Creating A Morning Routine Changed My Life For The Better
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When I think about successful people, all roads seem to point back to the effectiveness of having a proper morning routine in place. And why shouldn't it? Our mornings literally set the tone for the kind of days we intend to have -- "intend" being the operative word. If you look into any CEO, entrepreneur or business owner, the intention they pour into creating a purposeful morning routine truly seems to be what separates the basics from someone with a boss mentality.
For those of you who aren't familiar with what a morning routine is, it is a set of actions you perform in the morning before you start your day. For those of us with success on the brain, it has become increasingly popular to finetune your mornings in a way that starts you on the right foot, cultivates mindfulness, and helps you to maximize productivity to ensure you are ready to conquer your to-do list when it's officially grind time.
I don't always do my morning routine, however I do notice a distinct difference in my day when I am intentional about completing my routine versus when I'm flying by the seat of my pants and just trying to get things done. During the former, I am at ease, I am happier, there is more of a flow and a sense of effortlessness as I move throughout my day. But the latter? I feel overwhelmed, tense, short with people around me, and chaotic energy charges everything I do or don't get around to doing for that day (or days if slacking off on my mornings is a pattern for a few days at a time).
If you want a glimpse into what a perfect morning looks like for me, routine included, read on below.
Photography by Taylor S. Hunter
An integral part of beginning your day on the right note is waking up well-rested. In a generation that proudly touts how grind season involves "no sleep", let me just say, I'm proud to be a contrarian. Sleep is important for memory, learning, stress relief, immunity, improved mood, better interpersonal relations, and more. While a lack of sleep could potentially prove detrimental to your overall health and well-being. Operating at E isn't a vibe, and certainly shouldn't be a wave for anyone.
Any given night, I aim to sleep for 7-8 hours. As of late, my quality of sleep has been just as important as the quantity of sleep I get. And lately, I have been achieving incredible restful nights of sleep thanks to my new Tuft & Needle mattress (read more about that here). Creating a space that invites sleep is a great foundation for achieving a lot of it. So, if you don't love sleeping, think of ways to make your bedroom more inviting -- be it removing technology, changing your bed frame or buying a new bed, or investing in a new mattress. Your peace of mind will love you for it.
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After drinking a glass of room temperature water, because hydration is key, I really like to force myself awake once my alarm does its thing. One of the best ways to facilitate that is to go to the bathroom, wash my face, and brush my teeth. There's nothing quite like the wakeup call of a cool splash of water to your skin. And ever since Evelyn From The Internet put me on to the fact that you should wash your face for 60 seconds to allow products to truly do their thing, I've been humming The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song as my official time clock.
I bounce between two cleansers depending on what I feel like any given morning, so sometimes it's Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser and other times it's Mario Badescu's Glycolic Foaming Cleanser. Then, I use Mario Badescu's Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater, followed by Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30 and then some tea tree oil (diluted, of course) if I have any blemishes I want to go away.
Writing is an important part of my day-to-day but as the managing editor of xoNecole, I don't often get as much time to write personally or creatively. Journaling has become an intersection where my purpose and my passion can meet, and it's great to just write and the only intention being to get closer to self. Admittedly though, I used to have a tricky relationship with journaling. I'd only journal if I had something I was upset about or needed to vent over. In making it a daily practice, I've found it beneficial to do morning pages where I allow streams of consciousness to flow, spill out, and fill three pages at the top of my morning. I learn a lot about myself in those moments and find some of my best ideas.
If morning pages aren't your thing, you can definitely get reflection time in through a gratitude list, writing down your intentions, or just gathering your thoughts for what your to-do list might look like for the day ahead.
I think it was Stephen King who said, "Read a lot, write a lot" and it's a definitely a quote to live by, especially if you're a writer. The writers I respect most tend to have bookshelves upon bookshelves of books and are constantly consuming other people's words to ignite sparks that will allow them to more strongly create their own. I've been on a self-help wave for the past year and have recently peeled open Material Girl, Mystical World: The Now Age Guide to a High-Vibe Life by Ruby Warrington. We're all about the vibes outchea. I try to read at least 1-2 chapters every morning. One of the most satisfying parts of reading for me is being able to highlight the things that resonate with me the most. I find this habit to be incredibly therapeutic.
Set The Vibe
Let me tell you something about aromatherapy, it works. The role that our noses play in terms of scent and which smells trigger and settle which emotions will never be something that ceases to amaze me. Whether it's with my oil diffuser (and some grapefruit oil or lavender oil on deck) or a good-old fashioned candle, the vibe is set by the scent you choose as its signature. Some mornings, I'm known to light some palo santo or sage but most mornings (and days if I'm being perfectly honest), a soy candle stays lit for hours. My most recent favorites have been "Blush Orchid" (pictured above) and "Tea Leaves" by Chesapeake Bay Candle as well as "Calm Down" by Ryan Porter Candle.
I typically start checking the site (xoNecole.com) around this time to make sure everything is running as it should. Are there any posts that I need to update and republish? Are there any new articles that trickled overnight that can get the greenlight to fast-track to being a post set to publish that day? Are there daily news articles that our fabulous Senior Editor Taylor Honore has waiting in the cut for me to review? Are there urgent emails that need returning? So, I spend 15-30 minutes addressing those things before making my way to having my first meal of the day. My favorite breakfast of the moment is either overnight oats with dried cranberries and apple slices, or eggs, spinach, and some sausage. I then prioritize drinking my remainder 1.5 liters of water before noon, as well as consuming my daily supplements by Binto which is a packet of two multivitamins and one probiotic.
