Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes: 5 Strategies for a More Efficient and Less Anxious Life (Part Five)

This post is part of a five-part series dedicated to Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

Four anxiety-ridding strategies are already yours, paving the way for a smooth ride on a pothole-free roadway. Maybe. No matter how much you work on reducing stress and filling in your anxiety potholes throughout your day, you can screw it all up when you first wake up in the morning if you do so with trepidation, dread, or other negative emotions. That’s where our fifth and final topic comes in.

Your Power Hour: How an Hour in the Morning Can Help Squash your Anxiety

How many times have you awoke in frenzy, dashed out of bed only to stub your toe, spill your coffee, slip in the shower, end up late for work and then get a bloody nose during your very first corporate presentation.

Even once is one time too many.

Perhaps not every mishap has happened to you all in one morning, or maybe ever, but even the frenzied dash out of bed can ensure your day just gets crazier from there. Your first moments of the day set the tone for the remainder of the day. Waking up with frenzy and fear can easily snowball into a day full of anxiety potholes so deep you may fall in and disappear forever.

No morning has to start that way. No morning ever has to start that way when you instead use your first hour upon waking as your personal power hour. Your power hour is the secret little time you set aside to enjoy your favorite morning ritual. Don’t have a ritual? Well, let’s get you one!

Why you want a morning ritual

A morning ritual can be something as simple as sipping green tea by the widow or as complicated as a nine-part gym workout using weights, machines, the pool and the running track. The goal of the ritual is to set you up to feel good and be productive all day, and to become a habit that you can’t wake up without.

Top reasons to create a morning ritual

It sets the tone for your day. Mindset rules the roost when it comes to how effective we can be, notes Accidental Creative founder Todd Henry. Ensuring your mindset is in a positive place when you start the day is a great way to ensure that positivity sticks around. He adds:

It is the inhalation before a day of frenetic exhale. While many of us spend our days in uncertainty, trying to determine the right course of action in our work, this simple ritual allows us to reach a place of clarity about our expectations, our hopes, and our tactical plans.

It kills off early-morning panic. You know the panic. It’s that nauseating, rapid-heart feeling you get the instant you open your eyes and your brain becomes packed with things to do, places to go, people to see and all types of other garbage before your feet even hit the floor. Writer and editor Jon Spayde notes early-morning panic is a massive source of stress but you can kill it off with your ritual. Your ritual can send the panic packing and out the door. 

It gives you a reason to get out of bed. The thought of your hour-long to commute to work jammed in rush-hour traffic followed by a seat at an overloaded desk might not work for a prompt to go bounding out of your snuggly quilt. But the thought of your morning ritual can be. Says writer Seth Simonds:

Once you’ve found the right mix of action and stillness, sound and silence that gets your day off to a perfect start you’ll never want to miss out on your ritual. 

It’s all about you. Your ritual is your special time, set specifically aside, just for you, Simonds says. Don’t let anyone interrupt it. Don’t let anyone steal it away. Use it to center yourself and open your mind and heart to the day. You can share the time with others, or you may have to if you live in a bustling household. But don’t let your specific ritual go undone. You owe it to yourself to perform it.

How to start one

By now you should be convinced a morning ritual is where it’s at. Once your boss, friends, coworkers, spouse, kids and others see how much kinder, focused, productive and calmer you are, they’ll be convinced it’s where it’s at, too. So here’s how to start one.

Tips for starting a morning ritual

Pick and time and space. Whether it’s the green tea in the sunroom at 6 a.m. or yoga on the patio at 7:33 a.m., you want to establish the time and space to make the ritual consistent.

Wake up and get moving. Make hitting snooze a thing of the past so you can get up with adequate time to perform your new ritual.

Opt for activities that make you feel good. It’ll be easier to get up and get moving if you’re heading for something that makes you feel good. That’s kind of the  whole point of the thing in the first place, although it does have a secondary point.

Pick something contemplative. Author Mary Hayes Grieco throws in this tip, offering her idea of what an effective morning ritual can look like:

A ritual can be really simple, but there are two elements that define it. First, something that marks its beginning and end. In between, a focus on meditation or contemplation.

Make it a habit. Habits typically take about 30 days to form, according to writer and holistic lifestyle coach Claire Charter. Once your ritual hits the one-month mark, it should be second nature. You won’t want to start a day without it.

What to pick

Decisions, decisions, decisions! One of the best ways to find a ritual that works for you is to experiment. Something like going to the gym may sound fabulous until you see in practice it’s too crowded, sweaty and noisy in the early morning to be a good choice for you. You can mix and match activities, like sipping your green tea by the window followed by yoga and meditation. Or you can elongate one activity you truly love.

