“Today is a new day. Even if you were wrong yesterday, you can get it right today”
Starting the day off in the right way plays a key role in ensuring the day ahead is going to be a good one.
There’s nothing worse than starting off slow and sluggish with little motivation to get much done. If you do, it is likely to be a major factor in feeling anxious and panicked later on.
If you often wake up feeling low, anxious and worried about what you will be facing in the day ahead then getting those first couple of hours right can make all the difference in improving your mood and outlook.
It’s not easy making the right choices when you’re feeling this way, but with a little determination and some knowhow you can ensure you don’t have to chalk it down as ‘just another bad day living with anxiety’.
The most important aspect here is getting yourself in a positive mental mindset.
However, we will not be doing any pointless chanting, repeating of mantras or crazy smiling at yourself in the mirror for 2 minutes type crap.
What we will be looking at is much more straightforward and most importantly, effective.
The aim is simple, to do as many of these things as you can, no matter how you are feeling. To beat anxiety you have to not care if you’re going to feel anxious in the first place.
You have to tell yourself you’re going to do what is required despite the way you feel, because giving up is giving in.
It takes time and patience and it’s not all going to just click into place in the first few days. But get your morning routine right and you’ll be taking huge strides in the right direction.
As I always say, it’s all about choice. The choice to do the right things to help you recover from anxiety and panic, or the choice to keep going as you are and in all likelihood probably not………..
So let’s get to it!
1) Start right the night before
A good day follows a good night’s sleep and you only get that if you plan the night before. This should involve:
- Getting to bed early – there really is no need to still be up watching a re-run of a film you’ve seen 3 times before.
- Avoiding blue light for 90 minutes before bed – stay away from laptop, TVs, mobile phones and tablets. The blue light they emit has recently been linked with poor sleep quality due to light at this end of the spectrum suppressing the production of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. To help with melatonin production I like to use 5-HTP.
- Avoid anything over stimulating before bed time – this includes caffeine, playing video games and watching fast paced/tense tv or films.
- Stay away from the booze – alcohol and anxiety don’t generally mix well, drink can also lead to poor quality sleep.
- Read a book in bed – don’t try and fall asleep the minute you are in bed, instead read for 30 minutes and you’ll slowly start to feel your eyelids getting heavy. Using a kindle is fine as even the lit ones use a non blue back light which does not shine in your face.
2) Use an intelligent alarm clock
There are many excellent alarm clocks now available which wake you up slowly by gently increasing the light they emit or by calculating when you are in the lightest part of your sleep cycle and waking you up at that point. This helps prevent you waking up feeling groggy and anxious.
I use the Sleep Cycle App, which is available for most smartphones. It not only makes sure you are not woken up when in a deep sleep but you can also view detailed information on the quality of your sleep. It does this by analysing the noise and movement you make while in bed. You can get it here: Apple or Android.
3) Stay off social media – at least for a few hours
A recent study suggested that 79% of people check their smartphone within 15 minutes of waking up. With Facebook being the 3rd favourite app (after the browser and email) it seems many people have to see what their friends are up to before they even get their own day started.
This, to me is, crazy. Who the hell cares what they’re up to at 7.30 in the morning?
By doing this and seeing what other people are up to before you even get out of bed can only set your day off on the wrong foot. Facebook is known to make people feel down and depressed by seeing what an ‘amazing time’ all their friends are having or about to have. Most of it is lies anyway, people just self editing their lives, showing their best and trying to make you jealous of how good their life is going.
My honest advice is to stay away from it completely. If you must have to check, leave it until later, once you’ve got you sorted first. Your day is about you and it’s more important that you get your day started right than reading an endless list of pointless updates.
4) Have a good breakfast
By this I do not mean a big fry up or a pile of pancakes with maple syrup. Breakfast only needs to be a small meal to get you going, but it’s the quality not quantity of the food you eat that’s the key.
