What do you do in the morning to warm up for your day? When I asked my friends, family, and colleagues this question, the most popular answers were grabbing a bite to eat, getting a jolt of caffeine, checking e-mail or social media, taking a shower, or a combination thereof. Once upon a time, my routine looked a lot like this, too. I would set my alarm to give myself just enough time to shower, pack a breakfast to go, walk the dog, and head to the bus for my morning commute. It wasn’t until I had a particularly stressful year last year that I realized that it was time to reconsider how I approached the start of my day.
Theatre artists, like athletes, understand the importance of warming up. Just like an athlete stretches and prepares before a competition, an actor prepares her voice, body, and mind before a performance. In fact, the majority of performers, whether they are actors, musicians, or dancers, have a personalized routine that they have developed over time. Without it, they know that all bets are off; their voice may crack, their rhythm may be sluggish, or worst of all they may have difficulty focusing and connecting to their work.
As I reconsidered how to start my day, I realized that I could use the artistic practice of warming up to reinvent my morning routine. To craft a personalized ritual that would work best for me, I asked myself four essential questions:
- How do I feel when I’m at my best?
- How is that different from how I currently feel in the morning?
- What do I find myself struggling with throughout the day?
- What can I do in the morning to alleviate or better prepare myself for those struggles?
The answers gave me three key pieces of information: I needed help shaking off my morning sluggishness, I needed an outlet to work through my stress, and I needed a way to set my mood and intentions for my day. Thanks to this exploration, I’ve been doing the warm up below for over a year with great success.
- A cup of warm lemon water wake up my taste buds and encourage my body to release toxins.
- A mild incense to wake up my nose and set a sacred state of mind. My personal favorite is this gorgeous Tibetan incense.
- Soft music to wake up my ears and set a peaceful, positive mood. Songs of Kuan Yin is my favorite spiritual collection. I also love piano or strings, like Porcelain by Helen Jane Long.
- Ten to fifteen minutes of gentle stretching and movement to wake-up my body and check in with any areas that are holding tension. In addition to traditional yoga, I love the poses in Divine Posture Influence upon Endocrine Glands.
- Ten to fifteen minutes of journaling to check-in with my mind and emotions and to create positive solutions to circumstances that are creating stress, worry, or fear. I didn’t care for journaling until I read Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within – I highly recommend it if you want to jump start your journaling experience!
- Ten to fifteen minutes of mediation to check-in with my higher self and to solidify any goals and intentions. I am a huge fan of Deepak Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation Cycles, which he offers for free a few times a year and which are also available for purchase.
Just like an actor adjusts her routine to better prepare for a particular role, I adjust my morning ritual however I need to in order to best prepare for what my day has in store. For example, you’ll notice that some parts of my warm up have flexibles time windows. This is to account for the final essential question that I ask myself before I go to sleep each night: what’s realistic for my schedule tomorrow? While the answer changes often, I do everything I can to not abandon my warm up completely.
Before I created this routine, I started my days sleepy and unfocused, leaving myself open to being swept up by whatever energies or events were thrown my way. It was a draining, often frustrating experience that affected my mood and my ability to work toward my larger dreams. Now, thanks to my morning warm ups, I determine the fate of my day instead of letting the circumstances around me do it for me. My stress level has gone down, I have a more positive attitude, and I’m better prepared to receive any potential opportunities that come my way.
So before you go to bed tonight, I encourage you to ask yourself: is there anything you want to change about the way you start your day?