There are some things I know work best for me. IT’S SCIENCE. A few rare lapses worked out okay, but they are a statistical nullity. These are not generally true, they are consistent, persistent, resistant, and insistent. There just ain’t no getting around ‘em.
- No matter how late I stay up the night before, even if I’ve seen the sun rise, I hate sleeping later than 8 a.m. It sets my dial to Cranky for the rest of the day.
- Afternoon naps are the key to long life and I take them when I can, regardless of hours slept the night before. Even if no sleep is involved, it lowers the cortisol and blood pressure and all like that.
- When I get up in the morning, I need to unbraid my hair and put it up right away. I might take it down later, but there is a horrible alchemy in keeping my hair down in the morning. Can’t accomplish beans, can’t focus. I hate having hair on the back of my neck and sometimes it’s too much of a PITA to do first thing. But I regret not putting it up if I let it slide.
- Same with brushing my teeth first thing. I have sensitive teeth and they hate it. The flip side is that I hate having a furry mouth when I drink my morning cups of coffee or tea. It interferes with my taste and my pleasure. It hurts every damn day, but again, life is rough and scratchy when I don’t do it.
- Making the bed right away is also vital to my day. It’s a large and visible piece of order that soothes me as I run around getting ready or doing other chores. I am comfortable staging stacks of clean, folded laundry on it as I sort them into drawers, and I am comfortable sitting on it rather than planting my jeans-clad butt on wadded-up sheets and blankets. It’s also smooth and tight, waiting for my afternoon nap. So soothing. (Side note: the ex my husband and I share was very contemptuous of this habit, saying that the bed should be left unmade, or at least aired and cooled for quite a while if you MUST make it, since a closed bedding environment fosters bacterial and microbial growth. All I could think was Girl, you so worried about “growths”, you should wash them damn sheets more often.)
I think of the preceding list as idiosyncrasies which I might require roommates or other intimates to allow / respect / accommodate, but which I don’t expect others to share. I don’t know if they apply to anyone else, but they sure as hell apply to me. ON THE OTHER HAND, there are some things that I do or like to do that others might benefit from as well.
- Drinking a cup of water first thing in the morning seems to jump start my metabolism and wake me up better than a hit of caffeine.
- Ditto a stretch, also done in the bathroom just after that first pee. Nothing fancy and nothing much – just a few toe-touches, sky-reaches, side-bends, shoulder rolls, and the slow motion hula hoop, clockwise and counter. A few deep squats and leg lifts if I’m holding the basin – my usually excellent balance shouldn’t be tested early in the morning – but two minutes for the whole shebang. Five if I’m digging it. Any more than that is a keen bonus but there should be no felt obligation to continue. If you’re thinking this much about it, you’re thinking yourself out of doing it. Just pee, oil the joints, glug down some water from the tap, move on.
- Sitting up straight. It’s achy if you’re not used to it, but you don’t feel 100 years old at the end of the day. You’ll sleep better, too.
- Feeling punk generally can be improved in a number of tiny ways. I’m not talking about specific problems, such as hormones, hangovers, or holding off the flu. Just when you notice you’re in a trough, do a few little things for yourself. Take ten deep, slow breaths. Drink a cup of water, or tea — alone or with lemon gets good results, but milk and sugar tea kept the Brits flying in WWII and it’s remarkably restorative. Have an aspirin, if your body likes aspirin — mine does. Actively thinking about beauty (whether it’s a real place you’ve visited, a scene in a movie, a scene from a book) can rinse out some of the mental yuck, if it’s your mind that’s giving you pip. Deliberately yawn. Drink a cup of broth with a little ginger, shoyu, sesame oil, or add pepper and vinegar for the hot-and-sour benefit. Press a cold washcloth against your face, neck, chest, and wrists. Rub your feet with witch hazel. Tilt your head up and look at the sky, the ceiling — whatever – noticing and cataloging every detail. Read something funny.
In fact, read something funny before bed each night. Plant something mild, pleasant, and amusing in your brain before sleep. Jean Shepherd is my favorite, since there are concrete images and melodrama, which reframes my woes, puts them in perspective, imparts a sense of nostalgia and the ridiculous.
Works for me.