How to keep your lockdown morning ritual when life gets busy again

Whether it was time to exercise, eat breakfast as a family or launch a meditation practice, for many of us, lockdown mornings without commutes and other responsibilities became more open for enjoyment.

“Without the normal time pressures … it’s allowed lots of us to tap into what our priorities are and what we need to do to look after ourselves and to support us during a pretty uncertain time,” says Dr Addie Wootten, psychologist and CEO of Smiling Mind.

Setting time aside to do what you have prioritised in the morning without those distractions is important.Credit:iStock

“When we set ourselves up at the start of the day, it has a flow-on effect to the rest of the day and how we experience things. The morning routine gives us that opportunity to think about our mindset and set some intentions around what you want the day to be like for you.”

Take Melbourne artist Kate Rijs, whose days began with a slow meander through her bayside suburb, taking photos of tiny details on her phone, such as bees pollinating or shadows falling in striking ways, to remind her of the abundance in her 5km radius.

“When I zoom in, suddenly a 5km zone that once seemed so restrictive becomes a wonderland waiting to be explored,” she says.

“[This exercise] reminds me that although there are many troubles in the world, alongside them there is also beauty in the little things, just waiting to be found.”

So powerful is this little practice that Rijs says it brings a holiday feeling to everyday life, and it’s something she wants to continue to tap into once AM busyness returns.

“On a holiday, I relax, tune in and see amazing things,” she says.

“Now I’ve realised I can step out my door in the suburbs and decide that for this hour I have, I’m going to see beautiful things, relax and tune into what is around me.”

Similarly, Diane Westaway from Sydney’s northern beaches found value in shaking up her mornings in lockdown. Where she once started the day with 30 minutes dancing and a sunrise walk and swim with a friend, a knee injury meant she had to find a new way to bring in dawn when confined to her home.

“I would get up and pull on my oodie and take freshly plunged coffee onto my balcony to watch the sun rise or go for a mountain bike ride,” she says.

“I learnt that you don’t have to get in the car and go somewhere [for adventure]. As we got more and more locked down and our world got smaller, I realised how satisfied I could be and I hope that state of mind continues.”

Now as we come out of lockdown, many of us have been pondering how to keep one of the few silver linings of lockdown – the slower paced mornings with more time for things we value most.

Set up a good start

Habit expert Dr Gina Cleo says that when commutes begin robbing some of our morning free time, we need to get creative to pursue our passions or self-care rituals.

“Having some flexibility is really important so you’re not stuck to the idea that it has to happen at the same time you’ve been doing it or in the same place,” she says.

“The first thing [we need to ask] is, how do we create more time? That might be waking up earlier or changing it up and doing [those lockdown morning activities] later in the day or in your commute.”

Canberra optometry student Jahin Tanvir anticipates some earlier bedtimes when in-person university lectures resume so he can keep his mindful mornings.

Instead of rolling out of bed at the last minute and smashing a banana and a coffee on his way out the door, lockdown saw him switch to green tea and begin meditation, journaling and poetry writing in a bid to curb the stress and anxiety of lockdown.

“I’ve found it immensely helpful for my mental health, in ways I’ve never felt before,” he says.

“It’s made me more productive – I feel refreshed in the morning and it’s made me look forward to mornings more.”

Dr Wootten also suggests leaving our phones on the charger when we first wake up to prevent time lost to an email or social media vortex.

“There is a tendency to get up and check email or look through social media and that can derail you,” she says.

“Setting time aside to do what you have prioritised in the morning without those distractions is an important part of a good morning.”

Be flexible

There’s no denying that factoring in commutes and child drop-offs will suck some of the morning slowness, so Cleo suggests workshopping potential roadblocks in advance.

“Expect life is going to look a bit different and [that] there’s going to be some barriers,” she says.

“[Try to] anticipate what those barriers are going to be, then work out really practical strategies to get past them.”

In fact, wellness coach Lyndall Mitchell believes we have to start the night before if we want to make the most of our mornings.

“If I’ve got an early start and things are looking tight the next morning, I’ll have my lunch made, my water bottle out and my keys next to the bag – anything that will help my morning flow,” she says.

Mitchell, founder of Aurora Spa, also takes time at the start of the week to work out which mornings have more scope.

“I love the handwritten diary,” she says.

“I can see that, ‘On Tuesday I’m going to do something smaller in the morning because I’ve got a really heavy day and then on Friday I’m going to take longer because my day is easier. Then on Saturday I’m going to allow two hours’.”

When it comes to what you manage on the daily, Mitchell suggests trying to find micro versions of your favourite rituals.

“Let’s focus on the things that bring the greatest benefit and impact,” she says.

“It might not be an hour long walk but it might be a 15-minute walk that’s a really focused and mindful walk. It might not be a long seated meditation, but you might be able to have a mindful shower using a beautiful body wash.”

Check in with yourself

Set a calendar alert for one month into your post-lockdown life to see how you’re faring and what your mornings are looking like.

“After a month, do some journaling to reflect on the things you’ve let go and the things you want more of in your life,” Mitchell suggests.

“Reward yourself for doing this monthly check by booking a massage or something nice – we get the biggest behavioural change when we build in rewards.”

In reality, our mornings are going to look different but it doesn’t mean we have to revert to how things were before.

“When we get back into it, your work might have changed, and where you’re working from will probably change – everything’s had a reset,” Mitchell says.

“We’re going to trial a whole heap of things and some are going to stick and some are not going to stick. That is perfectly human and normal.”

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