Sunday, January 4, 2009

Waking Up and Getting Out of Bed

Read Update and Mornings for Children with ADHD

It’s winter, it’s dark, it’s cold, and it is so very easy to stay in bed. But it is also January and while I am not one for making resolutions, I am regularly trying to make changes. The most dramatic goal on my list currently is structuring a healthy morning schedule. The following ideal is a combination of suggestions I have found on other sites, advice from doctors, and my own experiences. Having a structured morning routine can help those suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and plain old lethargy. There are also adjustments that can be made by parents in order to encourage their children to wake more easily and gently.

Although I have some knowledge of different psychiatric medications, I am not a doctor. Please check with your doctor before making any changes in your medications.

7.30 :

Have an alarm set. This should be something non-alarming like nature sounds, classical music (though I would stay away from Gould first thing in the morning), or quiet talk. The cheapest and easiest strategy would be an old clock radio set to an all-talk station. I personally don’t like to listen to the news upon awakening, nor do I recommend it. An alternative idea is to set the radio to a French station. For recorded music, you can use a clock with a cd player or have a cd player set up next to your bed (so you don’t have to get out of bed to turn it on). Another idea I came across is to go into the BIOS menu of your computer and set it to start at the time you want to wake up as well as setting your media player to start automatically.

Turn on a light. A therapeutic light box can be beneficial to those with SAD as well as helping your body set its circadian clock. I turn on my light box to the low setting for the first 15 minutes of waking. Full-spectrum lights are also nice and can be found at growing stores. But any light will do. The advantage of having your computer set to start, if it is beside your bed, is that it provides light as well as sound.

7.45 :

Turn light box to high setting. If you are using regular lights, you might want to turn on some more. If you sleep with your curtains closed, this would be a good time to open them, even if it’s gray outside.

Change music to something more stimulating. Having stand-up comedy in the background was recommended by one person, although anything you are consciously listening to should work.

Do some small stretches, while still lying in bed, just to get your body moving.

Take morning medications (for people who are on stimulants, this might be a good time to take them) and drink some water (keep a glass or bottle of water beside the bed).

7.50 :

In order to give your body more time to adjust to waking, stay in bed a little longer (15 – 30 min), but be engaged in some activity. A few ideas include reading, journaling, CBT work, and meditating. If you have a laptop bookmark some sites with funny comics or sites that you find motivational. Email is ok as long as it isn’t a stressor; write a letter to a friend.

On the Zen Habits site is a recommendation to set yourself three goals that are most important (called the MIT – Most Important Tasks). I recommend setting these goals the previous night and using this morning time to review them. Mornings can be difficult enough when you’re suffering from any psychiatric ailment, so don’t add stress to the morning by trying to organise the entire day while still in bed. Also, if you are going through a particularly tough period, don’t feel your tasks need to be huge. If the one thing that needs to get done that day is make the bed, that’s alright. If you’re feeling well, maybe challenge yourself on something new you’ve wanted to do for a while. Your daily goals need not be obligations; indulge yourself as well.

You can also use this time to review favourite affirmations or to congratulate yourself on what you accomplished the previous day. If you have pets, children, or a partner spend some time in physical contact with them. It’s much easier to wake when you are engaged with others whom already are active.

8.15 :

Go for a walk (or some other form of exercise). There is some advice out there that says to get out of bed first thing in the morning, but this doesn’t work for me. Instead, getting out of bed tends to make me more tired and unmotivated and I wind up going back to sleep. If you do want to get out of bed right away, try to get outside. You don’t have to walk far, taking out the garbage will suffice, but you will find that as you adjust to the routine the walks will become more enjoyable and longer.

Make your walk more than a chore. Meditate, find new streets to walk down, discover sources of inspiration. If you are getting up a bit later, maybe stop by a coffee shop and get something to go. Whatever you do, try to get outside.

8.30 :

Shower and groom.

9.00 :

Eat and take vitamins. Review goals for the day again and choose one to tackle first. I also like to read while I’m eating.

A few tips to make things even easier:
Give yourself time to settle into a new routine. If you usually wake at noon, don’t try waking up a six right away (or if you do, make sure you adjust your bedtime to avoid fatigue and physical and psychological stress). Don’t adjust your schedule by more than 30 minutes each day and do even less than that if you can.

Have everything set up the night before; make your goal list, set some water out for the morning, have your medications ready, have a variety of music at the bedside as well a book to read and some notepaper and a pen for writing or drawing.

Put everything, or at least have the first light, on a timer. You can get these at a hardware store and set the timer on the plug to go off at whatever time. That way, you don’t have the opportunity of talking yourself out of the rest of the routine before it’s started, which can be a very easy thing to do some days.

Make a cd or playlist such that the music/talk changes without you having to physically change the disc or push any buttons. The goal is to make mornings as comfortable as possible. Waking up happens slowly so don’t push yourself to wake faster than you are comfortable with.

Sleep with your curtains open or switch to fabrics that allow some light to filter through. Natural sunrise is the best light there is for your body.

Make your bedroom an aesthetically pleasing place to be. Live things, pets, humans, flowers (which aren’t technically alive but are very pretty), will make it easier to get up. In addition to all of your morning supplies, keep a goldfish on your bedside table and feed him when you get up. Have a plant next to your bed and water it when you have your first glass of water. Put up art that you find inspirational. Paint your walls a soft colour. Put up mirrors to capture more light. Have some scented candles or other pleasant scents around.

Also, for those of us who procrastinate of New Year’s resolutions, check out the following sites:
- Make your own list of commandments for how you want to live your life
- There are many inspirations activities and helpful suggestions here and it is not overly preachy, religious, spiritual, or trite. This is where you can find more details about MIT. Also try the goal tracker.

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