5 Morning Habits That Seem Healthy But Could Be Stressing You Out
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
22 June 2021
How you start your mornings might have a lasting effect on your whole day and therefore on your mental health. The first step to creating a morning routine that supports mental health is cutting out habits that increase stress.
You might rely on a morning routine you've had for years, or you might start each day differently. Commonly recommended morning practices such as exercising or journaling are usually deemed to be healthy and positive. But while these activities can be beneficial for your energy and mood, even healthy habits can stress you out sometimes without you realising it.
Here are 5 seemingly innocent morning habits that could be creating stressing you out unknowingly:
1. Hitting the snooze button
Hitting the snooze button might feel like liquid gold in the morning but might end up stressing you out instead. Not only are you not getting any quality sleep during these extra few minutes anyway, but snoozing actually makes you more tired when you finally do get out of bed, since you most likely would have entered into a sleep cycle you won't have been able to finish.
2. Bending as soon as you wake up
While sleeping, our spinal discs absorb fluid as part of a natural rehydration process, causing the discs to expand (which is why sometimes you can actually be a few centimetres taller in the morning). However, this natural process also limits movement of the vertebrae and causes the spine to stiffen. As a result, flexing and bending as soon as your feet hit the ground is not only harder but potentially quite dangerous. Instead, gently stretch out wide and take up the whole bed. Stretching first thing in the morning helps to increase flexibility, relieve tension and improve circulation, getting the spine and muscles limbered up.
3. Drinking coffee right away
Yes, this goes against everything we’ve known so far. Caffeine causes a spike in cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol has a circadian rhythm, with the highest levels naturally occurring 30-40 minutes after awakening. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning further increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline independently, which can potentially manifest as stress-related symptoms such as elevated heart rate and feelings of stress and anxiety. Although research shows that the impact seems to be less significant in people who regularly consume caffeine, doctors recommend drinking the first cup of coffee about three hours after waking up.
4. Brushing after breakfast
Another common myth is that brushing your teeth immediately after having breakfast is the right thing to do for clean and healthy teeth. Maybe not actually as it seems that brushing your teeth right after eating can actually do much harm than good, especially if you've consumed acidic stuff like fruit or coffee. Brushing too soon after eating can damage the enamel in its weakened state. So brush your teeth after you rise, but before you eat. Then afterwards, you can floss your teeth and rinse with water to wash away any food particles, and wait at least half an hour after eating before brushing your teeth.
5. Writing a to-do list
There is a benefit to jotting down floating thoughts on paper to manage anxiety (and free up brain space), keeping you focused and organised. But be careful of how much you load your to-do list, because it can actually do the opposite for you and get really stressful if you’re overly ambitious and have written down more things than you can realistically do. Sometimes, people roll over yesterday’s unfinished tasks to today’s to-do list, not only making it even longer again, but also somewhere confirming in their mind that they can’t achieve what they set out to do and are failures. Excessively planning and obsessing over what you want to accomplish can trigger anxiety and hinder productivity, so it is important to be realistic about what you can and can’t accomplish in one day, and being mindful about accomplishing one task at a time. Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work at the end of the day.