I’m not exactly what you’d call a morning person. As the mom of 8-year-old twins, I used to relish the hours after they went to sleep to get things done, write, watch TV or just aimlessly scroll Instagram to unwind. Most days it was difficult dragging myself out of bed for the alarm at 7 a.m. to get the kids up and ready for school. But ever since we’ve all been home during the quarantine, I’ve adopted a new early morning routine of waking up at sunrise. The crazy part? I actually love it.
Since the kids are doing remote learning, there’s literally no time during the day when they’re not around. Someone always needs help with a Zoom session or assistance with math problems. The meal service seems like a full-time job unto itself. And in the middle of all of this I’m also working. By the time my twins are tucked in bed I barely have the energy left to do anything. But the mornings have become a productive, strangely peaceful time of the day for me.
“Many of my clients and friends are finding themselves working double duty right now, being home for work and homeschooling kids,” Lori Whatley, a clinical psychologist and author of “Connected & Engaged” told me. “We simply have to be a bit more creative to find time now for everything. We find we get more done during the day due to a better quality of sleep during physiologically optimal sleep hours.”
Whatley also reminded me that we don’t need large chunks of time to make a difference in our outlook. Even a 10-minute walk or sitting outside for five minutes by ourselves can make a big difference. “There are many ways to achieve self-care if we are creative and make it a priority,” she said.
In the morning, when the sun floods into our bedroom, I wake up without an alarm and grab the essentials — my eyeglasses, phone and laptop — and tiptoe down the hall, making sure not to wake anyone and jeopardize my alone time.
Maybe because we’re always together now, just being by myself in my living room feels like a luxury. I’ll start the day by switching on the coffee maker, doing a little yoga and reading through my emails (I know it sounds boring, but it’s actually bliss!). The fact that there’s nothing to interrupt me is amazing, and I find that I can write, do admin stuff and even read for pleasure during these early morning hours.
Whatley said there’s no need to feel guilty about taking a little time for yourself. In fact, it can be very beneficial.
“If we aren’t operating from a place of rest and comfort then we aren’t able to care for all areas of our lives properly,” she said. “We need balance now more than ever — and this includes lots of self-care. Modeling this for your family is a great gift. You might find that taking time for yourself in the morning, even if it means you have to get up a little earlier is a wise investment in your day.”
Of course, waking up with the sun means that I’m ready for bed a little earlier, but that’s fine. There’s still enough time between when the kids go to sleep and when I hit the sheets to take a bubble bath (my nightly relaxation routine), watch a TV show or movie with my husband and fold laundry (there’s always more laundry).
Although it surprises me to say this, I think that even when this is all over and the kids go back to school, I will still keep waking up early. The mornings have turned out to be the time when I have the most creativity and energy before the demands of the day can infringe on my plans. It belongs to me and only me — and there’s no way I would give that up.
“Getting up early and spending time alone doing something we enjoy is a peaceful way to begin our day — and the day will tend to go in the direction of the way we begin it,” said Whatley.
“Self-care in its most basic form includes healthy food choices, hydration, sleep, exercise and connection with others. When we are cared for and rested, we are more productive and creative — not to mention, patient, which is a commodity in these difficult times. It’s a gift to ourselves and those we love.”