3 Simple and Quick Practices for a Stress-Free Morning
Yesterday at the grocery store, the cute teenage cashier pointed to my bag on the scale and asked her co-worker, “What do you call these things?”
Her co-worker said, “Oh, I think those are radish things.” With that, I realized the world has changed. How does a young adult not recognize a radish?
I then found that my ATM card was not functioning correctly with the store equipment. I had no cash, and they did not accept my other credit card “brand.” So I was radish-thingy-less and off to the bank—and a bit stressed!
If you believe all the magazines and websites, it seems that stress is responsible for a wide range of health issues. Clinical psychologists tell us that stress can be caused a number of ways, typically occurring in four basic categories of stressors. Sometimes we only experience one type, while at other times we may experience all four!
Environmental stressors: Your environment bombards you with demands too quickly to enable you to adjust to such things as snow storms, traffic, noise, and pollution.
Social stressors: Deadlines, financial problems, job interviews, loss of loved ones, and disagreements all tax your coping skills.
Biological stressors: Changes in our physiology, due to any number of factors—including aging, change in eating habits, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, moving or not moving our bodies, or the onset of adolescence or menopause—require us to adjust to maintain our health.
Mental stressors: Ayurvedic philosophy considers the mind as the place where all disease originates. Whether we practice ayurveda or not, most of us probably recognize that our own thoughts are sometimes our largest source of stress. As our brain takes in information, our past experiences and current stressors from the above categories may cause that new information to turn on our “emergency system” or adrenals, generating a bath of chemicals that create both physiological stress and emotional stress. (For more information, see The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, by Martha Davis, PhD, and Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW.)
Coping with the stress coming from so many sources can seem daunting. What, then, can we do to combat stress and bring our lives back to balance, ease, and steadiness? While there is no simple fix, we can use our daily routines to set ourselves up to stress less when we do come in contact with unexpected stressors (bad weather, a communication gap, technological glitch, a craving for a mocha latte with extra whip). A daily morning routine is a mainstay of ayurvedic medicine, and adding to it a few simple actions can create a buffer that will limit the impact of a stressor.
I like to call my daily routines my “little anchors.” I find they help me navigate the waves of life that can otherwise build up and wipe me out. Ayurvedic daily routines provide gentle cleansing and nourishing in the morning (and the evening too for that matter)—and just knowing my day starts (and ends) with support makes the day ahead seem less daunting!
Ayurvedic daily routines provide gentle cleansing and nourishing in the morning—and the evening too, for that matter—and just knowing my day starts (and ends) with support makes the day ahead seem less daunting!
Here are my three favorite morning anchors to help me tend and befriend myself before going out into the world. You might try the following:
Get up a little earlier to allow for self-care time.
Try a morning gratitude prayer or statement, stretch your limbs before your feet hit the ground, or get to the bathroom to scrape your tongue first thing (which rids your system of ama, the undigested goo that can build up over time and—according to ayurvedic tenets—can create a sluggish mind, stiff joints, and irregular digestion).
Take three to five minutes to practice a calming and balancing breathing technique.
For example, “belly breathing” helps us stimulate the lower lobes of the lungs to “turn on” the relaxation response where the sympathetic system gives way to the parasympathetic system—replacing the reactive “stress response,” with its shallow and irregular breathing. Once we are aware of how to breathe to help ourselves relax, we can use that technique any time we start to feel the signs of stress.
Eat something warm and moist to start your day.
If you want some coffee or tea, wait until you have a little food in your stomach to help absorb the acid in those beverages, and then enjoy your cuppa Joe! In the fall and winter, I like oatmeal with warming spices (cinnamon and clove), salt, clarified butter, and maple syrup. If I anticipate running short on time in the morning, I make it the night before. Then I can just warm it up in a saucepan with a little “Happy Cow Whole Milk” (HCWM) to make it super-yummy. Just a half cup fills me up and helps the acids in my stomach work in a manner that regulates my digestion for the next few hours, and gives me energy to start the day.
There are many great ways to set yourself up for less stress. These are just a few of my favorite “little anchors” that support me in taking care of myself and starting the day with less stress.
Enjoy! And let me know your own favorite navigational tools to build that buffer of support between you and the radish-less world!