Mel Robbins says don’t hit snooze, hide your phone the night before and hop out of bed after a 5 second call to arms. 5-4-3-2-1 UP and GO! You don’t have to take on the world or March on high knees to the bathroom. You just have to get vertical and start.
Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, rises at 4:30, walks his dogs and does a workout before his first cup of coffee (which he makes using a French Press if you were curious.)
My husband can jump straight out of bed and engage in coherent, pleasant conversation.
My in-her-70s mom packed her house for her move between 3 and 6 am. They epitomize that classic army commercial about getting more done before we wake up than we do all day.
Then there’s the rest of us. I used to either finish worrying about everything I couldn’t control at 11pm and hit my first REM sleep cycle at midnight, or drink enough wine to tuck those fears away until the morning. Neither of those tactics were leading me into a restful slumber or a productive morning routine.
But I am here to tell you that you can change anything if you want it badly enough.
I wanted to be a morning person desperately. I possessed genuine envy for those who rise before the sun so they can do things for themselves before they start doing them for others.
While I may never be a sunrise problem solver, I have managed to shift my 3am anxiety wake ups and a finally-out-of-bed time of 9am to a 6:30 alarm that I often beat when the sun peeks through the curtains to say, “Heyyyyyy! I see that one eye cracked. Let’s do this!”
The secrets to a successful calm morning? Small action steps, zero alcohol, and the Morning Power Hour.
Let’s break those down into more detail.
Small action steps create big change.
I certainly didn’t get to a 6:30 wake up overnight. It took practice, determination and a morning that I look forward to having to make that happen.
First, I cut the alcohol which meant better sleep. Second, I started to move more – walking outside, practicing yoga, lifting dumbbells at home, playing pickleball. Movement is non-negotiable self-care and there’s a reason for that. It makes us stronger mentally and physically. It releases stress, tension and angst. and, it’s also a key to better sleep. Third, I know that when I wake up I will no longer give those first moments to work or to social media, i.e. other people’s demands and expectations of me.
Snooze the Alcohol for Great Sleep
Since alcohol makes us sleepy after the initial “upper” effects wear off it seems logical that a couple of drinks will calm you down and make for a restful slumber. But the exact opposite is what actually happens.
Drinking depresses the nervous system so after multiple drinks you’ll eventually fall asleep. But as the hours tick on, your body’s main focus is on metabolizing and eliminating the alcohol during the night, and this overcompensation will lead to sleep disruption. Put simply, after your body has metabolized some of the alcohol it releases an excitatory neurotransmitter of your nervous system. This will steal your slumber and put you in an agitated, uncalm state.
You know how you wake up every night at 3 a.m. in a panic after a few drinks the night before and can’t get back to sleep? Yeah that’s the alcohol wearing off.
What do you get when you add all of that up? Your sleep is sabotaged and you will wake up feeling tired, groggy, and restless. This, in turn, can lead you to use stimulants like caffeine to stay awake and alert during the day. If you use them too much, you will have trouble sleeping that night. Pour a glass to relax, then another and it keeps taking more to get the effect.
The Problem With Drinking To Sleep
So now you know that when you drink alcohol, sleep quality is not great. And it doesn’t take long to build up a tolerance to it so you need to drink more over time to reach that misleading state of calm.
This is dangerous because it increases your chances of becoming alcohol dependent.
Alcohol might seem like a decent solution in the short term, but it can have terrible long-term consequences. The Sleep Foundation found that alcohol can decrease sleep quality by 9.3% with one serving, and as much as 39.2% with more than two.
Alcohol was the major culprit in my getting up late and having a lousy night’s sleep. But luckily, when you know better you can do better.
Create Your own Morning Power Hour
The absolute best part of the day is the early morning. The night owl in me would have once vehemently disagreed,
but having been on both sides of the fence, I can attest that taking the first part of the day to set yourself up for the rest of it is truly a game changer.
Because, the more you can take control of the beginning, the better your odds of having a successful middle and end.
Having a routine in place, or even a basic outline of one, will get you to start checking off the REAL self-care boxes before your start checking your email and to do lists. I call this early me-time the Morning Power Hour. Don’t panic about the hour part. This is the goal, but you can start off with 20 or 30. You make all the rules here.
I first learned of this concept years ago while listening to self-help guru and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins’ CD collection. (This is a window into how long I’ve been self-helping.) Robbins sheds light on how do the most successful people start their day by setting up an “Hour of Power” or if you don’t quite have the time for that yet, “30 Minutes to Thrive,” or “Fifteen Minutes to Fulfillment.”
