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Sunrise in Tacoma, Washington, on Jan. 26, 2021. (Image: Sherry Phinisey / Chime In)

8 things I added to my morning routine to feel a little more human

Every morning around 5:30, like clockwork, my cat gets out of bed and starts to meow — anyone who owns a cat, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

At this point, I'm not sure if it's him who has conditioned me to wake up at the same time every morning, or vice versa. Regardless, every morning, I slug out of bed to feed him, or else that meow transforms into what I can only describe as a howl, and no one needs to hear that.

I've had Jack since I was about 8 years old, but it's only been him and I living together since 2017. Before the coronavirus pandemic, my mornings consisted of the usual: showering, getting ready, making lunch and heading off to the newsroom for the day. That all changed in March 2020, and my mornings have never been the same. Getting ready for work? I don't know her.

Having a routine is extremely important to me, specifically during the workweek. For those first two months of quarantine, adjusting to our "new normal" was anything but easy. Most mornings, I rolled out of bed at 8:45 a.m. with just enough time to brush my teeth, make a cup of coffee and start work by 9, still in my pajamas — which is totally fair, and I won't be taking questions. We're in a freakin' pandemic; getting out of bed is in and of itself a feat, okay? Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Like many, I've been struggling with my mental health for the last year, in many ways (some not even related to the pandemic). After some reflection several months ago, I realized I needed to have a semblance of a morning routine again. After some research, introspection and hours of scrolling on TikTok for inspiration, I started to incorporate some new tasks into my morning routine. I can honestly say I am starting to feel like more of an actual human being.

Look, I'm not a doctor nor a therapist, but I am someone who has always struggled with her mental health. The things I do every morning may not be right for everyone, but they do make my days start better — I'm nowhere near as consistent as I'd like to be (I still roll out of bed sometimes), but it's a start. In case you, like me, are in desperate need of routine again, maybe some of this will resonate with you and make taking on the day just a little easier from the jump!

1. Affirmations

This might be my favorite addition. When I was in middle school, one of my close friends introduced me to the law of attraction, the theory that positive/negative thoughts and actions bring positive/negative experiences to someone (that's put simply, read more on that here). Especially over that last year, I've been seeing/reading/hearing people talk about manifesting their dreams and putting out positivity into the universe — and many of them practice self-affirmations in the morning to help them achieve that. I wanted in. I found a video on YouTube that I really enjoy. It's 15 minutes of "I am" affirmations, and I try my best to listen and repeat them every morning. Sometimes I sit quietly and do this. Sometimes I do them while getting ready or making breakfast. It has made me feel more productive, confident and ready to take on the day — a nice reminder of who I am, what I will achieve and how I will grow.

2. Immediately getting out of bed & making it

I constantly have the urge to snooze my alarm — I set four every night for this reason. I don't always do it, but I've found no matter how groggy I feel, if I force myself to get up immediately, it doesn't last long, and I'm up for the day. And when I make my bed first thing, I complete a task within the first five minutes of being awake, and I carry that energy into the rest of my day.

3. Ice facial

Hear me out — nothing quite wakes you up like rubbing an ice cube on your face. Think about it like taking a cold shower. After I wash my face, I rub an ice cube on my face for about 15 seconds and then do the rest of my skincare routine. There are many benefits to doing this, but I simply love it for the wake-up call.

4. Playlists

One of my quarantine hobbies has been creating... very niche playlists. For example:

  • Songs that remind me I'm a bad b*tch
  • Songs that make me feel like the main character
  • Songs that give me fEeLiNgS

The (play)lists go on! I essentially have a perfectly curated playlist for every mood I typically experience, and it's the best thing I've ever done. It's extremely time-consuming depending on the amount of music you have on your phone (I have a lot), but it's so worth it. Nothing can turn your day around or start it off on the right foot than a three-hour playlist with 50 songs that remind me who the hell I am.

5. Exercise

If there is one thing I didn't expect this pandemic to do, it was turning me into a morning exerciser. I used to go after work because my mornings consisted of getting ready for the day, and adding exercise would be too much. But with working from home, who am I getting ready for, and my fridge is literally five feet away from me? So, I used that extra time to work out. If this isn't for you, that's fair, but starting my day off with exercise helps me be more productive and mindful during the day. Try it — you might like it.

6. Drinking a glass of water

Literally, just chug a glass of water when you wake up. Start the day hydrated right away!

7. Podcasts

Podcasts have always been a part of my routine. I have about eight that I listen to religiously, but I stopped listening to them when we started working from home (for months). I had to remind myself how much I love them, and I actively started to incorporate them back into my routine. Now, I listen to them throughout the day while I work instead of constantly having the news or Netflix in the background. Learning new things/listening to hilarious commentary while you get your work done? Nothing better.

8. Staying off my phone first thing (or at least, attempting to...)

I'm not perfect, and definitely not perfect at this. But if you can *try* to stay off the phone first thing, it really does help you be more productive in the morning. But, we're only human, you know?