October 19, 2009
The school year is underway and the holidays are just in front of us. It's time to get down to the nitty-gritty of our daily schedule, and it makes sense to begin at the beginning. Morning.
For some, morning means waking up to the dawn from a refreshing night's sleep. Ready for the day, you bound out of bed, looking forward to whatever may come. For others, morning goes hand-in-hand with feelings of dread and/or chaos. Whichever side of the fence you are on, my friend, I think we can all agree that mornings are important for setting the tone of the rest of the day.
Gratitude. Psalms 65:8 tells us "They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." Goal: I want to wake in gratitude for the day, my family, and the work God has given me.
Beginning the journey. Israel began their journeys in the morning. (Genesis 22:3) Goal: I want to rise prepared to embark on the day's journey, seeing it for the adventure it is.
Forming of a covenant. Genesis 26:31 speaks of oaths being exchanged after rising in the morning. Goal: I desire to be in covenant with God in order to seek Him first throughout the day.
Morning is the time that comes after the period of rest. It is a time to get ready and fulfill tasks that are relevant to productivity and life out in the wide world. We get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and prepare for whatever tasks are ahead of us: schooling, grocery shopping, doctor visits, vacation planning, visiting with friends… you get the point. How we begin our day often affects how the rest of the day plays out. Let's take an inventory of how we begin our day:
Do you wake up:
With the sun, or some form of light source? Or do you keep the room black?
Ready to get out of bed? Or do you hit the snooze alarm 15 times?
Prepared? Or do you spend half the night worrying about what you didn't get done?
Organized? Or is your entire family in chaos because there are no clean dishes and no one knows where to find clothes for the day?
Even if you lean more toward night-owl than early bird, you can make changes that will make your morning more productive, your day more pleasant, and your relationships less strained. Becoming a morning person is requires dealing with one part genetics and two parts habit.
First, it is important to acknowledge that some people really are night-owls. Their genetics, primarily the pieces that are tied to circadian rhythms, are wired to make them more awake in the evening. My husband is one of these people. He 'turns on' at around 10pm. It is like someone flips a switch. He stays up and works into the wee hours and usually rises around 8am. He runs his own business, so this schedule works for him. Night owls aren't lazy, they are simply wired differently.
Unfortunately, from the perspective of a homeschooling mom, that schedule isn't always feasible. Being up with young children, preparing for your school day, setting an example of cheerfulness in the morning, each of these means that living the night owl lifestyle isn't an option. So, what can you do to go from night owl to morning person?
Well, you can focus on creating good habits.
Much of waking up well involves what you do the night before. TV watching, stress before bed, your bedroom environment, how late you stay up, what you eat, and whether you exercise regularly are all variables that affect your sleep.
Here is a list of tips you can use to turn yourself into a morning person who exhibits gratitude for the day, begins the journey of the day well, and uses the morning to keep your covenants with God and family:
TV/Screen time. Contrary to popular opinion, adults are not immune to the negative effects of the screen. We may be ultra-diligent with our children, but when it comes to our own intake, we let it slide. The particular light and flicker that is emitted from the television and the computer have been shown to keep our brains awake and affect sound sleep negatively. Try to avoid both right before you hit the sack. I use the time right before bed to read something heartening. This plants beautiful thoughts to be used by my brain through the night. One of my favorite books for pre-bed reading is Henri Nowen's "The Only Necessary Thing," which is a lovely treatise on prayer. Fill your brain with peaceful thoughts before you close your eyes for the night.
Stress. Stress is an energy sucker and a health stealer. Keeping your stress levels manageable is a goal most of us strive for. In order to minimize the impact of stress on your sleep quality, try to empty your mind. I like to keep a small notebook or digital recorder on my nightstand. When I start focusing in on my outstanding task list or my brain kicks out an article idea that I don't want to forget, I get it recorded immediately. I also lay out whatever I need for the next day. My mind can then rest, knowing that it hasn't lost anything critical.
Sleeping Environment. When you get into bed and look around your room, do you sigh in comfort and peace or in frustration? An ideal sleeping environment is dark, quiet, uncluttered, and comfortably heated or cooled. Make sure that you have your thermostat set so that you are not waking up chilled or sweating through the night. Keep the room neat and tidy, creating a haven rather than a cluttered mess.
Bedtime. This is a habit that can be difficult to change, and one I still struggle with. After being 'on' with the boys all day, I enjoy the peace and solitude of the house after they are in bed. I can write without being interrupted, get housework done, have meaningful conversations with my husband, or catch up on my reading. I often get caught up in these things and end up staying up way too late. I have to discipline myself to enjoy that time, but to know when to stop as well.
Nutrition. Are you drinking coffee in the late afternoon just to get through? Have you caved in to the sugar cravings one too many times? Have you skimped on vegetables in favor of more pasta or bread? If so, you may be setting yourself up for more than just weight gain. Coffee is an energy shark; it steals more than it gives. Sugar not only messes with your energy levels, but it also is inflammatory and can give you heartburn at night. Vegetables are crucial for developing a strong immune system and for helping with good digestion. You keep an eye on your children's eating habits; keep yours in check as well, and you can reap the benefits in more restful sleep at night and more energy and drive for your day.
Exercise. Who has time for it, right? Finding a way though, will help you sleep better at night. A short walk every day makes a huge impact on how you sleep at night.
By taking an inventory of where you stand with each of these elements, you will have greater clarity on how your sleep may be affected by your habits. When your sleep is poor, it is harder to get up in the morning and harder to get through your day in a state of peace and productivity. When you use what many experts call good 'sleep hygiene,' you wake up more refreshed and ready to start the day in a cheerful frame of mind. Setting the stage for a pleasant wake-up also sets the stage for a fulfilling day with your family.