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Morning Routines: Give Yourself a Break Before the Chaos Creeps In

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Every month there is a different CEO quoted in some new viral article about the importance of morning routines. They usually proclaim how their productivity and focus is completely enhanced by these routines and some even claim that their success has a direct correlation to said routine. Now I am all about productivity, and heck, I am all about success, but I have always been skeptical. I am someone who thrives under pressure. The more I have on my plate, the better, much to the chagrin of many friends, family members, and my adorable dog. That being said, in the last few months, I have felt a strong desire to learn to slow down and refocus a bit. The chance to breathe before the chaos creeps in. You feel me?

Spawned by this desire to slow down and be more purposeful, I have developed a strong morning routine that I crave on a daily basis. Believe me, my routine is far from perfect (as I will explore below), but I have learned a lot about myself and about the general importance of developing a routine for yourself.

First of all, the science behind the morning routine. This is actually the piece of information that convinced me to try it. Besides my creativity, I often have a very analytical and truth-seeking brain. I didn’t understand the importance of a routine until I read about this fact: morning routines, and routines in general, are easier for a brain to process because they act like habits. Habits are so easy when they become habitual because your brain literally goes into a resting state when you are performing that habit. Basically your brain is allowed to switch off for the two and a half minutes when you are brushing your teeth, because your body takes over.

The same thing happens when you have a morning routine. When you repeat the same developed habits every morning, it allows your brain to switch off and operate on autopilot. That made complete sense to me. After all, they say that the people with the busiest schedule should learn to meditate. That meditation is the brain switching off for a short period of time, and we all deserve a break, especially our precious brain.

After learning this important fact, my logical brain understood the importance of developing a routine, and I promised myself to devote my mornings to “me time.” When I am traveling or with other people, my morning routine may only consist of a few minutes with my eyes closed thinking about my intentions for the day. However, when I am able to devote ample time to my routine it goes something like this:  wake up (don’t look at phone!), boil water in my tea kettle while prepping the French press, go outside, let coffee steep, turn on my mini fountain, light incense, pull a card, meditate, drink coffee, set my intentions for the day, take my dog for a walk, go to the gym, and eat a solid breakfast. Epic, right? If I actually complete all those steps (including the gym) the routine can take around 2.5 hours, but here’s the thing, those hours are 100% mine. And I think this is the most important part of the routine, at least for me: giving myself the gift of time.

I know you might be reading this and thinking that there is no way that you have that much time for yourself. Believe me, I understand. While I am writing this, I am so busy this week that I barely have time to shower let alone make myself breakfast or devote an hour to the gym, but the incredible thing is that the feeling of that morning routine is still in my body. When I am feeling stressed, I can close my eyes and transport myself back to my little haven at home. I can feel the sun on my skin and hear the trickling of the water fountain. Even when I don’t have the time, I can still ground myself in the memory of the routine, and I know in my heart that even that memory helps me be more grounded and focused.

I encourage you to start building a morning routine for yourself. It can be 5 min, 30 min, an hour. However much time you want to give yourself to start your day. The time doesn’t really matter, nor does the activity. All that matters is that you are giving yourself that gift of time and allowing yourself to repeat something every morning. Again, that repetition allows your brain to operate on autopilot and you have no idea what ideas or thoughts might come up when you give your brain some space. Believe me, I am far from perfect, but in this world filled with stress and uncertainty, I know that the only thing I can truly count on is myself, and gifting myself with time and connection every morning before the chaos creeps in.

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an award-winning actor, producer, and founder of “More Than You See”, a non profit organization dedicated to sharing stories and resources surrounding the daily struggles of mental health. Recent projects include “Here Awhile” starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), and “Last Three Days” starring Robert Palmer Watkins (General Hospital). Deborah is also a regular contributing staff writer for the entertainment website “Ms. In The Biz”.