March 2, 2015 | ORIGINALLY POSTED ON: The Huffington Post

How to Melt Stress With One Simple Change:

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Do your days begin with you feeling like you’ve been shot out of a cannon?

Let me guess: You’re drinking coffee, showering, checking email — maybe all at the same time. It’s a frenzy of chaos and a mad rush.

If this sounds familiar, I’m also going to wager that the degree of peace or contentment that you experience rarely improves from there, because how we start our mornings sets the tone for the way that we live our lives.

If our days begin in pandemonium, they’re usually lived in pandemonium — and when we look at things from this perspective, we see that the single biggest opportunity that we have to combat stress begins within the first 20 minutes or so of waking up.

The Missing Ingredient to Your Morning Routine:

You’ve probably heard about the importance of not checking email first thing in the morning, but I’m going to lay out a plan for you here that goes a little bit deeper than that. I’m going to show you how you can create a ritual of sorts that will enable you to slow down, check in and get your day going on the right foot.

By carving out some space in the morning to think, dream, and reflect – you can create the opportunity to be present with yourself in life. In doing so, you’ll cultivate the ability to be truly proactive. Rather than constantly responding to external cues and feeling like you’re putting out fires, you get to be the author of your own life — getting your “to-do list” in line with your real goals and intentions.

With one small change, you can transform the way you approach your mornings and ease into your day with a keener sense of focus. The single most important ingredient is that you carve out a little bit of time every morning just to be present and still with yourself.

The Recipe:

There’s plenty of room for creativity here, so feel free to play with this and to come up with something that works for you – but here are some suggestions for things that you can do BEFORE you hop online, make phone calls, start working, or otherwise transition into action mode.

You can begin by making some tea or coffee (I personally am an unrepentant coffee lover, so don’t fear that I’m going to ask you to give that up!), and then settle into a quiet place in your home to do any combination of the following:

• Light a candle.
• Simply sit in silence for a few moments and give yourself a chance to be alone with your thoughts.
• Do some reading (preferably the kind that might make you feel inspired or motivated)
• Meditate, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and just breath (and if you need further instruction on how to meditate you can check this out.)
• Journal.
• Do a little bit of yoga or light stretching, and/or
• Think about your current priorities or goals and set an intention for the day.

I do some combination of the above on most days, and I’ve noticed a big
impact in the overall quality of my life as a result. If nothing else I light a candle while I sit quietly and have my coffee, and then I set an intention as I blow the candle out and move on with my day. It’s glorious in its simplicity.

From time to time I’ve slacked on my morning ritual and, whenever I do, I notice a huge difference. It’s not for the better: my thinking is less clear, I feel more discombobulated, I’m less effective at achieving goals, and everything seems out-of-whack.

It’s for this reason that I begin almost every single day by carving out some space for myself to just be STILL.

What do you think, does this sound interesting to you? If so:

Starting Tomorrow, Take the Morning Challenge!

If you want to experience greater clarity in your life, I highly recommend you join me in a little Morning Challenge.

Most of us start our day with a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage to help us to rejoin the human race — but not everyone realizes that it actually takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to even begin taking effect. This is the perfect time to sit down for a moment and allow yourself to come into the world slowly, while experimenting with some of the suggestions above.

If you have small children in the house, you can engage them in a similar ritual by encouraging them to play quietly by themselves for awhile. If that doesn’t work, I promise not to tell anyone if you put in a Baby Einstein DVD for 20 minutes so that you can focus on some self-care. Remember, it benefits your children for you to be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself that you can be — so try not to think of this as “selfish,” or “indulgent.”

By creating a routine in the morning, you’re setting the tone for the rest of the day. This one small shift can prevent significant stress later, and can contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing.

If you’ve decided to join me tomorrow in my “Morning Challenge,” I’d love to hear how it goes. You can tweet directly to me (@DrLeslieCarr), or subscribe to my mailing list anywhere on this site and join me in the private Facebook group that I have set up for subscribers-only. I’m active in that space and available to answer questions, so feel free to pipe up! I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to having better mornings and a better life!

Categories: Psychotherapy and Coaching | Tags: , , , |