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5 Morning Activities That Reduce Stress & Anxiety

One of the best ways to deal with stress

Earlier this year I found myself waking up in hospital, startled and perplexed at what the hell had happened.

As it turned out, I hadn’t been taking good care of myself and ended up having several seizures in the night.

A result of entrepreneurial over exuberance, I’d managed to burn the candle at both ends and just like that my life had ground to a halt.

Fast forward several months, I’m now better than I ever was before, happier than I’ve been since starting my business and loving the things in life and work that made me stressed out in the past.

So, what’s changed so much in my life to turn me from overworked pain the arse (ask my Girlfriend) to someone who is happy and virtually stress-free?

Well, a few things to be honest, but none of it would be possible if it weren’t for my morning routine.

Interestingly, I’m not a morning person, I’ve never been a morning person, but as I replicate the motions of my routine every morning, I feel I’m quickly training myself to become one.

There is a myriad of stress reducing tips swathed across the interwebs. Some great, some, well pretty terrible.

I’ve spent a lot of time testing different methods and theories to find what works best for me, and the conclusion I’ve come to recently is that what I do as soon as I wake up in the morning usually effects the rest of my day. It’s up to me whether that’s in a positive or negative way.

According to Christopher Randler for the Harvard Business Review, “people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for success because they’re more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening”.

I always start off with a set morning routine that puts me in a position to remain proactive throughout the rest of the day.

The ever unpredictable life of an entrepreneur can take its toll. Taking care of yourself in the morning is a surefire way to help ease the stress and make you even better at what you do.

10 PUSH UPS

Why do I do this?? Because it always starts my day off with something positive. I’m not doing this to get ripped, that’s at the bottom of my agenda, but starting the day off with ten push-ups springs me into life better than anything else I’ve tried in those moments after waking up.

I can say with complete confidence that the process of 10 simple push-ups wakes me up very quickly, but what’s more interesting is finding out why this is so effective.

Firstly, it boosts your natural energy without any artificial shit running through your bloodstream. Caffeine, most people’s go to wake up remedy, is causing the body more harm than good first thing in the morning, something we’ll get into later in the article.

It’s also a very easy habit to form. Once you’ve forced yourself from the warmth of your sheets, you’re mentally half way there.

The formation of habits is super important. According to research from Dukes University, habits account for about 40% of our behaviour on any given day. Habits: A Repeat Performance by David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn

If you’re interested in the topic of habit creation, I highly recommend James Clear. He’s super clued up on habit formation, amongst other very interesting human performance related topics.

James is the reason I’m inspired to do ten push-ups each morning. He recommends starting off with a very small habit. In fact, ten push-ups are what he starts his day off with too, so if it’s good enough for him, it’s certainly good enough for me. I urge you to give it a shot.

And finally, if building muscle is something you’re bothered about, then push-ups are pretty damn good for that.

Word of warning, though, if you’re doing a high number of push-ups then you’ll want to avoid doing them every single day as it could lead to injury or long-term damage.

The point here is not muscle building, so just stick to 10 first thing in the morning, and you’ll be well away to a having a positive day.

HYDROTHERAPY SHOWER

A lot of people seem to rate taking a cold shower. I’m sure it wakes you up good and proper, but I don’t want to put myself through abject misery every morning in the hope that it might somehow reduce my anxiety — it just won’t.

I do what’s called Hydrotherapy. Here’s how it goes:
– Jump in the shower and do your body washing as normal.
– Then once you’re done slam the shower as cold as it’ll go for 30 seconds.
– Then turn it up as hot as your can stand for another 30 seconds.
– Then just before you get out, slam it back to cold for a second to finish off. 
– Always end on cold.

This process opens up the capillaries and gets the blood flowing properly throughout the body, which leads to an all-around sense of stimulation.

Here is a super informative article by Phil Dumontet for Entrepreneur about the benefits of this nifty little shower trick.

There are deep scientific reasons for how hydrotherapy works, but as they’re above the scope of this article, you can check out more here.