This is the time in the morning that you will take fully for yourself to engage in first-hour rituals before hopping all over the powerful little computer that goes everywhere with us. You will most likely use it for this personal time, but I recommend doing the non-phone things first and then separating the apps you use during this time onto their own page or folder.
Tony and I suggest incorporating these things into the Power Time: Hydration, Light exercise, Motivational incantations (you can do this in your morning meditation and prayer), Visualizing everything in your life that you are grateful for and after that visualize “everything you want in your life as if you had it today.”
I do actually write “AM Power” in my planner each day to acknowledge it’s importance and make sure it happens. My AM Power Time consists of five to ten things that set my course for the day. But most importantly, this is my time to fully give to myself before I have to give myself to the world.
When my eyes open, I do three things: gratitude, mediation, stretching. Then the bathroom, a tongue scrape, a “hey girl” in the mirror, lemon and salt or electrolyte water, then 20 wall pushups and/or a quick unroll of the yoga mat for 3 classic poses looking out the window-sun salutation, tree, warrior. As my favorite yoga teacher says, “Roll out your mat, lay down on it. There, you have a yoga practice.”
It’s really important to get sunlight on your skin and in your peripheral vision within the first few hours of the day. A morning walk is absolutely ideal. Give yourself 20 minutes of this bliss. Don’t wear sunglasses and expose some skin to get the vitamin D. This will suppress your cortisol and activate your melatonin. It will invigorate you and start getting you ready for a good night’s sleep. Our hormones regulate everything and getting to know how to help them do that is very important. The body is an incredible machine. It’s mind-blowing how it was created and how it will work for you if you give it the fuel and attention it needs.
If it’s cold outside, or if you have your outside walk or exercise scheduled for later in the day, try to give yourself at least five minutes outside. Grab your coffee and head out to the porch. Take some deep breaths, feel the warmth of the sun and be in gratitude for these quiet minutes you have for yourself. It’s the perfect time for a quick guided meditation on Insight Timer, or your alone time with God. You don’t have to get dressed, just throw on a coat and go do it.
More Power to You
You create this time, that’s the beauty of it. My routine looks something like this these days:
Water, Gratitude, Stretching, Mediation (Soul Space App)
Warm lemon and salt or electrolyte water.
20 wall pushups and/or a quick unroll of the yoga mat for 3 classic poses looking out the window-sun salutation, tree, warrior.
Outside Time. Stay quiet or listen to and Insight Timer Mediation, 7 Good Minutes podcast, Audible Book or Glorify App for Passage, Devotion, Reflection
Creativity / Quiet time. For me, this means writing. This could be your time to read, journal, meet with God, do more yoga, insert yours here.
Make the bed.
Start your day. You set your times. Insert your meals. I don’t like to worry about food right out the gate so I start with a
protein shake (see my favorites here) or a plant or Greek yogurt bowl mixed with protein powder, chia seeds, hemp hearts and berries.
I don’t put pressure on myself to ‘perform’ my morning routine and on days when I need sleep I sleep in, but the practice and the process of mornings makes me feel like I have so much more time in my life …
You have to adjust your routines for what works for you. I still have a goal of working out first thing in the morning, but as of year 52 that has not happened unless I can get on a pickleball court at 7am.
I stick to the Power morning though, and if I can’t get the exercise in mid morning, I will later in the day. REMEMBER, this is NOT a half hour of cardio and a body pump class. This is walking-outside, at the mall, on a treadmill, practicing yoga on youtube, swimming laps, playing pickleball, doing tai chi, taking a barre, spin or stretch and flex class. Movement is for you and from you. It’s a celebration of all your body has done and can do for you, and whatever you do for movement should be a reminder of that.
Bonus: Habit Stacking
Take something you already do and add in something else at the same time to increase your productivity. Here are some examples.
You are already going to the bathroom, add three sun salutations and a few balance poses (tree is my favorite) if you have a window. Or do your gratitude and what’s going rights while in there.
Do your coconut pulling while you do your wall push ups, squats and poses.
While you are drinking your warm lemon and salt water, take your supplements with more water, pull out the ingredients for your breakfast, and make the coffee.
In closing, I want to say that my sleep is super important.
Some days, I don’t get all of this in, but I don’t beat myself up for it. Always do what you can and if 30 percent is all you can give and you gave all 30 percent, you gave your all.
Until next time, Midlife Magic Maker!