We are all familiar with the sayings:
The early bird catches the worm.
The early morning has gold in its mouth.
Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
We’ve all read the articles about how waking up early means better grades, higher levels of productivity, less stress, better sleep, increased optimism, and more.
If you’ve ever managed to stick to an early morning routine, even for just a few days, you already know there is a certain magic in the early hours. There is something special about being up very early, before most people start hustling and bustling, before everybody is stuck in traffic and hating the day. Maybe it’s simply about taking in a breath of a brand new day when it still feels new – like being up early on New Years day and breathing in all those possibilities….
You can do so many things! Exercise! Eat a made-from-scratch breakfast! Meditate! Journal! Prepare the best outfit, spend an hour on your makeup, look amazing!
Are you tired just reading that? Me too.
Early risers can go on about how amazing it is to have managed that 3 mile run before rush hour, or gush about the wonderful pancakes they whipped up before waltzing in the office in a cloud of self satisfaction.
However, it’s all true. If you wake up early and start your day doing something you love, something meaningful (to you), your day will be better, you will be a happier, kinder person, and your world will feel like a better place, at least for the day.
Not bad, right? Sounds like it’s definitely worth skipping the snooze button.
It’s magic, really. So why do I find it insufferable? Because I can’t do it anymore, and it’s driving me crazy.
Even though I know it works (I have actual proof of it!), I can no longer stick to a morning routine that makes me feel #blessed and magically makes my life Instagram-worthy.
When my mental health deteriorated and I had to temporarily leave the workforce, I thought my silver lining would be the amount of time I’d have to practice the all important self-care that could lead me back to health.
It turns out that when I don’t have an important reason to get up in the morning, I end up not getting up at all until much later in the day. I have tried for weeks to stick to a schedule, make my own to-do list, and get something done. The result? I get up late, rush through my to-do list, end up exhausted and wired at the same time, and unable to sleep again, which will continue the cycle.
Of course that’s when my anxiety swoops in to remind me that I can’t stick to anything, I’m a terrible human being and I will never succeed. Then my depression pipes up to agree and reminds me to not even try, it’s not worth it.
Having anxiety and depression is not fun at all at the best of times, but sometimes it feels like the brain spins a yarn so fit for purpose that they both need to sit down and make a really terrible sweater I am forced to wear. The irony is that waking up early would really help me feel better despite both my conditions.
So where do I go from here, and why am I sharing this?
The reason I’m writing this is that there are enough blogs out there about how great it is to get a lot done, and how empowering it feels to have everything under control all the time. You will find a ton of recipes for the perfect green goddess smoothie, the best yoga routine for early risers, the sure-fire way to nail the morning makeup routine. You don’t need me for that.
There is a lot of advice online, and sometimes I feel even more depressed reading about how seemingly everybody is succeeding at everything they set their mind to, including getting up early and having a rock solid morning routine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to hear about people killing it, and I find inspiration and tips in the cheerful blog posts about how to do everything right, but if I am in a funk, it’s easy to feel even worse. What would help me is to read that other people aren’t perfect either, that I am not alone trying to be better and coming up short.
In short, I think it’s ok to talk about the things we fail at.
My advice to you, if you are in a similar predicament, is the same advice I am giving myself: be kind to yourself, set small goals, and try to not get frustrated if it doesn’t magically happen.
In more practical terms, whether you struggle with a bedtime, or just can’t break up with the snooze button, you may want to consider a couple of bad nights of sleep.
Stay with me here. If you want to but can’t wake up early in the morning, there are two likely causes: you aren’t sleeping enough, or you are not sleeping well enough. Sleep hygiene theoretically helps with both.
Sleep hygiene has to do with putting your screens down, having a good temperature in your room, the perfect pillow, happy thoughts, not consuming too much caffeine, and other extremely good advice, which I recommend checking if you are trying to improve the quality of your sleep.
Except…I can’t really follow all of it, and I can’t spend half my life feeling bad because I want to check my phone at night. I’m only human and at 37 my list of things to feel bad about is long enough, so I check my phone at night.
To snap myself back to early rising, I will go to sleep when my body tells me to, but become inflexible with the wake up time, and turn off the snooze button. A little sidebar: the snooze button is your enemy. I fall for its siren song way more than I should, despite knowing it’s pointless. Every minute of extra sleep you gain thanks to that little temptress is not restful and won’t help you feel more alert or less sluggish.
Waking up earlier than I’d like to will inevitably lead to a couple of less than ideal days, but soon enough my sleep rhythm will adjust, and I know from experience that the light at the end of the grumpy tunnel is worth the walk: waking up early enough to start the day without stress really is all it’s cracked up to be, which is probably why long term practitioners of early rising start sounding like cult members.
Do you have any tips for sticking to a bedtime or a rising time? Are you an elusive, successful early riser? What do you do with your bonus hours?