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Your therapist friend who refuses to sugarcoat motherhood, and isn’t afraid to spill the tea on my own messy journey.
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Whether you’re aware of it or not, your morning routine has a significant impact on your mental health.

How good is it when you start the morning off on the right foot and just ride that wave all day? For me, it’s one of the best feelings when I’ve gotten up early and feel proud of what I’ve achieved and it’s only 8 a.m. (yoga done, day planned, coffee savoured). 

And no, I’m not a morning person by nature. And no, I’m not about to suggest anything ridiculous like getting up before 5a.m. Instead, seven *normal* things that you can do (like pick one or two!) in the morning that can have a positive effect on mental health as the day wears on. 

How you start your morning has a lot to do with how your day unfolds. 

Picture those days when the alarm goes off (or your child wakes you up), you could do with another few hours of sleep, but you get going anyway and move through your morning routine. Or, you start the day disorganized, rushed, scattered, and tending to everyone but yourself. That can drag you down as the day goes on because you feel like you’ve started off on the wrong foot and it’s hard to turn those feelings around. 

When you start the day in a more self-supportive way, on the other hand, you feel motivated to keep the momentum going, you feel more positive, and your mood can feel light, which just snowballs in the right direction. 

Let me be clear, you do NOT have to become a morning person. It’s more about accepting the fact that you’re getting up anyway, and the way you move through that first couple hours can make a huge difference. There are small things that you can do first thing after waking that can help make yourself a priority first thing and in turn improve your mood and mental health. When you feel positive, hopeful, and like you’ve set yourself up for success, you’re more likely to continue with those feel-good vibes as the day unfolds. 

Here, I’m giving some low-effort and extremely simple ways that you can set the tone right for the day. There are eight options here and the key isn’t to commit to all of them but maybe pick one or two. Try it out and see how things shift for you. 

Here’s my huge caveat!

The stage of motherhood you’re in, or the specific situation in your household will play a major role here. Life for example, if you’re parenting solo and have young babies, you can’t get up and go for a solo walk. If you’re in the early days and very sleep deprived, you might not want to get up early to get a head start. Of course not! 

So take these tips and adjust them to fit your life. What can you gain here? How can you make small adjustments in your morning that are realistic and doable? 

Here’s some ideas to add to the morning that could help boost your mood throughout the day:

1. Early movement 

Getting active in the morning (even if it’s just for a short walk) is a great way to enhance serotonin and boost your mood. Getting outside and getting morning light exposure also helps regulate your circadian rhythm which in turn has a positive impact on things like sleep. No, you don’t have to commit to a long walk or an hour outside, but try something like 15 or 20 minutes each morning for a short period and see how that changes things. Being outside in nature also has calming effects for the entire family, so see how your kids react if you get them outside early too. 

2. Put in 20 minutes of self-care 

Ok I know this suggestion can be potentially triggering because so many moms can feel annoyed even with the mention of self-care. Hear me out though! All I’m suggesting is that if you put a little bit of extra effort into yourself in a way that’ll pay off as the day gets going. 

Maybe that’s putting a little extra thought into choosing an outfit that makes you feel good. Or doing your hair so that you can feel brighter and more confident throughout the day. It could also be through making a healthy, veggie-packed smoothie where you know the time invested in the prep will benefit you until lunch. The idea is to choose something small.

The true benefit is that you’ve signaled to yourself right off the bat that your needs matter, too, and that you’re not abandoning yourself all day. 

3. Leave the phone off 

Oof, this is a hard one for me, but it makes a big difference. Put off checking messages, notifications and emails until you’ve gone through a simple morning routine that’s focused on *you*, or at least includes you. One of the worst things that we can do for mental health (and most of us are guilty) is to check our phones first thing after waking. 

Communications about kids’ school, family obligations or work deadlines just cause stress that isn’t necessarily immediately after waking up. Give yourself even 5 or 10 minutes before checking. Plus, diving into this quick dopamine system of looking at the phone doesn’t set your brain up very well for the rest of the day. Be gentle with your brain, let her wake up slowly!

4. Enjoy coffee or tea in a calm space 

I get it if this can’t happen every single morning. When my kids were babies, this advice was laughable. But now, times are different and I can absolutely make sure to drink my coffee hot, and hoping you’re moving to this as well. 

My encouragement for you is to create a small soothing morning ritual around your coffee, tea or something you consume, that can become a little pocket of peace to look forward to. This could be tea outdoors, listening to calming music as you have your first cup, or sitting in a nice area of the house with a cozy blanket that you like, with your kids (because self-care often has to happen when your kids are around). While it may not be realistic to wake up long before your kids do, this could be something that’s worth committing to rising just 10 or 15 minutes earlier than you normally would. 

5. Drink a big glass of water 

If there’s a seriously low-effort task that will benefit both your physical and mental health, it’s this. When we wake up in the morning, we’re usually a little bit dehydrated. As you likely already know, our mental health cannot thrive if we are physically unwell or depleted. Supporting things like proper rest, hydration and nutrition is step one. This is good news because how easy is it to just drink water upon waking up? 

Knocking small, easy things off your list is such a good way to get the momentum going and build confidence and trust within yourself. Soon, you’ll be able to see yourself as someone who is great a self-care and that sense of self can be so beneficial.

6. Do yourself one favour the night before to set yourself up for success

If you’re slow going in the mornings or you wake up overwhelmed by all that you have to do, try doing just one thing before going to bed that will make the morning run more smoothly. That could be packing the kids’ lunches, setting up the coffee, doing the dishes even if you really don’t feel like it, or packing backpacks for school and lining them up by the door. Remember, keep it small, and build from there. 
In certain cases, changing a few small things can do the world of good. Whether you’re experiencing a small amount of anxiety or something bigger like PPD, being more mindful of something like your morning routine can be a starting point to create important changes. If you’ve found that exercises like this help your overall wellbeing, consider my self-care challenge here. This is a low stakes six-day challenge which can be a good building block for taking care of mental health.

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HI, I'M KATE BORSATO

Your therapist friend who refuses to sugarcoat motherhood, isn’t afraid to spill the tea on my own messy journey, and promises not to dole out cliche therapy advice.

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