“My eyes are open!” my 2-year-old son shouts every morning. “I’m awake!”
I wish I shared his enthusiasm for the pre-noon hours, but I very much do not. I retrieve my eager offspring from his room and trudge downstairs, two dogs and a cat circling my feet, to feed my brood. I slather a pancake with cashew butter and set it in front of my child before turning my attention to my beloved, restorative coffee. We’re all just trying to get through the day, and to get through the day, we have to survive the morning. Hopefully this will help.
Annie Siebert, OZY Contributor
rise and ... continue to exist
1. But First, Hydrate
Listen, I hear you. The only reason I drink water in the morning is to swallow my daily Lexapro and Zyrtec. From the moment my eyes open, I laser in on my Burr grinder to kick-start my daily ritual of caffeinating. And most mornings, I knock back half a pot of coffee before consuming anything else. My sister drinks a large glass of water every morning before having her coffee, and her skin always looks better than mine. Is this anecdote worthy evidence? Well, no. But Goop followers and Instagram influencers (using #lemonwater) regularly recommend hot water with lemon as a surefire way to rev up digestion and encourage glowy skin, and there are medical benefits as well. I’m no doctor, but I feel like recommending we all greet our days with a glass of water is pretty harmless — and probably advantageous. (As I type, I’ve already finished my daily coffee rations and dutifully fetched a mug of hot lemon water and a glass of sparkling water. Practicing what I preach!)
2. Make Breakfast at Night
By now you’ve gleaned that I am barely functional in the morning, a state I think is familiar to many of us. As a result, I’m fond of ready-made breakfasts like frozen pancakes and yogurt parfaits, which require little more than opening the refrigerator or microwave. I layer frozen berries with yogurt and store these pretty parfaits in the fridge in single-serve containers, then top with granola, fresh fruit, chia seeds and nuts while sipping my coffee. General Mills’ Cascadian Farm brand includes severaltypes of granola, making for easy (and varied) yogurt parfaits. Find Cascadian Farm granola and other General Mills products at Walmart.com.
Perhaps because I’m not a morning person, I’m also not a breakfast person. It’s rare for me to eat a meal before 1 p.m., but if I do, it’s a simple smoothie. They’re infinitely customizable and a great way to get in a few servings of fruit and veggies, particularly if you’re not terribly fond of fruit and veg. My go-to smoothie consists of frozen bananas, strawberries, blueberries and spinach blended with soy milk, yogurt, chia seeds, a spoonful of nut or seed butter, a pinch of salt and a sprinkling of turmeric. My son loves it, and it’s my guarantee that he consumes a green vegetable every day, no small feat when feeding a toddler. Needing an extra energy boost? After portioning out your kids’ smoothies, blend in some matcha powder, a caffeinated gem that also packs in bacteria-fighting antioxidants.
1. Expend Energy to Feel Energized
As research shows and anyone who’s ever adopted a workout routine knows, exercise can make you feel more energized. If you can swing it, knock out your workout first thing in the morning and carry that blissed-out feeling with you for the rest of the day. But for mothers, especially during the pandemic, squeezing in a run or some yoga can be daunting. Between work-work, housework and the work of raising children, exercise tends to go by the wayside, especially if the choice is between 30 minutes on the treadmill or an episode of The Office. But if you can squeeze in even a short spurt of exercise, your body (and your brain) will thank you.
2. At the Very Least, Move!
All this time at home and away from friends and family is turning us into slouchy, itchy, grumpy specters of our former selves. I am definitely doing more sitting (hello, neck strain) and snacking, and I almost never wear proper shoes, leading to pain in my feet that won’t subside. But what can we do if the gym is off the table? There are lots of quick strengthening exercises you can do at your desk, and I would be remiss not to plug Yoga with Adriene. Her free online classes are quick (some just 15-20 minutes), she’s an absolute delight, and you will come away with better posture, looser limbs and maybe even a sunnier outlook.
3. Level Up
If desk squats and sporadic cat-cows don’t feel like enough for you, there are still ways to get your steps in without masking up and hitting the gym. Sure, you could spring for a Peloton or a treadmill, but there are tons of free workout videos on YouTube, and many don’t require expensive, specialized equipment. If weightlifting is more your jam, invest in kettlebells and other free weights to get in your reps without leaving home.
stay focused — and energized
1. Skip the Afternoon Latte
While it’s tempting to run out for an espresso or brew a second pot of coffee to combat the post-lunch crash, it’s not optimal for your body. Many (myself included) struggle to fall asleep at night if they indulge in caffeinated beverages after 2 p.m., which explains why adaptogens are all the rage. These herbs are touted for helping you stay focused but not jittery, and some claim ingesting them can even fend off environmental toxins.
2. Snack Smart
I regret to inform you that a pastry (or anything carb-heavy, really) is not the boost you need to make it to dinnertime. The best things to snack on are small but substantial: Think nuts, fruit, yogurt, cheese or veggies with hummus. I like to keep a homemade Original Chex Party Mix on hand because it satisfies a craving for salt and offers a bit of protein. I tend to play with the ratio of cereal to nuts (in favor of nuts) to make it even heartier; it’s a super-easy recipe to match your tastes and cravings. Find Chex and other General Mills products at Walmart.com.
If you find yourself procrastinating even during your “ideal” work hours, give yourself some grace. We’re not designed to toil 24/7, and many of us are working more than ever amid unprecedented levels of stress. Sometimes, there’s just no combination of caffeine, herbs, exercise, food and light that will make you feel better. Sometimes you just need to take a pause for yourself. It’s the best way to ensure that you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.
what the science says
1. Better Alone
Sleeping in a different bed (or room) than your partner doesn’t have to signal that your relationship is doomed. There are lots of solid reasons to sleep alone, from narcolepsy and insomnia to differing end-of-day routines, and getting a good night’s rest can’t be bad for your relationship. If you have the space — and can convince your partner that separate bedrooms can coexist with a healthy, loving relationship — it’s worth a shot.
2. Scrutinize Your Sleep Hygiene
The best way to wake up ready to tackle the day is to make sure you get adequate rest the night before. Sleep hygiene is as important as brushing and flossing (you’re flossing, right?). It’s all pretty basic advice, but it can be tricky to implement. SleepFoundation.org recommends making your bedroom a place of rest, not work, though that’s a tricky proposition if your bedroom is your office for the time being. Consider setting up your computer in another room, if possible, to make your bedroom a rest-only zone. And while the end-of-day doom scroll has become standard for many of us, eliminating screens before bed has been shown to contribute to a better night’s rest.
3. Center Your Mind
Yoga is good for your body, of course, but adding a meditative yoga practice to the end of your day can help you nod off. While you might seek a sweat-soaked flow during the day, at night it’s best to lie down and focus on your breath. I can attest to the effectiveness of “sleep yoga” — I have fallen asleep in public exactly once, and it was at the end of a yoga class in college when the instructor told a long tale of climbing a mountain. Inviting someone’s soothing voice into your head is surely a better way to get your zzz’s than thumbing through Twitter (again). Have a good sleep, friends.