe after I graduate on both), I find that watering and caring for plants as one of the first parts of my day forces me to hold myself accountable and realize that I am more responsible than I often think.
As a bonus, hosing down the hydrangeas in the early morning sun, allows me a quick few minutes to enjoy the outdoors before it gets hot, sticky, and humid.
After my flowers and fern are nicely moistened, I run back upstairs and kneel. Let me preface this by stating that I am not religious and that I’m only spiritual.
As such, my spiritual practices are broad and vague enough to be incorporated into anyone’s life, no matter what religion you may or may not observe.
Through prayer, I have discovered that even if I am unsure exactly what I am praying to or if anyone or thing is even listening, that the benefits remain.
No matter if I am praying to a wall, or if an all-knowing force is considering every one of my whispered requests, I always leave the few minutes I spend bent before the futon in my spare bedroom, hands clasped together, feeling grateful.
By praying each morning, I recall everything I enjoy that so many do not, such as good health, a safe home, and a warm bed. It also helps me to think that there’s a possibility to someone wiser than myself is shouldering my struggles.
If prayer is something you are entirely opposed to, alternately, you could substitute it for a gratitude list, or short journal entries, detailing what you are glad you have, and what currently concerns you.
Meditation can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For me, meditation is sitting quietly for five to ten minutes, eyes closed, hands open, and actively observing my breath, as well as myself.
Through the short sessions of this practice that seem to fly by before I know it, I can better understand how I feel at the moment, what I am most concerned about, if I am in pain or sore anywhere, and finally feel more focused on my upcoming tasks.
Simply closing the eyes and not moving for a few minutes at a time is harder than it initially seems, especially when you’re out of practice. But practice makes perfect. If you are struggling with meditation and have yet to reap the many benefits of increased mindfulness, stick with it! I promise it gets easier.
One minute of meditation one day becomes two the next, five the day after, and so on. There are many apps that can help with guided meditations, timers, and daily streaks. Also, if you don’t like closing your eyes, you can leave them open.
For me, grounding myself and taking the time to connect and know what’s going on inside my head, as cliche as it might sound, is crucial for my creativity.
Obviously, this is something that under normal circumstances, without a devastating death count and spreading cases, could be enjoyed in a class or gym setting.
But as in my state, gyms are still closed, not that I would feel safe going right now anyway, I use youtube videos.
If you don’t jive with one instructor, there’s always another in the beautifully massive reach of youtube and the internet as a whole. No matter which yogi I choose, or which video, in particular, each morning, I aim to complete roughly 10–25 minutes of yoga.
Forcing myself to follow the sometimes borderline insane poses and exercises being suggested through my iPad speakers, alleviates much of the tension and tightness I feel when I first wake up. A caveat of practicing alone is when I fall or lose my balance, trying to do a stretch, not even a cat would attempt, there is no one around to notice.
For those who cannot or choose not to engage in yoga, simple stretching at your own pace can suffice.
Much like with meditation, yoga takes time and practice. At first, it will be difficult, but after a steady routine of daily execution, you will be much more flexible, less sore, and the blood pumping through your inverted body will almost feel relaxing!
After yoga, I eat one small container of unsweetened applesauce. I would prefer to eat a more substantial breakfast, but just like my mother, my stomach does not digest food well until around lunchtime. The key idea here is to nourish yourself mindfully, with foods that are easy to digest, low in sugar, and that promote energy.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, my daily walk is key to my morning ritual success and my day overall. During this pandemic, it has allowed me to have some alone time to think and get out of the house. Along my loop, the gears in my mind start to rotate, producing story ideas, poems, marketing ideas, and publication goals.
Even though by this time it has become much more humid and the sun is almost always smoldering overhead, it takes me less than a half-hour, and I know a relaxing shower awaits me at home.
It doesn’t matter how much you exercise, or if instead of a walk you prefer a run. What matters here is that you get outside, see the trees and the bees, wave at a few neighbors, and get the heart pumping.
Walking outside each day is the reason behind the entire books I have written, coming up with the plots along the paved streets of my neighborhood. When I come back, I find that not only am I sweaty and thirsty, but I am also more focused on my writing, school, and getting things done. Plus, all that exercise makes you feel happier. Sometimes, I almost feel giddy when I walk back in the door.
Starting My Day
Now that we are rested, grateful, grounded, relaxed, focused, and energized, it is time to get to work. After a small glass or two of water and a hot shower, I get dressed and go about my day as usual.
By deliberately channeling my restlessness from anxiety and worry into focus through prayer, meditation, yoga, and exercise, I have cultivated a self-confidence and awareness in myself and abilities that I previously thought was impossible.
No matter who you are or what your daily life looks like, it is imperative that you start each morning fully aware of how you feel, why you feel it, and what your goals are, both far away and closes.
Your mind and bodywork tirelessly each and every second to provide the support and function you need, give back to them by dedicating however much time you choose each day to recognize all that they do. As I have said, the progress takes time, but as long as you put in the time and effort, the results will be life-changing.