What's in a morning routine? A lot, actually. Many Veterans experience elevated levels of stress due to service-connected mental health conditions coupled with the physical demands of military service. By combating stress in your morning routine, you can set yourself up for success during the rest of the day.
Whether you are a Veteran working on stress management or someone who is simply in need of more relaxation in your life: Here are 5 different ways to combat stress in your morning routine.
Start the night before
It's no longer a secret: The quality of our sleep affects our mental health. It's make or break when it comes to stress – with poor sleep quality increasing stress hormones, and high quality sleep reducing them. Veterans are at a higher risk of sleep disturbances, whether due to sleep apnea or other service-connected conditions such as GERD. Start the night before by organizing your morning: Lay out clothing, prepare a bag, and be aware of what you have to do the next day. This promotes relaxation before bedtime and also allows for a clearer mind in the morning, giving more space to start the day leisurely.
Between notifications and the news, many different things are competing for attention first thing in the morning. This flurry of information can contribute to stress if we don't manage it properly. Mindfulness is the practice of staying in the present moment – and it can do wonders for our mental health.
Here are a couple different ways to do it:
Identifying and engaging in the senses
We actually wrote an entire blog about it – so here are four easy ways to practice mindfulness if you've never tried it before.
Incorporate light physical activity
Physical activity – even something as light as stretching – can reduce our stress levels. It's even better when incorporated into a morning routine. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America states that regular exercise can decrease tension levels and both elevate and stabilize your mood. It can also improve your physical health and prevent disease, making it a vital tool for both physical and mental health. Whether its a quick walk around the block or a workout class, your brain and body will thank you.
Balance your breakfast plate
What's in a balanced breakfast plate? Protein, fiber, and produce – according to Healthline. High protein foods, like eggs, cottage cheese, or sliced meats, can help to keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, providing more healthy energy for the day. Foods that contain prebiotics, such as yogurt, have been shown to reduce cortisol levels (one of the body's stress hormones). You can also opt for any of these blood pressure-reducing foods to add to your breakfast plate – food for thought.
Skip the screens
Checking the news or your notifications first thing in the morning can trigger stress and cause heightened levels of distraction within your brain. Trade your news feed for mindfulness or simply breakfast – the notifications will still be there when you eventually check your phone. By spending the first 30 minutes to one hour of your day off screens, you get to start the morning on your own terms. Assuming you're incorporating light exercise and a well-balanced meal in the morning, it'll be a simple swap to do this first instead of scrolling through news.
Are you a Veteran seeking mental health support?
Mental health matters. Veterans experiencing mental health conditions deserve support and care to move forward. If you have a service-connected mental health condition, we can help you get the VA disability benefits you need. You're not alone – there are many common mental health conditions faced by Veterans.