How to build a better morning: A zombie’s guide to loving your AMs

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MY MORNINGS SUCK. You see, I used to be a morning person. I used to wake up and crave the sound of sizzling bacon and eggs cooking. But then… something switched. I started losing an appetite in the morning. This doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it has been for me. Nearly fasting for the first 4-5 hours of my day has been catastrophic for my mood, my energy, and my productivity. Not good. After much frustration and many, many rushed and frantic mornings on a nearly empty stomach, I decided enough is enough. Instead, I thought, this is a good opportunity to do some detective work of my own and figure out what the heck is going on. Here are a few things I found to help my mental, physical, and emotional health in the mornings. If you wake up feeling like a million bucks, go ahead and disregard this, but maybe someone else out there has some pretty hard mornings like me.

1. It all goes back to gut health. After some trial and error I’ve discovered that sugar consumption is really messing with my hormones, specifically the ones responsible for sending and transmitting hunger signals and satiety signals to my brain. The result is that I wake up simultaneously hungry and without an appetite, which makes for many anxious and unhappy mornings. I cut out the nighttime sugar and instead stick to high protein snacks, healthy fats, and carbohydrates that are real food, not the processed stuff.

2. When the alarm goes off, I now must get out of bed, period, end of story. No matter how tired I am when I hear that alarm (or my cat meowing five minutes before it goes off, like clockwork…), I am so much less tired by the time my feet hit the ground. So as much as it pains me to say this…yes, actually getting out of bed DOES help immensely, rather than laying awake wondering how long I can put off reality. Dang it.

3. It’s best to let your cortisol levels rise naturally in the morning. One way to spike your cortisol levels through the roof in the morning is to stare at your phone or a television screen first thing in the morning, thereby also producing the stress of, well, basically all of humanity. Cortisol isn’t inherently bad, we just need it to function properly- we need it to rise steadily in the morning to get our day going, and for it to fall naturally at night to allow for restful sleep. So, it’s best to allow natural sunlight and light activity to gently raise cortisol levels in the morning.

4. I try not to do activities in the morning that I find to be diversion tactics from sitting in my own thoughts, like numbing myself with my phone, laptop, or tv (yes, this theme again). I noticed that I have a reflex to reach for media content when a question or problem pops in my brain as a way to avoid said question or problem. This little game ends up taking up enough of my morning that I get tricked into thinking I don’t have time to do things like prepare food in the kitchen or do some light housework… so then food doesn’t get prepared, chores don’t get done, and none of my questions get answered nor my problems solved! Lose-lose, lose-lose. So for now, I’m on a media embargo. I’m allowing my natural curiosity and innate compass to guide my mornings. I find I am more creative and a better problem-solver, and my brain is less foggy. I’m even putting on hold music and podcasts early in the AM too, but once I get the hang of being comfortable working through my thoughts without pressing the “Distract Me!” button I might start to introduce these things back into my morning routine.

I also want to note none of these things are for “self improvement,” initiatives to “find motivation” or even because I think everyone should eat breakfast (I don’t. Although everyone does have a Meal #1 in their day). These are just things that I have found help me feel more human-y in the morning, a time of day I have been struggling feeling human at all.

That’s all I got! Until next time,
Caitlin

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