Women's magazines and websites publish countless articles telling us how to ensure a perfectly perfect start to the day. So helpful.
I have read loads of these articles, and, over the years, I've inserted some of the more palatable tips into my routine. Some stick (make bed while in it; wear sunscreen). Some don't (do four-part breathing exercises; set day's intention). But I've never done them all.
I've condensed my own morning routine into the essentials so I can wake up as late as possible. After one press -- okay, two -- of the snooze button, I hightail it through my bathroom (pee, brush teeth, wash face, ponytail, contact lenses), read my emails and theSkimm, throw on exercise clothes, and wake up my three boys. Downstairs, I wash the dishes I was too tired to wash the night before, make breakfast, and get us all out of the house. Done.
I'll admit, though, from time to time I've worried that like many things I should be doing differently -- work-life balance, downward dogs, leaning -- I may be doing morning wrong, not living up to my Morning Potential. Am I really supposed to do all of the morning steps those articles recommend? In the same morning? Please, I realize they're just suggestions. That they don't expect you to do them all. But aren't they subtly saying that we could all be more perfectly perfect if we do? Are there women who do fit it all in? Could I? Or would it all just take too damn long and stress me out? I decided to give it a try.
I made a list of all the supposed-to's, timed myself doing each one, and wrote down my thoughts...
- Wake up to an alarm of calming nature sounds. Because a buzzer is too jarring first thing in the morning but a river running through your bedroom is not.
- Don't snooze. Successful people get right out of bed and start their days. Good for them.
- Don't check email. Whaaaaaaaat?
- Meditate for 10 minutes and visualize your day. (10 minutes) This was difficult; 10 minutes is a long time and my mind kept wandering. I did enjoy visualizing my day.
- Record your dreams in a dream journal. (1 minute) Not sure what the point of this is, but I did it.
- Make the bed. (1 minute) It is nice to come home at the end of the day to a neat bed.
- Bathroom basics: Pee, brush teeth, wash face, put in contacts. (3 minutes)
- Bathroom extras: Scrape tongue, exfoliate lips, apply non-petroleum lip balm. (1 minute)
- Put exercise clothes on. (1 minute)
- Do 5 sun salutations and set your intention for the day. (6 minutes) There is not nearly enough yoga in my life so this felt amazing.
- Do at least 20 minutes of cardio. (20 minutes) I jogged on my treadmill and caught up on Bravo.
- Prepare and mindfully drink warm water with freshly squeezed lemon. (4 minutes) I took my time, looked outside at nature, and didn't multi-task.
- Dry brush your body to increase circulation to the skin, exfoliate, and stimulate the lymphatic system. (2 minutes). I didn't have a natural bristle brush so I used a washcloth. I have no idea if I did this correctly, but it felt good and heated up my body.
- Do Kegels. [See #16.]
- Practice gratitude. [See #16.]
- Shower. (6 minutes) I multi-tasked in the shower by doing Kegels and practicing gratitude.
- Moisturize. (1 minute) I used sesame body oil because I once read that it's a good moisturizer, especially in the winter. But I have a terrible memory, so I could just as easily have read that sesame body oil is a terrible moisturizer, especially in the winter.
- Post-shower routine. (4 minutes) This was quick because my work outfits don't take much thought: I work from home. In sweats. And even quicker because my beauty regimen consisted of applying sunscreen and running styling cream through my curly hair and letting it dry naturally. Had I needed to actually be presentable, this would have taken at least 15-30 more minutes of hair drying, outfit planning, and makeup application.
- Prepare steel cut oats with fresh berries, organic green tea, and a green smoothie. Eat mindfully. Take multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium, fish oil, and a probiotic. (39 minutes) If you don't plan ahead, steel cut oats take a long time to prepare (boil, simmer, let stand). I made the tea and smoothie and took the vitamins while I was waiting for the oats to cook. Eating mindfully took time and washing the dried overflowed oatmeal off the side of the pot was a bitch.
Grand total: 1 hour and 48 minutes (Including time for transitions between each step.)
Before I started, I was certain I would find the routine frustrating, that it would take more than two hours, and that I would cheat and skip parts. But somewhere around step 10, I started to relax and enjoy it. Sure, some of the steps annoyed me: meditating, eating and drinking mindfully, waiting for the oatmeal to cook. And the whole process did take forever. But when I was finished, I felt calm and invigorated, ready for the day.
Hmmm, maybe I should wake up earlier and do this routine every day! Maybe, making this a daily ritual would be beneficial to my health and wellbeing! Maybe, just maybe, I could live up to my Morning Potential and be the best me I could possibly be!
[Wait. Stop. Breathe. Let's think about this before you go all crazy, lady... Okay. Ready.]
Do adding more things to my already full to-do list, increasing the expectations I have of myself, and reducing the amount of sleep I get each night truly benefit my health and wellbeing? I want to snooze in the morning. I want to check my email. I don't want to write in a silly dream journal. I am so tired of the messages women receive about all the things we're supposed to do so we can have better lives. Perfect lives. Perfect shmerfect. Perfect is boring.
There's a course change among women toward being good-enough. And I am on that course. So maybe I won't have the best morning ever. Maybe I won't have a daily yoga practice. Maybe my tongue won't be perfectly scraped and free of bacteria build-up. Maybe, just maybe, I'll eat a bagel. But my morning will be good enough, and that's good enough for me.
[Full disclosure: I didn't do the routine first thing when I woke up. I knew I wouldn't have time considering I didn't want to wake up too early and I had to get my kids to school before school actually started. So I did it after I dropped them off. My youngest son was home sick on the big day. As I went through the routine, he thought I was certifiably crazy. Him: "I thought you were a writer." Me: "I am. This is research for an article." Blank stare.]
Susie Orman Schnall is a writer and author who lives in New York with her husband and three young boys. Her award-winning debut novel On Grace (SparkPress 2014) is about fidelity, friendship, and finding yourself at 40. Her second novel, The Balance Project: A Novel (SparkPress 2015), is about work-life balance and is inspired by her popular interview series The Balance Project. Visit Susie's website for more information.