The goal in my platform is not to sit here and tell you how to do your life. I am a firm believer in grabbing whatever tidbits you can and finding things that work for your own happiness. But, as I am self-soothing grief without medication or stimulants (okay, I do like black tea), I forgot just how hard it was to initially find and begin a routine that worked for me.
I found that the root of my depression is caused when I feel like my world is completely out of my control, and this routine is what keeps me from feeling that.
By no means am I judging those who take antidepressants. This is just me opening up to share my daily morning routine which has truly kept me happy and from filling the prescriptions that have been given to me in the past to help me cope with my anxiety and depression.
So, if you find yourself relating, I hope this helps you in some way!
WHY I NEED ROUTINE
I may tell myself that I do not need one. There are even days where I wake up, do not complete my routine, and find the rest of my day is spent in a terrible mental space - God bless my husband who has to deal with it.
I never realized how important a routine was until watched my uncle care for my father. While I don’t need to go into his details, I recognized that his morning routine was a time for him to take a deep breath before being my father’s full-time nurse, executor, etc. I would watch him come into my dad’s new cancer-stricken mornings with a fresh and optimistic outlook on the day, ready to tackle any unknowns because he had taken care of himself first.
While there has been such darkness in my past fifteen years, many happy moments have happened in the middle of chaos. And as I track, I realize that those good days were always met with a morning routine.
STARTING MY MORNINGS EARLY
(4:30 AM - 5:30 AM WAKE UP)
As I grew older, I recognized that had less time to complete tasks. One period of my life, I was directing a theatre production, working part-time, and taking full-time college courses. There was absolutely no time to get any homework done in the evenings. If there was some time left, my mind was mushy.
I had to start waking up, sometimes, at 3:30 am to start my morning. I didn’t realize just how sharp my mind would be at this time. It was like someone gave me a calming smart pill and all of the answers that I ever needed in my studies. In the insanity of that schedule, I ended up with a 4.0 GPA during that semester - completely attributing it to my early morning wake up!
I have now transitioned to 4:30-5:30 am wake up calls so that my mind has a chance to stay clear in the midst of grief.
MAKING MYSELF A HOT DRINK
I am heavily working on not drinking so much caffeine, but I find myself excited to get out of bed because there is a treat waiting for me in my kitchen. Lately, I’ve been drinking black tea, lemon, and honey. But, since my teeth are turning shades of yellow from the tea staining (ughh...gross) and not needing that hard of a caffeine boost, I will be transitioning back to my favorite Tazo Zen Tea - especially now that I can’t find this in Bahrain, I buy it on Amazon.
SMALL, BUT IMMEDIATE PRODUCTIVITY
Usually, my one productive thing is doing the little bits of dishes from the night before. My husband works late and I start dinner right when I hear that he is on his way home - his hours are not very consistent. I clean as I go, but I definitely leave our dinner plates to soak when we are done eating. I am usually falling asleep early on the couch while he’s playing video games or watching TV, so I figure I’d just give myself something to do, productively, when I wake up. It works for me, so I embrace it. It’s that one thing that I can do and feel great - like I am immediately working towards something other than my own thoughts.
TAKING A LIFE ACCOUNT
The small cleaning takes me five minutes, and my hot cup of yum is usually done. At this point, I walk over to the living room and this is where my day begins. I use my Leuchtturm1917 Hard Cover Medium A5 Dotted Notebook to record anything that I want in starting my day. I’m not fancy with it, by any means. But, I’ve picked up some life tools along the way that works for me.
Things I record each day are...
Gratitude: I write a total of five by the end of the day.
Listing what I’ve done, by the hour: When I am stressed, I do not remember what I’ve done throughout the day, let alone half of the conversations I’ve had. This is where I list the events that have happened, by the hour. When things calm down, I stop being so detailed and just write down the main things that happened (for example grocery shopped, went to the Navy Exchange, etc).
The day’s goal: I have my list of daily to-do’s in another book, but I like to wake up and give myself one goal to achieve based off how I’m feeling that day. If I want to get more work done on my website, I’ll list that. If I want to just be able to leave the house for the day, and am having a hard time in my emotional state, I’ll list that. It’s totally dependent on my mood for the day and what I need to do to get myself out of my jam - no matter how big or small it is.
BEGINNING TO WRITE
Now that my head is cleared and I have a plan for the day, I am calm enough to sit and write what I want. I use Google Docs to do all of my writing, as it syncs to my cell phone.
Writing is my therapist. It is where all of the lessons that I’ve learned start to pour out and I make my connections. While I will elaborate on why I write in a later post, I don’t feel like things just happen to you so that you can sit in wallow in the pain. Writing allows me to find joy in my life and relate how events can be used for the betterment of mine and other lives.
TURNING ON THE NEWS
To some, this may seem absurd. However, writing can be so incredibly exhausting and that constant mirror in front of my face is tiring. Most days, I am left totally and completely empty after pouring out words. The best way for me to get out of the funk is to remember that I am not alone in the world. Turning on the news allows me to recall the big dysfunctional place we call “life”, and that my problems are not the center of it - as big as my issues may seem that day. The more ridiculous the stories, the better!
MEDITATING & SPIRITUAL LESSONS
Once I am done watching the news and writing, I find something to fill my soul back up. Since my father gave me his bible and was such an avid man of the Christian faith, I have found myself listening to more Sunday messages - bringing me closer to him. I am lucky that the only pastor I’ve ever felt safe with has his Sunday messages posted online. Long story short - for me, there’s definitely a lot of hurt that comes within the walls of a church. So, having my own community of me, myself, and I - it has been great!
I truly believe that God can speak through many different mediums. To that, I am in the middle of reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and Living a Life of Awareness by Don Miguel Ruiz. For the really rough days, I turn to A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
I have a little green and that is where I record all of my notes on how the things I’ve learned apply to me. If something really strikes a chord, I turn back to Google Docs and write a small introductory paragraph to start later - limiting myself to only one story written per day.
By this point, I am emptied, filled back up, and ready to reread my writing from earlier that morning. My beginning process is to just dump words all over a page and organize later (a bad habit of mine, in general). I have found new insight in my meditation/spiritual lessons, which is great when I go back to evaluate my pieces.
I AM READY TO BEGIN MY DAY
That’s all! That is my little routine that keeps me from going completely insane in my mind, but productive in the sense that I am moving forward to my big goals in life - pouring myself into my words, craft, and self while outwardly seeking vulnerability in every step.
If I can just achieve those four things in everything I do, I feel like I have achieved greatness in the day. For it’s little days that make up your life, and I have to make conscious choices every day to prove to myself that my grief will be used for something better. This is how I do that!
I am a United States military wife, photographer, & writer - raised on Whidbey Island, Washington.
I recently lost my father to cancer & have endured the truths of watching my mother lose her mind to methamphetamine. (…continue reading)