A broken morning routine makes for a stressful day. As we plow through our unfit process, chaos manifests making us anxious, irritable, and late. The way to manage the stress that comes with the morning routine is to fix the routine.
The best way to fix the morning routine is to break it down into its component parts and look at ways to streamline each part individually. The absolute necessary components include waking up, eating breakfast (some view this as nonessential but should not), for many drinking coffee, morning hygiene, getting dressed, and commuting to work. Believe it or not, there are ways to make each of these components more efficient and stress free. So let's take a look at them individually.
Step one is waking up. For most of us it's stressful. Without an optimal amount of sleep, we frequently awaken to an obnoxious alarm feeling tired and immediately stressed. The key to managing this step is managing your sleep. Make every effort to stick to a consistent time for "lights out" as good sleep thrives on consistency. Try to limit ingestion of caffeine containing beverages and foods after about three in the afternoon. This includes most sodas and also chocolate. Try limiting exposure to bright light after supper. Dimmer switches on lights are excellent. Lastly, try to limit television watching and electronics use prior to bedtime. There are also some sleep management devices available that wake you at the optimum time in your sleep cycle to wake you feeling more refreshed. Try to select an alarm tone that is less obnoxious but still wakes you up in the morning.
The next step is breakfast. The problem with breakfast is that the preparation and cleanup can be both time-consuming and stressful. The worst option is skipping breakfast entirely which can lead to low energy and fatigue later in the morning. Some great options for a quick, healthy, and low cleanup breakfast include breakfast bars, yogurt cups, and various breakfast drinks. You want to go for high protein and low sugar, so if you go with the breakfast bar, you may want to also down a big glass of skim milk with it. I find that the perfect option is a sustained release protein powder mixed with water in a shaker cup. Whatever you choose, it is best to decide the night before rather than obsessing over it in the morning. If you're a coffee drinker, then get your coffee maker ready to go the night before as well. Even better, get a coffee maker that you can program to start prior to your waking up in the morning.
When it comes to morning hygiene, many are simply going to take as long as they are going to take. However, there are some things that you can do to streamline the process. The key is to really take a look at your process and decide if there is anything that you can skip or if there is a way to order things for more efficiency. For example, before getting in the shower you can lay out everything that will be needed after the shower (maybe while the water is warming up). This includes things like combs, toothpaste, floss, aftershave, mouthwash, etc. As far as the shower itself goes, lots of time can be saved by obtaining a fog free mirror and shaving in the shower. There are also some great products for men that are shampoo, body wash, and shaving lather all in one. If you need to take your time in the shower then certainly do so, but just be sure to factor this in to your required prep time each morning.
One of the biggest time and stress savers can come from choosing and laying out your clothes before bed at night. Simply not having to think about the choice in the morning is huge for stress reduction. When you factor in the time savings from just one episode of not having to dig through three separate drawers for that particular pair of socks that you've gotta have, this one is simply a no brainer. So just get in the habit of doing it. You won't be sorry.
The daily commute represents a significant portion of the morning routine in terms of both time and stress. The best way to manage the stress associated with it is to have a firm knowledge of how long it takes when done in a relaxed state. However, it is not enough to just have a solid knowledge of this duration. The commuter must leave the house at a time that factors in this typical duration. One of the best ways to accomplish this with the least amount of stress is to use a countdown timer. That way you have a real number for how much time you have left rather than having to continually calculate it. There are some very elegant iPhone apps that do all of this and more.
In summary, some easy fine tuning to the morning routine can significantly reduce morning stress. Starting the day with less stress is good for your health. So what have you got to lose?