Friday, September 19, 2014

New habit (1 of 1): Waking up early


Starting my day with an early walk is my newest habit for staying calm and chic during busy mornings.

Something that I've always struggled with is waking up early. I'm not (usually) a complete grouch in the morning, but I do love sleeping and sleeping in. Usually my high point for alertness and productivity hits somewhere between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Any time before that just doesn't work. I prefer to ease into my day, rather than jumping up and just going. I was definitely thrown for a loop this fall, when my teaching schedule unexpectedly doubled from three classes to six! What was supposed to be a relatively calm semester with classes starting no earlier than 11 a.m. suddenly changed when I was assigned three more classes beginning at 9 a.m. three days a week. (Not that I am complaining-- I am grateful for the opportunity!) Aside from having to be in to work earlier than usual, the added class preparation and assignment grading  is really time-consuming. There's just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I need to! Rather than completely stressing out (although it happens anyway), I've taken it upon myself to make more time in my day by waking up early: a brand new habit for me.

They key for me to wake up and feel energized is to get up and get moving. Rather than easing in to the morning with a cup of coffee, I  now wake up, throw on some sweats (hopefully one day I'll be able to look more polished, but for now, sweats will suffice), and take my dog for a short walk outside. If I were to stay inside lounging in my pajamas, I would risk falling back asleep or just pottering around until I end up being late-- totally unacceptable when a class of 25 is waiting on me! Instead, the fresh air and morning chill help me to wake up more quickly and begin feeling alert.

I would love to be one of those people who is able to wake up and immediately go exercise--a nice morning jog does sound kind of glamorous to me, although that may be largely because I am a runner. However, to my fragile morning psyche, rigorous exercise immediately upon waking is just too intense. Going for a short but gentle walk with Monty, my beagle mix, is a much better compromise. I still enjoy some of the health benefits of early morning exercise, which is important because with my schedule as busy as it is, I don't know when I'd fit it in otherwise! Also, what's even more special is that my dog and I love our early morning time together! This is especially important as I'm gone for longer portions of the day, so it helps Monty to feel a little more relaxed when I'm not at home.

Before working as a night-side journalist or college professor (both jobs with semi-nontraditional hours), I held two different 9-5 jobs working as an editor. Back then, I'd usually arrive at work still half-asleep and would ease into my day by catching up on the news and enjoying a cup of coffee (or two) while I settled in at my desk. My work  today, though, just doesn't allow that. At 9 a.m. sharp, I need to be awake, energetic, and on so that I can get my students alert and engaged before class ends. My morning routine definitely needed some shaking up this season! For me, a gentle walk outside has been a useful strategy in feeling alert and productive in the early morning hours, and it's been an added health perk for both me and my dog!

My goals for the future are to develop other useful, productive habits. I've been waking up and taking walks for nearly a month, and I do feel that it makes a noticeable improvement in how I start my day. (I also think that I may have lost a pound or two!) Other possible new habits include: waking up and running (! maybe one day I'll get there), limiting caffeine and trying other natural remedies for staying alert and productive, and trying to figure out a way to get out of the early-afternoon slump that I fall into once I leave work. Habits, like life, are a work in progress! What positive habits are you trying to establish?

The above photo shows my dog, Monty, enjoying an outdoor romp this summer (2014).

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