I have been trying, and failing, recently to get back into my old morning routine.
It happened again today. My phone started to vibrate silently, a warning of the audible alarm that would sound in three minutes. My eyes were so heavy, a tangible, weighty sense of disappointment flooded my body at the thought of getting out of bed. I reached over and I turned of my alarm.
What a way to start the week: with a failure.
What a good way to foster anxiety and negative self-image: by starting the week calling yourself a failure.
Today as I hit the snooze button—a habit I used to be wholly unfamiliar with and more recently can’t seem to break—rolled over for another hour of sleep, and heard that voice whispering things like: “failure,” “weak,” and “lazy,” I talked back. Well technically I thought back because it was 5:35 a.m. and who has the energy to talk out loud to themselves that early?
I’m not a failure, I thought, I’m a damn human being who sometimes gets up “on time” like a champ and sometimes sleeps in. I’m a human being who feels and needs things and perhaps, just maybe, this is exactly what I need. Perhaps this choice makes me a winner and makes me stronger.
With that, I went back to sleep for almost two hours and awoke with much less exhaustion but, still, a lingering sense of guilt. I had hoped only to sleep for an hour. I thought I could choose to sleep in and still get a slew of things done before heading to the office. I ha—wait a minute, am I really doing this again?Didn’t I just talk myself out of starting my day with self-defeating thoughts?
Talking Back Take Two: I can exercise a little bit of power here. Time to pivot, I thought. It was 7:45 a.mm so clearly 6 a.m. yoga was out. I hatched a plan to ease my anxiety: I can still walk the dogs. We can’t go far but we can still go and that’s better than nothing, dammit. Then we’re going to get ready—sometimes I turn myself into a plural in order to create a greater sense of support. Just roll with it—order a coffee on-the-go, get to work, and we'll go from there.
I awoke a little more with each sloshing step as the dogs joyfully bounced ahead. My mind started to buzz with the usual million thoughts, ideas, conversations, and worries — like a cave of sleeping bats suddenly roused by the sounds of evening crickets.
Everything is fine, I thought. Sure getting up earlier would have been cool but clearly that’s not been working. Maybe this is what works. Maybe this is what you need.
The morning routine I've been trying to reinforce worked well for a long time but that’s just the thing: it was a different time.
It was a different season — literally.
The air is colder and drier now. There’s less daylight to support my energy. I’m working in new and different ways. My priorities and responsibilities have shifted...
so perhaps my needs have as well.
In fact, I know they have. For example: I crave a more rest, now, than I once did. After busy, bat-buzzing like brain work days, my mind and my body are both more excited by the idea of rest and I'm willing to slow down more. I used to feel the need to "burn up" or "get out" my extra energy (and often anxiety) and now I'm using more of it throughout the day. While I’ve noticed and allowed many of these subtle shifts and cravings, I hadn’t seen that as a possibility with my morning routine.
I had gotten stuck in this idea that one specific routine was the right one, because it had worked so well for a time. So when I wanted routine, I tried to force it to fit. Again and again, I set my alarm, I played out how the perfect morning would go in my head, and then I woke up fighting self-defeat when it didn’t work out ...because that routine doesn’t work for me anymore.
What became clear as I my ripped, off-brand Ugg boots—reserved solely for dog walking and grocery runs— trudged through the snow was this: just because I feel the need for a routine doesn’t mean I need that routine.
My needs have changed.
And so, too, shall my routine.
What shifts could you make if you led with a little self-compassion? How might you be able to meet your needs?