The alarm goes off and you immediately start to scramble. So much to do to get out of the door. Even more if you have little ones. It’s not only getting showered and dressed, but it’s packing a lunch and the rest of my shit to go with it; phone, wallet, kid’s lunch etc. Sound familiar? Maybe not so much anymore. Our reality has shifted. We may have more of our time back, but we always find ways to waste it. At least that’s the way it seems. There is never enough time.
Most days before the COVID quarantine the stress, anxiety, the buildup and wondering, “What will I forget today?” was more than enough to get my blood pressure pumping in the morning. We might not be rushing out of the door just yet, but those days will be back soon enough.
Then will we look back and wish we had savored this time a little bit more?
No. I’m savoring every minute of it. The slower mornings, working in my yoga pants, and moving seamlessly into a lunch workout or walk to catch some vitamin D. I know it won’t stay like this; one can only hope. I don’t know when we will be racing back to our offices and too-busy-for-our-own-good schedules. So, while I am dialing it back, being more intentional and soaking it all in, I’m also continuing to hone some skills that I know will never go out of fashion. Those busy mornings will be back again. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve previously been derailed because I ended up going on a 20-minute scavenger hunt for my keys or phone. Insert eye roll and dramatic sigh. Now that’s a terrible way to start any day!
I first heard the concept of a “miracle morning” on a podcast. The host was talking about the book titled as such by Hal Elrod. Personally, I never read the book, but the conversation was intriguing. At the time I was doing an atrocious commute – 2 ½ hours per day! I left the house at 6:30 AM, worked 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM, and then would hop back in the car to drive another 1-1 ½ hours to pick up my daughter, and return home. Oh, and did I mention I was also living with my in-laws at the time? Yeah. Peachy.
My mornings were FAR from any miracle. In fact, I needed a damn miracle just to get through the day. This was a turning point for me. I needed to take some of the pressure off. After long days like these, when my daughter was finally in bed, I was exhausted and there wasn’t a lot of time left. But this podcast got me thinking and the concept of a “Miracle Morning” was something I wanted for myself. For once I didn’t want to feel rushed. I wanted to feel PREPARED and at PEACE for what the day would bring.
One night I sat down and thought about all the things I would have to do to create MY miracle morning. I realized my mornings actually needed to start at NIGHT. I needed to be strategic about my mornings by putting some of the work in up front - in the evening. Sure, this meant that as soon as my daughter went to sleep I couldn’t just flop on the couch. Then again, I was living with my in-laws so I really couldn’t flop anywhere. So, I decided to use that last 2 hours of the day to set myself up for a miracle the next morning.
Over the last three years my schedule has changed radically due to my career, family and personal needs. Every time something changes, I need to tweak my routines just a bit to get all the pieces lined up again. That holds true for right now too. Even amidst this quarantine when I’m not headed out of the house, I still want my days to start easy like Sunday morning. Here are some of my personal best practices that I have woven into an evening ritual. They not only help me feel productive in my last waking hours, but they include self-care and ensure I start the next day on the right foot.
I started this post pre-COVID. I’ve adjusted some things for the current times, and they can easily be adjusted for when things change again, which they will! After all, our needs are different. I encourage you to take what you need, leave what you don’t, and customize an evening ritual that is all your own and sets you up for a miracle morning!
1. Pajamas! - Because you need to be comfortable! Years ago (long before quarantine) I sometimes found myself still in work clothes even after I put my daughter to bed. Times have changed and many of us are working in sweats and a button down so we can still look the part on our Zoom work calls. While we may have the comfortable part down right now, we still need to help our brains transition when the work day is done, and shift into our other roles (parent, spouse, caregiver etc.), and into home mode. Under typical circumstances, as soon as I walk in the door, I’m headed to my bedroom to change and take a few minutes to gather my thoughts before preparing dinner. I think we all still need this transition time. Change out of the clothes you have been in all day. It’s amazing how it can change your mood and energy. Some days I even take a quick shower because I need to literally wash away the day. Aside from feeling good, it’s a good signal to your brain that you have transitioned into a different role and helps you to stop thinking about work.