Ideas for morning rituals

Journaling: A head full of ricocheting thoughts is the perfect pal for journaling! You can use a journal for stream-of-consciousness writing to purge your head, use it like a diary to record your activities and thoughts, brainstorm, add illustrations and photos, record yesterday’s triumphs or today’s expectations. It also opens your day with a burst of creativity.

Creating a healthy breakfast then savoring your results: This activity works on your mindfulness, both while preparing then while eating the breakfast. It also gives you appreciation for nature’s bounty, honors your body with nourishment, and sets the stage for healthy eating throughout the rest of the day.

Gratitude time: Starting each day with a list of 10 things for which you are grateful puts your heart in a glorious place. It’s tough to be cranky when you just listed 10 things that are super about your life. Write them on paper or run through your head; pick 10 different items every day.

Gardening: The soft soil, fresh dewdrops and streaming morning sun may be enough to put anyone in an equally sunny mood for the entire day. Surrounding yourself with growth and immersing yourself in nature can help appreciate Mother Earth and helps ground you.

Exercise: Get your heart rate pumping, your limbs jumping and all that feel-good adrenaline streaming through your blood stream. Can’t argue with that for a natural good morning high!

Meditation: Meditation doesn’t necessarily have to consist of sitting in the lotus pose on a cushion and chanting. It is merely a time to quiet your mind and listen. Try guided meditation CDs if you need a boost getting started, or put on soothing music and close your eyes.

Morning affirmations: Our holistic pal Charters uses affirmations in her morning ritual, looking in the mirror and telling herself, aloud, what a great and perfect day it shall be. Try it, you may like it!

Planning your day: If organizational pursuits are what soothes you, by all means make a ritual out of your daily to-do list. Jazz it up with stickers and different colors. Brainstorm details to go with the creative tasks.

Reading something inspirational or educational: Browse the bookstore’s meditation section or pick up literature you’ve always wanted to read but never had time for. Now you do. Both will get your mind churning and ready for action.

Yoga: Yoga works on your mind, body and soul, making it an ideal three-in-one ritual. Grab a yoga DVD or take a morning class. You’ll find yourself calmed down, centered, balanced and ready to face anything that may come your way.

Taking a walk: Like gardening, a walk in nature can heighten the sense and give you an acute appreciation for Mama Earth. It also serves as a form of exercise that gets your heart pumping and elevates our mood.

Pursuing a personal passion: Never have time to work on your memoir, study forensics, or finish that velvet painting of your dog? Your morning ritual time can be that time. Doing what you love is an instant mood booster that gives you a keen sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Breathing: What? Yes, breathing. Deep breathing exercises can be an awesome way to start your day. Like yoga, it can work on the physical, spiritual and mental planes, forcing you to quiet down, listen, pay attention to your breath and become centered, calm and ready for anything. It also doubles as a form of meditation.

Continue the trend: Your work morning ritual

Once you get to work, all hell doesn’t have to break loose. You can retain the smooth vibes created with your personal morning ritual by creating a work morning ritual that sets the tone for your workday.

Tips for creating a work morning ritual

Eat that frog. Figuratively, of course! The phrase comes from the title of a book by Brian Tracy and refers to doing the hardest and most important task first thing in the morning to get it out of your mind and off your agenda. Eating the frog gives you a major accomplishment already in the basket and makes everything else you encounter throughout the day a piece of cake.

Use the first 30 minutes to maximize your productivity. Media consultant Danny Rubin gives us this suggestion, complete with a breakdown on a way you can spend that first half hour. As he notes, the first 30 minutes in the workplace are usually pretty quiet as everyone is still becoming acclimated. You’re likely to be left alone and free to pursue the following activities.

  • 20 minutes – Read the news on your favorite two or three websites. It seems only natural a media consultant would of course suggest reading  or at least skimming the news, but Rubin also says it makes us sharper, more confident and able to chat with the execs if we’re stuck with them in the elevator.
  • 5 minutes – Review the last 24 hours worth of emails to make sure there’s nothing important you missed.
  • 5 minutes – Make a quick checklist of all you must do today; keep it visible and keep on checking off your accomplishments.

Your accomplishments are sure to be many now that you’ve gone through the five fabulous strategies for fixing your anxiety potholes. Without anxiety potholes in your way, you are free to travel as smoothly and rapidly as you please, gaining mileage on your sense of personal satisfaction and, above all, your peace of mind.

This post is part of a five-part series dedicated to Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes.  Click here to read the rest of the series.