If, like me, you consider yourself to be a night owl, you’ll understand the perils of early mornings all too well. When you wake up in the morning and pick up your phone to scroll through Instagram only to see how all of the morning people out there have already done a full workout, made fancy porridge, curled their hair and applied their makeup, the pang of guilt can make for quite a negative start to the day.
However, after years and years of pushing my snooze button to the limit and giving myself the 34 minutes of getting-ready time that I know I need, I’m frankly fed up of starting my day off in a flap. Consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic Elena Touroni explains, “If you have a rushed morning, your stress levels are likely to be heightened by the time you start working. This is likely to impact concentration levels, productivity and the quality of your work.”
So to help bring some structure (and zen) to my life, I asked some of the top experts in the business to outline the morning rituals worth considering for a more productive day. Including a thorough skincare regimen and a good old-fashioned stretch, this is the perfect way to start your day, according to the experts.
Okay, this is something we can all definitely do. Nothing gets me feeling productive quite like a good list. Sticking to said list is a whole other situation. However, it seems that any downfalls could be a result of when you sit down to write it. Psychologist and author of The Little Book of Self Care, Suzy Reading, explains, “A smooth morning starts the night before. Lay out your clothes and make a to-do list that can wait for you until the morning. Commit it to paper so it doesn’t circle about in your brain.”
When it comes to actually opening your eyes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed the minute your brain kicks into gear. The key to a calm start, however, is to overpower the stress. “When you wake, before you start scrolling or let your mind return to your to-do list, think of one thing in your day that you are looking forward to, even if it is sliding back into sheets at the end of it! Feel the energy and optimism this brings. Before you think about hopping out of bed, close your eyes and immerse yourself in your senses. Feel your body cradled by your bed and the comfort of being wrapped up in your covers,” says Reading.
To further minimise the risk of a stressful start, it’s important to reassess the way in which you’re waking up. Michael James Wong, sleep and relax ambassador of Rituals and founder of Just Breathe, advises, “Get yourself a kind alarm clock. Starting the day with a blaring noise isn’t a great way to begin the morning. No one likes the feeling of rushing and urgency before you need to leave.” I’m loving my recently purchased Lumie light, which wakes you up gently by mimicking a natural sunrise.
Your morning skincare routine might feel like yet another thing to add to your stress-inducing list of things to do, but it turns out allowing yourself the time to enjoy it could make all the difference. “Start the day with a loving touch and you’ll get the oxytocin circulating—a calming, feel-good hormone. Our beauty regimen not only helps us feel put-together but changes our brain chemistry,” says Reading.
So what’s the trick? “Rather than slapping it on, tenderly apply your moisturiser, body lotion or makeup. Imbue this action with real care and self-compassion, reminding yourself that you can be your own safe place too,” she says.
If you don’t consider yourself to be a breakfast person, listen up. Whether you work from a desk, your sofa or are up on your feet all day, the benefits of a nutritious breakfast go far beyond the physical. “Nutrition feeds your mood and mental clarity just as much as your body,” says Reading. “Aim for a good source of protein. Think of it as brain food. Get some good nutrients in with fresh, whole foods. You can’t beat eggs, avocado and a wholemeal carb for sustained energy,” she adds.
And the good news is no one is suggesting you give up your morning coffee or tea. However, it might be worth assessing exactly when you’re consuming it. “Get your caffeine ritual in before noon. Caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours, so even if you think it doesn’t affect your ability to get to sleep, it is impacting the quality,” advises Reading.
If you wake up and insist on lying in bed for a further half an hour, waiting for your mind to come around, it turns out you’re doing it all backward. "Humans are one of the only species that don’t wake up and immediately have a stretch and move about. We have become sedentary, and so, we must remember to move in the morning,” warns Wong.
The best way to get moving in the a.m.? Reading advises turning your morning stretch into a ritual. “Stand firmly in your grounding and take a deep breath in through your nose, raising your arms outward and up above your head. Look up to your hands and feel this lift your mood. As you breathe out through your nose, slowly lower your arms back down and look forward with a sense of focus,” she says. “Light a candle or spritz some room spray for extra power. Scent can be such a simple way to transform your mood.”
Finding the time to actually get out of the house before you start the day can be tricky for some currently, but experts warn it is not a ritual to be overlooked. "Get some sunlight and fresh air early in your day. Effortlessly change the vibe in an instant with your own music playlist. Letting light in and surrounding yourself with nature can help boost your circadian rhythms,” says Reading.