2. Essential Oil Blend – I love to diffuse a relaxing oil blend as soon as I can. Usually it happens just before we eat, or shortly after. After dinner its story time and bedtime. The calmness that the oil brings over me helps keep my patience in check after a long day.
3. Tidy Up – After my daughter is in bed I get to work. Waking up to a messy house (kitchen is the worst!) is a sure way to start the next day in the pits! Do the dishes, wipe down the counters, fold the living room blankets and pick up the dog toys. Do what you can in 10 – 20 minutes, we aren’t aiming for perfection. Notice I said ‘tidy up’, not ‘deep clean and stress yourself out’.
4. Next Day Prep – Here is where the bulk of your work for the night will be put. Pre-quarantine this would mean doing anything that would help you get out of the door quicker the next day (making lunches, packing your work/gym bags and putting it them by the door, picking out/ironing/setting out your clothes). Now, it might be setting up your workspace, food prep, organizing kid snacks so they are ready and accessible (we all know they never stop eating). Typically, I also use this time to clean out my kid’s back pack and my purse, throw out the garbage and do a quick reorg. Doing this on a regular basis ensures it doesn’t build up and become even more daunting. The idea is that you will be so prepared and at peace when you go to bed, that you will sleep better and literally not have to think about any trivial thing the next morning. It will already be done!
5. Stretch – Now it’s time for you! Just like in the morning when you give a big stretch to get the blood flowing, your body needs to be comforted after a long day. I love getting down on the living room floor and stretching a bit to help me slow down. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. For me, a few cat/cows, a bridge or two, and pulling out my foam roller. Oh, how I love my foam roller! Let your mind slow down. Enjoy the gentle self-massage of stretching, and rolling out all the day’s stress. (Reminder: THIS is self-care!)
6. Hygiene – Wash away the day. Whether you shower at night or not, it’s always refreshing to just indulge in a simple skin care routine. Wash and moisturize. Take your time. Be intentional. This is for you! You’ll look and feel better the next day for it. (Reminder: THIS is self-care!)
7. Tea – One of my favorite nightly rituals is to enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea! It’s always a challenge to fight off the evening snack attacks and this helps! Plus, it’s truly relaxing. My favorites are Mint Medley (Bigelow), Honey Lavender Stress Relief (Yogi), and Dandelion Spice Detox (Yogi). (Reminder: THIS is self-care!)
8. Reading / Journaling – Reading has proven to be a really healthy escape for me. There were many years that went by where I was too consumed with work, life, and family that I put it on the back burner. As I started to evaluate my use of time, this was something I wanted to start up again. Reading was always therapeutic and fun. I loved talking with my sister or friends about what they were reading, and it was a happy distraction from some of the negative BS that comes with adulting. Even if it’s only 10-20 minutes, it makes a difference. For years I have kept a journal. In my mid-twenties when life started getting real, I found that my inner dialogue rarely shut the hell up! It’s been helpful to get these thoughts and feelings out of my head and down on paper. Again, a healthy and therapeutic way to cope with the stress of daily life. It’s also a place where I write down my gratitude and daily wins!
9. Magnesium – This supplement has changed my life! My chiropractor recommended it to me as a way to help me relax and sleep more soundly. Since first taking it in 2013, I have discovered many more benefits! Magnesium is used for a lot of things in our body, but it can be hard to get enough of it from our food. Research suggests that magnesium can fight depression, relieve anxiety, help migraines, ease PMS, and supports a healthy heart, brain and mood. Now THAT is a miracle mineral! It also has anti-inflammatory benefits. If I have a particularly hard work out and am already feeling sore when I go to bed, it helps my muscles recover and I don’t wake up feeling stiff. I keep the bottle in my nightstand, and it is a staple in my self-care and nightly routine.
10. Prayer / Gratitude – My prayers aren’t lengthy, but I say them. Since I was a kid, I’ve been confident in my faith that there is something bigger than me orchestrating the happenings of the world. Depending on your religion or level of spirituality this time of the night will look different. Maybe it isn’t prayer that puts you to sleep, but simply ending the day in a place of gratitude. Gratitude for the air you breathe, the roof over your head, your job, your friends, and your loved ones kept safe and healthy. Recognizing that which we have to be grateful for has been proven to increase resiliency, happiness, and patience as well as improve overall energy, health and mental well-being.