My Morning Hamster Wheel - By: Erin Cummings
I used to be that person that blamed being late on my kids. I used to be that person that said “I don’t care if I’m late.” I used to be that person that screamed at everyone in the morning to hurry up, knowing damn well it was really my fault. To be honest, I’m still late a lot, but I’ve realized it’s a practice for me and it takes a lot of work.
I’ve always envied business women who are moms or have extremely insane job schedules that are successful and seem to have it all together, and I would always get so frustrated because I would hear them talk about their morning routines. (Be sure and read this next part with a super judge-y tone) “Yeahhhhh, I wake up in the morning, meditate, journal, don’t check my emails or social media, make breakfast, do yoga, listen to a podcast, go on a walk, drink a smoothie, get the kids ready for school, finalize solving the crisis in the middle east, sell $1.5 million dollars in real estate, and take my pre-workout drink. It’s really not big deal.” Cool…Cool…Cool…..
As an avid night owl and procrastinator mornings really suck for me. I’ve always thought there was some rule that I had for myself that I was never going to be a morning person. I was never going to wake up at 5am. I was never going to be on time. My kid is only in 3rd grade, who cares if he was like 5 minutes late, I HAVE SHIT TO DO. Also, I don’t.
Before I dive deep down a morning hatred followed by self shaming hole, let’s just say the impact of doing this over and over again created a seriously stressed out me. Lots of yelling, lots of rushing around, lots of blaming and shaming.
How did I fix it? I haven’t yet. What I do know….I am no longer that person there at the top.
I’ve realized mornings are actually really important to me, and they shouldn’t be immediately thrown away like the box for the mac and cheese.
I read a ton of books on creating new habits and that really opened up my eyes on what was working and not working for me. Before I did that, I had to get really clear with myself on what habits were actually working (not a lot) and what were not working (most of them, the first would be hitting my snooze button for 8 times - I’m not exaggerating). I also realized that I am constantly negotiating with two different versions of me in my head. One Erin says “Just sleep in, Charlotte finally slept in her own bed.” The other Erin says “Dude, you said we were going to work out this morning before work.” To which I then reply to myself “Sleep always wins.”
I made a sleep always wins rule, but why?
A few big things have happened over the past two years that have helped me change my morning routine, and you what to know what they are? My dad being in a life threatening motorcycle accident. COVID. Our contractor in our new house killing the electricity in our bedroom, so I had to plug my phone in to the bathroom.
What do I know now? That I didn’t actually need those things to happen to make the small changes I needed to set up a successful morning routine, and many of those things were actually in the works of me practicing change, but those catapulted me into immediate change.
Once we moved into our new house there were a few things that I realized when I set out to create my new routine when my oldest went back to school and I went back to work:
- I needed more help in the morning. Which led to my husband taking my older kiddo to school since it is on the way to his office.
- Since Maddie Dog sleeps downstairs only, if I go downstairs in the morning she must IMMEDIATELY eat and poop or all hell breaks loose.
- If I want to meditate, journal, or workout. I have to do that before I go downstairs because of the dog.
- I have more space in my head and heart all day if I get at least a minimum of 5 minutes with myself and my coffee cup and no one else.
- The big one: stop waking my kids up only 30 minutes prior to needed to leave when they need time.
The habit loop is cue -> routine -> reward -> then back to cue. The reading material taught me was that I needed to figure out the habit I was wanting to change and the components of the loop.
What a lot of us don’t realize is that we are all in our own little self made hamster wheels of habits, just churning and burning through life, and those are all set up using rules based on what we know at the time. Sometimes, something shakes us off the wheel, like a parent in a motorcycle accident. Sometimes, we decide it’s time to step off the wheel on our own. My old morning routine was a wheel of glass shards and hot coals, and at that time I would have rather bleed out then get off the wheel.
What am I doing now that works? Getting up at the same time every day. Meditating before I go downstairs. Journaling if needed. Feed the dog, breakfast, make lunches thing, and wake the kids up at two different times, because ya know…sanity.
The other big new thing I’ve been trying: listening to a book or podcast while I’m getting ready. My creative brain now craves it. That instant boom of creativity in the morning helps me stay in the game.
The best part about a lot of these new morning routine guidelines I’ve set for myself….they aren’t rules that I have to bargain with myself to break. I don’t have to shame myself if I mess up, and I know now that if I choose to say NO to something and we are late, it’s on me.
I’ve come to realize my morning routine is just like my yoga practice. It ebbs and flows. Somedays are easy, some are challenging, and a lot of times my body knows what to do, but my brain is the one that holds me back. It’s all about mastery, not success.
See below a list of books I found extremely resourceful in learning about habits and creating change in my life. Is your favorite not on my list? Leave a comment below and I’ll add it to my reading list!