It’s important to eat foods which will help your body and brain operate at peak condition. Stay way from eating a lot of heavy carbs which are just going to make you feel slow and lethargic a few hours later.
2 of my favourites are:
- Smoked salmon and scrabbled eggs – if I know I’m going to need extra energy I have this on top of a slice of wholemeal bread.
- Fruit smoothie with steel cut oats – berries are great for this, especially blue berries which help improve brain function. I also add pineapple for taste and half an avocado to make it nice and creamy.
Taking just 5 or 10 minutes at the beginning of your day to clear your mind and relax your thoughts is very important. You do not need to be an expert in meditation, there are plenty of websites which give you the basics.
It can take a few attempts to get it right and feel the benefits, so don’t just give up after a couple of goes. Meditation can be very helpful if you’re someone who frequently wakes up feeling anxious.
6) Making a to-do list
It’s an excellent habit to get into and can be written either the night before or first thing when you wake up. If you feel having 15 points to get through can be a little overwhelming just start with 3 or 4 things to get you going in the morning.
This helps you focus on what you need to do, rather than on the thoughts and sensations you may be having. Getting stuck straight into your tasks is a great way to help you set the day up right.
Once you’ve completed a few things and marked them off you’ll feel the reward of satisfaction from getting things done. You’ll probably want to then add more items to the list and your motivation to keep busy and productive will only grow.
For me this is one of the best ways to start your day. Exercise wakes you up, focuses your attention and keeps your mind free from worry. Afterwards you just feel better and more able to face the day ahead. To find out more about why this is and why it’s so important I recommend you read build your body, build your mind.
The best morning exercises are:
- Running – no speed walking, get those legs moving. You only need to go for 20-30 minutes if you are pushing yourself hard enough.
- Body weight or calisthenic exercises at home – including squats, sit-ups, press-ups with small rest periods in between.
- Weights at the gym – lift heavy with good form, focus for 40 minutes and get out of there ready for the rest of the day.
8) Dress for success
Don’t believe all the nonsense about ‘all that matters is what’s on the inside’. If you see a tramp on the street, without even knowing it, it’s likely that your body language will react in a negative way. He might actually be a really nice guy, but that first impression is subconsciously made and it’s very hard to shake.
People will make the exact same judgments about you, whether they should or not. It’s ingrained, we can’t help it. You’ll notice their body language and the way they speak to you and it won’t do anything for your self esteem and confidence.
I work from home, but I make sure I’m in a clean and ironed shirt and trousers everyday. What does it say about myself if I’m still happy to be sat in my dressing gown at two in the afternoon?
So after your exercise get showered and dress like a winner. It will help set up that positive mindset and you’ll notice how much better people react to you when they can see you’re someone who takes pride and care in their appearance. A compliment or two from your friends or peers can go a long way too.
9) Only live for today
Maybe the most important one in the whole list. By learning how to live day by day you can reduce the pressure, stress and worry you feel, immensely. This can have a huge impact on your anxiety and feelings of panic.
All you need to focus on is doing your best for the day at hand, those 16-18 hours ahead before you sleep again. Nothing more, nothing less.
When you view your day this way things seem so much more manageable. You’ll begin to worry less about the future because you understand that you can only affect today.
It will help you achieve more, become more productive and help eliminate procrastination. This leads to stronger feelings of self-worth, belief in yourself and a calmer mind.
10) Listen to uplifting and motivational music
Everyone knows the effect music can have on their moods. There’s nothing quite like listening to one of your favourite songs to put a big smile on your face.
Some songs not only improve your mood but also help give you that determination and courage to make the right choices and not just let yourself succumb to another day of anxiety.
By waking up, putting some music on and getting into the right frame of mind you’re going to greatly increase your chances of doing the other things in this list.
It will help you make the right decisions, and that, my friends is what it’s all about.
EDIT: To see how I use a combination of these to start the day right, check out my article on The Ultimate Morning Routine.
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