A couple of years ago I heard a story of an herbalist describing her morning tea routine. This simple process was her opportunity each day to check-in and take a moment to give herself some love. After waking up, she would gaze at her shelves of herbs and check-in with her body and ask what it was needing that day. Using that information she would create a tea blend, and slowly drink her cup of tea as a mindful practice.
What I loved about this practice was that it had both structure and flow. While it was the same each day, in that she always had a cup of tea, it was different based on her needs. It’s an intuitive practice and a meditative one. It also shows that your morning routine doesn’t have to be complicated or long in order to be nourishing and supportive.
Create a buffet, not a routine
For years I believed that I needed to leap out of bed refreshed and with purpose. That I needed to get 50 things done before breakfast. That a successful person gets up with the sun and does the same thing every day. And, there are definitely some days when I do. There are some days when I wake up feeling so good, and so motivated that I can really jump start my whole day.
Since I’ve started cycle-syncing, I am interested to see if my morning energy levels have a monthly rhythm to them. Right now I’m in the experimental phase, so I don’t know yet. I also know that I am profoundly affected by the weather. If it’s a rainy morning, I can tell without even opening my eyes by how heavy my body feels. And in the winter I often suffer from Seasonal Depression, although getting sober has nearly cured me of that problem, (I intend to write a lot more about that!)
One thing that cycle syncing is teaching me is that as female-bodies folks, we are just not meant to be the same every single day. We have fluctuations - hormonal, mood, energy - and it’s important for our health to flow with them instead of fight against them. So how about if instead of a strict morning routine that is the same each day, we have more of a morning buffet, an array of practices to choose from, depending on how you’re feeling?
So, how do we create our morning buffet? We can start by asking ourselves a few questions.
Journaling prompts to help create your ideal morning
I love to journal when I’m working on a new problem in my life. If you’ve never journaled before, don’t worry, there’s no wrong way to do it. There is one rule though, you have to actually write them down! Just reading the questions and answering them in your mind won’t really have the same effect, sometimes the insights that come from journaling can be surprising.
First question: What is your current routine?
Be brutally honest. I know it might be hard to admit. And I know that you might not think you even have a routine. But, you do. Even if that routine is waking up late and rushing out the door. That’s a routine. What do you as soon as you open your eyes? What do you do next? Think it through, and write it all down, no matter what it is.
Next question: Why have a routine?
Take some time to really explore the answer to this question. What do you want your routine to do for you? This is so personal, and why it’s important that you not just adopt someone else's routine. For example, let’s say that you write that you want a routine to helps you stay organized. In that case, spending a leisurely hour doing deep breathing exercising and making green juice isn't going to do it! Get really clear on the WHY before you move on to the how.
Maybe you want a routine because you’ve found that waking up and looking at your phone is causing you to start your day stressed out. So you want to replace it with something but you’re not sure what. Ask yourself how you’d like to feel. You know how you don’t want to feel (stressed, anxious) but how do you want to feel?
And an important tip - your why will also help you stay motivated. For example, you are getting on your phone for a reason, what is it? Is it to feel connected? Is it because you’re afraid of missing something? Think about what purpose it’s serving and try to find a practice that will serve that same need.
Final question: What practices will help you achieve this?
Here is where you are going to go from point A - where you are now, to point B - your new routine. When I got clear on my why, the routine became clear too. I want to start my day getting in touch with my intuition, my higher self, and my creativity. I want to start my day off from a place of peace, gratitude, and purpose.
It took me getting really clear on these reasons for my routine to suddenly become easy. Now, rather than just ticking boxes, or having a claustrophobic schedule (6am water with lemon, make coffee, journal for 10 minutes, meditate, exercise, breakfast, shower etc...) I've instead created a short list of practices that I can choose from that I know will support my intention and shift my energy in the right direction.
Again, this is totally personal! My goals may not have any meaning to you. For example, maybe you’re just tired of leaving the house having forgotten to brush your teeth and can’t ever find your keys (I’ve been there). So you want to create a simple routine to make sure you can feel prepared and organized. Awesome, what’s it going to take to get you there?
Create your buffet menu
OK - now we come up with our options. I realized that my goal of feeling peaceful and full of purpose was easily achieved some days and other days felt impossible. So I need to use my intuition in the morning to decide what I need.
For example, the other morning, I woke up feeling glum, it was raining outside, and I didn't feel particularly motivated. I knew I would need to shift my energy up. Rather than forcing myself to do something that required a lot of energy, I honored where I was and curled up with a cup of tea and a spiritual text, one chosen specifically because it was upbeat and inspiring. Within 15 minutes, I had suddenly come up with a new idea for a class, and was writing away. I followed that momentum to do some gentle yoga and completed my morning routine feeling peaceful, purposeful, and inspired.
On another day I woke up full of energy and couldn't sit still. I used that energy to spend some time cleaning my space, did a HIIT workout, showered, and went outside to do my journaling. I'd already woken up purposeful and inspired, so I just rode that wave to an even higher place.
Having an intentional list of practices rather than a strict scheduled routine that’s exactly the same every day, has really helped me. I have four things to choose from before I shower and get ready for work: read, journal, meditate, and exercise. I can do any number or combination of them. I also know that I don't want to get on any kind of screen until I've done one or all of these things.
But, before I start, I check in with myself to see what I am needing that morning. For example, if I am feeling especially upset or disorganized, I may spend the entire hour journaling. Or, if on the rare occasion I wake up fully energized like I did today, I may only exercise, meditate and then get going, following my energy where it takes me!
My advice? Keep it simple. Especially if you don’t have any sort of routine yet, just start with one thing. But no matter what, be sure to incorporate a check-in to ask yourself how you’re feeling and what you need.