Wake Up. It's the Best Stress Reliever!

By Molly Cain
August 21, 2012 • comment(s)
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Years ago, early in my career, I moved to Dallas for a new job. I knew no one in the city, but according to me, this was the job that would propel my career into the heights of executive-ness. I jumped in feet first so I could get the experience of a lifetime. This was going to put me on the map! 

Instead, what it did, was put me in one of the most stressful positions I've ever been in. Late work nights every day of the week, being so busy on business trips that we don't have time to eat (seriously, have you ever had a boss who has control of the rental car and yet refuses to eat? Not cool.) The point here is that the rest of my life (grocery shopping, cleaning, dog walking, working out...you know, living life) suffered considerably.

Around this time, I started frantically searching for a way to manage the stress that came with this "fabulous" job. At first I got gutsy and started sneaking off to a park everyday for lunch to read. But emergencies would happen and I'd get pulled back. Then I tried taking walks through the office building, getting lost in the hallways for 15 minutes at a time. But when I came back, I had an endless amount of email awaiting me to where it made more sense to never leave. It was then that I realized, I needed to start attacking stress before I even walked into the office each day. During my personal time.

This was the first lesson of many lessons for me in the corporate world. Jobs are not constant. Bosses are certainly not constant. Social life is not constant. But what can be constant, is how you run your own life when you're not at work. And for me, that constant is my mornings. In only a few short months, I turned my stress level down to an absurdly low level, scored some great new biceps, added more goals to my "to do's" and even became more productive. It's what I do even to this day and I swear by it.

So what do I actually do in the mornings?

  • I actually wake up. I wake up during the 4 o'clock hour, no matter what (most days). Doing this adds at least three hours to my day before I'm even at the office. It allows me to work on my businesses, get my mind ready for the corporate gig, write a little and do anything else I have on my to-do's.
  • I work out. Getting up early means I can fit my workouts in early (5:30am early). This is where the stress relief really comes in. Exercise is a well-known stress reliever, and that's certainly true for me. Three years ago I started working out "bootcamp-style" and work out alongside other corporate folks every day. Our trainer's motto? "Beat somebody!" And I can promise that you feel this way when you finish a grueling workout before the sun even comes up.
  • I shop. Know the best time to grocery shop? It's at 6:30am. Grocery stores often open at 6am, so you're one of the first people in the door and you live the life of royalty when you're in there. I'm friends with the produce guy, I schmooze with the store manager (that's when I can personally ask him to restock my fav peanut butter) and I can effortlessly navigate the aisles with no one else around me. It's become a stress-free experience for me, and no matter how nerdy it sounds...grocery shopping in the morning has become one of my favorite things to do!
  • I love on my kids. For me, my kids are my dogs. Maybe you have human kids (this works for them too). Getting up this early means I've got more time to love on three things that mean the world to me. And for those times I have to work a little late, I feel a little less guilty about it, because we've already gotten some great quality time in for the day.
  • I eat right. If you've got more time in the morning, you can make yourself a great breakfast. This is usually my biggest meal of the day, and I eat it while catching up on the day's news over on Good Morning America. If you stress yourself out in the mornings and don't leave time for breakfast, you're instead driving through Starbucks or worse, McDonald's, and you've blown your calories before you've even had a chance to put on your makeup. Don't do this!  

Not saying you need to do all of this in the morning, but it works for me. The bottom line here, however, is this: you need to find time in your day, a constant time, to get your stress out. Find time for yourself and it'll make all the change in the world.

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Tamra's picture

Good for you for finding this schedule and sticking to it! For the last few years I've also made the morning 'my' time - which usually includes either outdoor exercise or reading while on the elliptical at the gym. When I was working at a big corporation most people showed up to work by 7:30, so that meant starting exercise by 5:30 am. There was one female upper level manager that I worked for temporarily, and she told me the first day I met her that she never came in before 9 (and made it a point that it was a boundary for her work style). I think in addition to getting the stress out, having set time for yourself every day helps to make sure your day isn't just dictated by the needs of others!

Asunto Bodrum's picture

I really like it whenever people come together and share opinions.
Great site, keep it up!

Raymond's picture

Good article. I absolutely love this site. Keep writing!

Lyle's picture

Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
It's always helpful to read content from other writers and use a little something from their sites.

Minerva's picture

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post and the rest
of the website is extremely good.

Kareem's picture

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Becky's picture

I'm a lifelong night owl, and as many times as I've tried to switch my schedule, my biorhythms wouldn't let me. Now my job requires me to be up earlier so I'm reluctantly adjusting, but I have a very strong motivation I've never had before: a man whose attention in bed I will lose if I'm there with him by 9 p.m. I'll let you know how it goes!

Leigh's picture

Great article Molly! Currently I cap my evenings at 11pm sharp, but still drag to get up. I need to be firm and out of bed by 5am, but sometimes its so nice to sleep! Thanks for the tips!

Molly's picture

Hi Jess! During the work week, I try to call it a night at 10pm. I usually don't miss much, but if there is an event during the week, I have to make a real effort to stay awake for it. Weekends are anyone's guess. But I will say that at this point, since I've kept this schedule for so long, I wake up at that time every day of week regardless of how much sleep I get. Which means I sometimes have to force myself to unplug the laptop and turn of the TV at night.

It might be that a late night is your thing. The main thing is to find a time that your most productive and work hard to keep that built into your daily life.

Jess's picture

this sounds like a good idea but I'd love to know what time you get to bed and what you miss in the evenings? I think the husband would have something to say about it but I love the idea of that quiet time of the day to yourself. Unfortunately though, the shops in UK don't open until at least 7am if you're lucky!