Most of us are all too familiar with stress—both acute and chronic. Work-life balance, or lack thereof, is one of the many things that heavily impact these levels. The last two years have significantly tested our ability to find that balance and manage high levels of stress. They have also highlighted our basic human needs—social interaction, adequate sleep, nutrition, daily movement—as well as many other important rituals and routines that may be necessary to function efficiently and even find some enjoyment along the way. While genetics and upbringing play an important role in our physiology and how we navigate the world, there are indeed some lifestyle choices we can incorporate to help us better manage our day-to-day lives and in turn, be of greater use to our families, social circles, and society.
The way we arise in the morning can set the tone for how we will spend the rest of our day. For example, favoring the snooze button allows our body to slip into sleep inertia, the transitional state between sleep and rest. This is because when our alarm sounds, it stimulates our stress response and an increase in cortisol levels. Attempting to go back to sleep won’t actually allow us to get to a deep restful sleep state. You can rather, try pushing the alarm time out another 20 minutes to achieve a greater quality sleep and a more productive morning.
Another element of modern life that impacts almost all of us is, not surprisingly, technology. Many of us check our phones first thing in the morning, and continuously throughout the day. The mindset and activities we begin the day with will often influence how we manage our time the rest of the day. For a lot of us, the first few moments of wakefulness are the only quiet ones of the day. We can take advantage of this by checking in with our bodies rather than our devices, and allowing this to lead us. Are we waking up sore from sleeping wrong or potentially physically overexerted? Are we waking up hungry, or with a stomachache from eating too late last night? Actively listening to what our body is telling us can only help us. Incorporating small morning habits like yoga flow or a light walk to alleviate achy muscles, making the bed to help declutter our mind, or rehydrating with mineral water from loss of fluids during sleep, are small ways we can tune in with ourselves and create a positive feedback loop between our mind and body.
Light is another one of the most important things that affect how we wake up in the morning. Being exposed to direct natural light within the first 30 minutes of waking stimulates our serotonin production, a chemical found in our digestive system made from the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin is commonly known for its benefits on mood and emotional health, and its connection to happiness, anxiety, and depression. However, it also provides a wide array of other benefits relating to digestion, nausea, blood clotting, sleep, and even bone health. Taking an outdoor yoga class or beginning the day by opening your windows, watering your plants, and moving with the waking world is a small practice that could provide continuous payoff.
In this modern and hurried age, we have many expectations placed upon us. We switch careers, move homes, and enter new social circles, but we are with our minds and our bodies every step of the way. Integrating thoughtful rituals that tend to both of these can provide immeasurable impact on our mental and emotional health, stress levels and overall well-being. You might even say it is essential.
Analicia Garcia is a Wellness Specialist Team Lead at Peoples Rx. She received her degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she studied nutrition, health management, emotional wellness, and exercise physiology.
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