After I've done these things, I feel ready to officially start my day and face the whirlwind of my day, well-rested and well-armored by intention and self-care. Now that I've shown you mine, what does your morning routine look like? Share with me in the comments down below.
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Featured image by Taylor S. Hunter
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What Are Intrusive Thoughts & How Do We Manage Them?
TW: some depictions of intrusive thoughts may be disturbing for readers.
Have you ever caught your mind drifting off to entertain the most disturbing scenarios imaginable? Maybe you can’t stop thinking of all the ways a loved one could pass away or worrying that you left every candle lit in your apartment to which you’d return to a home in ruins. If distressing ruminations like these have crossed your mind, you may be experiencing an intrusive thought.
What Are Intrusive Thoughts?
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted or distressing thoughts, images, or impulses that pop into your mind without your control or consent. These thoughts can be repetitive, unsettling, or even violent in nature, and can cause anxiety and frustration for those who experience them.
“Generally they're unwanted thoughts that come up in our head that interrupt what we're doing or thinking, and can feel very foreign,” says Adia Gooden, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and host of the Unconditionally Worthy podcast. “It’s any thought that intrudes or interrupts what you are doing. They can be distressing and upsetting for us because it feels like we are not in control of them, and they're coming up out of nowhere and aren’t in line with how you normally think.”
What Causes Intrusive Thoughts?
Certain trauma or stress can contribute to the development of intrusive thoughts, so having a challenging experience from the past or current life situations may trigger them to form. “An intrusive thought could come in the form of a flashback, image, or a thought about something that's happened to you,” Dr. Gooden tells xoNecole. “When it gets to the point where you feel like you can't function or make clear decisions, that's when intrusive thoughts become really challenging.”
While some of the 1 billion videos found under the #intrusivethoughts hashtag on TikTok would lead you to believe that these thoughts are nothing more than casual displays of our imagination going untamed. Intrusive thoughts are more than sticking your hand in a soap dispenser, wanting to cut all your hair off at 3 a.m., or having a random impulse to eat fake bread in public.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that approximately six million individuals, equating to roughly two percent of the American population, encounter intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are often linked with obsessive-compulsive disorders, but they can also manifest in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety.
Examples of Common Intrusive Thoughts
Because of the explicit nature of intrusive thoughts, they tend to cause shame and internal conflict in those who experience them. Although these thoughts can differ from person to person, these ideation can consist of:
- Violent or aggressive thoughts towards oneself or others, such as harming or killing someone;
- Sexual thoughts that are unwanted or inappropriate;
- Repetitive thoughts, such as a song or a phrase that keeps repeating in your mind;
- Contamination or germ-related thoughts or the fear of contamination and getting sick;
- Religious or blasphemous thoughts, such as questioning one's faith or having thoughts that go against religious beliefs;
- Doubts or uncertainty about one's own actions or decisions, such as fear of making a mistake or fear of not doing something right.
Intrusive Thoughts and OCD
That’s why Dr. Gooden encourages everyone to understand the difference between our fleeting thoughts and impulses and true, intrusive thoughts. “What level of distress does it cause and is it something you would never consider,” she says. “If you're finding that these thoughts are getting in the way of you living your life and that you're controlled by the thoughts, those are some signs that it would be good to get some support in navigating it.”
She also emphasizes the importance of understanding that while we may not always have control over our thoughts, we can control our behavior. “On TikTok, people are sort of blaming intrusive thoughts on their behavior, and our behavior is always a choice,” she says. “If we are in our right mind and we're not having a psychotic episode, our behavior is our choice — we are not obligated to follow any given thought that we have.”
Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?
With intrusive thoughts, it’s natural to question whether these thoughts are “normal” to have. However, these thoughts are not meant to define who you are as a person but simply indicate that you have a functioning human mind with automated thoughts that you, or any of us, can’t control. These thoughts may come, but they don’t have to be acted upon, nor do they define who you are.
“I've worked with clients in the past who say, ‘Why am I thinking these things? What's wrong with me?’ But if you're not acting on the thought, then it's probably not a huge issue,” Dr. Gooden says. “If you are thinking a harmful thought towards yourself or someone else and you are making plans to act on that thought, then yes, we need to do something about it.”
How To Manage Intrusive Thoughts
If you are struggling with managing unwanted thoughts, Dr. Aida suggests taking these tips to help manage your mindset when they occur:
- "Recognize that it's a thought and thoughts are just thoughts. We often put a little bit too much weight on our thoughts, and that can create a lot of distress. But remember that thoughts are not facts."
- "Having a thought that's disturbing or upsetting doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean that you are suffering from a mental illness."
- "Sometimes the best thing you can do is say, 'Huh, that was an interesting thought. I'm going to let that go. That thought is not helpful for me right now."
- "Ask yourself: is this helpful? Is it helpful for me to buy into this thought and believe this thought? Asking that question can be really helpful because we are not at the mercy of our thoughts. If it's not helpful, you can let it go."
Intrusive thoughts can feel bizarre and foreign when they come up, but they aren't inherently "bad." Our minds can sometimes be filled with random and inappropriate thoughts, but that's what our stream of consciousness does: it thinks. Fortunately, we can release those thoughts at any moment; you don't have to follow through with them.
And ultimately, not every TikTok diagnosis is one that we should label ourselves with.
"It's important for people to acknowledge what they're experiencing but not run too quickly to diagnose themselves with some mental illness or disorder," Dr. Gooden advises. "It ends with confusion, and we miss the opportunity to understand the people who really do have that mental health challenge."
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