Feeling Sluggish in the Mornings? Here’s How to Wake up Motivated

Emily Starbuck Gerson

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If you wake up feeling unmotivated to get out of bed and start your workday, you’re far from alone. Though in these strange times, many of us find it even harder to avoid the snooze button and muster the energy to start our day. In addition to the anxiety-inducing uncertainty of the coronavirus, many of us are stuck working from home, facing new distractions and a lack of boundaries that can make the workday feel more stressful than usual. Fortunately, with a little bit of effort, it is possible to wake up motivated again, even during a pandemic. It just takes a little mindfulness and planning to build new habits that put a little more pep in your step. Here’s how.

Start with sleep

Getting enough sleep isn’t ideal — it’s necessary. While some genetic mutants are gifted with the ability to thrive on four hours, the majority of us really do need a solid seven to nine hours a night to function optimally. Sleep deprivation does a lot more than make us groggy and unmotivated in the morning: It can leave us moody or depressed, impair our memory and cognition, weaken our immunity, and cause chronic health problems, The Cleveland Clinic says.

If you’re not catching enough Zs and think that could be the root of your lack of motivation, prioritize sleep hygiene for a few weeks and focus on getting at least seven or eight hours a night consistently. See if that helps you feel more rested and motivated to start the day. If you have trouble getting to bed and/or waking up rested, try our tips for getting a better night’s sleep.

Go deeper

Maybe your sleep is really out of whack, or you’ve tried to adopt better habits but are still struggling to wake up motivated. If you’re burned out, it’s likely that sleep itself isn’t your problem, but a symptom. Burnout is a form of chronic, unmanaged stress typically linked to work, though its impacts can affect every facet of your life, from physical to emotional. For those struggling with burnout, sleep can be hard to come by or not feel restorative.

We recommend looking deeper to figure out what the root cause could be. What is keeping you up at night? If you sleep just fine but wake up feeling anxious and repeatedly hit snooze, what is weighing you down or giving you a sense of dread in the morning?

If you think burnout could be the cause of your sleep or motivation struggles, sign up for our email newsletter at the bottom of this post to learn how Flourish helps people escape burnout.

Start an evening routine…

One way to help build in time for sleep and wake up better rested is to create a relaxing nighttime routine, or “closing ritual.” The goal is to wind down and head to bed with as little stress as possible, making it easier to fall asleep and get a solid night’s sleep.

Consider setting a nightly alarm to remind you that it’s time to start your evening routine. During that last hour or two before lights out, minimize screen time or avoid it altogether. This time could be spent journaling, making a gratitude list, or writing out to-dos for the next day to get them out of your head. You could read a light book or do a puzzle with some chamomile tea, or do some slow stretching or yoga nidra. There are also apps with guided sleep meditations to help you relax and drift off, such as Insight Timer or Calm that can help you wake up motivated.

According to the folks at Early to Rise, the key is to avoid anything overly stimulating in the last hour or two before bed. It’s not easy, but do your best to find an evening routine devoid of social media, digital games, addictive shows, page-turning books, or anything else that keeps your brain in overdrive when you need to be powering down.

…And a morning routine

We know there’s been a lot of talk about optimizing your morning routine, and we’re not going to insist you try any one specific tactic. Instead, we recommend experimenting to figure out what you need to start the day feeling clear and focused.

If you hit snooze four times, check your phone immediately (and get stressed by the onslaught of notifications), throw on clothes and run out the door, you’ll start the day frazzled, stressed, and on auto-pilot. According to Science of People, it’s ideal to figure out what helps you start the day with intention and clarity, and build it into a consistent routine that reduces decision fatigue.

Here are some ideas for a morning routine that will leave you feeling more motivated:

  • Take your dog on a morning walk or meet up with a neighbor or friend for a stroll (socially distanced, of course).
  • Stretch, do yoga, or exercise to get your blood flowing. Consider doing live digital classes so you have a hard start time, and rope in a friend to do it with you from their home to keep you accountable.
  • Write in a journal and/or make a gratitude list to reflect and check in with yourself.
  • Meditate, even just for five minutes, to feel grounded (try our tips for building a meditation habit that actually sticks).
  • If you enjoy cooking, make yourself a healthy breakfast that you’ll look forward to eating.

If you’re not sure what helps you wake up motivated, do some trial and error, and remember that it’s not always instant gratification. For example, maybe the thought of exercising first thing in the morning sounds terrible when you’re cozy in bed, but if you find that you experience a post-exercise high and more motivation to start work, you might be more likely to wake up and do it.

Stick with new healthy habits

When you find a nighttime and morning routine that makes you feel good, the challenge becomes sticking with it and making it a habit. It’s easy to excitedly start a new routine and fall off the wagon within days or weeks. We’ve learned the key is to avoid being too ambitious; start small and build up. If you struggle to stick with new habits, we recommend checking out Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist and researcher at Stanford University. He believes it’s best to start with little, simple actions that are simple to fit into your life. Like a snowball effect, over time they become easier to do and build on until they’re no longer a chore, but an ingrained habit that helps you reach your goals.

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