For me, it’s just about waking up whilst reducing my morning anxiety, and it does that pretty damn well.

If you’re feeling any trepidation around having a cold shower in the morning, just think about the long term benefits throughout your day, and once you get used it, it’s not all that bad!

PEPPERMINT TEA — ZERO CAFFEINE!

Counterintuitive regarding most people’s morning routines, and advice, but I honestly believe that Caffeine was the biggest problem-causing element of my old morning routine.

There was something I loved about brewing coffee first thing in the morning, perhaps it’s the romanticised continental image it portrayed that drew me into its clutches.

I could just tell that caffeine was having an adverse effect on me. From stress and anxiety levels, through to serious headaches. I’d also built up a tolerance to caffeine, something I later learnt was as due to drinking it too soon after I woke up. And then it all went wrong when I ended up having five seizures in the night as a result of stress and too much damn caffeine.

Caffeine increases anxiety at a time when your body is at its most anxious. This is caused by stimulation of the adrenal gland, resulting in increased stress and blood pressure.

Cortisol (the stress hormone) helps us get up in the morning and makes us feel energised. So, the traditional norms of drinking caffeine first thing in the morning are totally counterproductive and can lead to a caffeine tolerance because the body is relying on caffeine, rather than the natural cortisol.

Peppermint tea is my drink of choice first thing in the morning, and its benefits are immense. Menthol, that’s naturally present within the tea, is a muscle relaxant that directly correlates to reduced stress and anxiety.

If you want my advice, kick that morning coffee into touch and pick up some peppermint tea bags.

My choice of Peppermint Tea — Teapigs Peppermint Tea

NATURAL PROTEIN-PACKED BREAKFAST

I used to skip breakfast religiously, for some peculiar reason I felt sure it wasn’t all that important and that I’d just pick something up at lunch to last me throughout the day.

What on earth was I thinking? There are zero benefits to skipping breakfast, no matter what your faddy new diet is telling you.

Skipping breakfast immediately makes your body work harder, which raises your natural stress levels and gives that troublesome anxiety something to feed on.

Don’t skip breakfast!

I alternate between two stress reducing breakfasts:

One morning I’ll eat Eggs with Asparagus, packed with vitamins proven to boost your mood, and the next day I’ll enjoy some Full-fat Greek Yoghurt with Honey & Granola, great for fighting depression, also super tasty and incredibly healthy.

You might be thinking that asparagus is a little odd for breakfast, but I can tell you that it’s fantastic with eggs, and proven to reduce anxiety.

According to Health blog Mind Body Green — This sulfur-rich vegetable also contains the specifically beneficial B vitamin, folic acid. Low levels of folic acid are linked to neurotransmitter impairment, which can lead to anxiety. A 5.3-ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid! It also contains moderate amounts of potassium, which can lower blood pressure.

If you don’t eat breakfast before a long day at the office, you’re at a severe disadvantage. Make sure you fill up on energy before starting the day ahead

10 MINUTES OF MEDITATION

I have to admit that for a long, long time I struggled to come to terms with the concept of meditation. It felt, well kind of fluffy to me as if it wasn’t something that couldn’t solve my problems.

But, a couple of weeks after I got out of the hospital, I decided to give it a shot.

Meditation has been the single biggest revelation in my life since then. I literally cannot rate it highly enough, and if your life revolves around your business, or you’re a freelancer, or an entrepreneur then I urge you to give it a try.

If you’re new to meditation, I highly recommend you download the Headspace app.

Headspace bills itself as your gym membership for the mind, and takes you through several different modules of meditation, holding your hand through every bit of full care and attention.

What I do is sit in an upright position with my peppermint tea by my side and meditate for 10 minutes, before getting up and walking to the office. This meditative process turns my walk to the office from an anxiety-riddled nightmare, into a truly peaceful and thoughtful experience.

So there you have it, the morning routine that has totally reinvigorated my entrepreneurial life into a place where I’m genuinely enjoying the day ahead without stress and anxiety looming over me.

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