This Morning Routine Will Erase Your Stress
A friend was recently in the shop recounting a conversation she’d had with my wife. She said “I asked Niki if you were just freaking out all the time right now and she said, no that you were actually unusually calm.” I’m a pretty anxious person by nature. With the storefront closing, figuring out distanced learning then homeschool for our oldest at home, and… well everything we’re all dealing with collectively, it would make sense I’d be in worry mode.
It is true that if you go back a few months I was pretty anxious, depressed and worried. I didn’t know if our reopening plan would work. I wasn’t sure we’d survive in our current form at all. Spring forward from then to now and all my worst fears pretty much came true, yet I am the least stressed I’ve been in my entire life. Keep reading to find out why.
Why am I sharing my morning routine here?
Primarily because I’ve seen remarkable change in my own life in a short period of time and it feels like people are searching for solutions. I keep reading articles about how many people are dealing with anxiety, depression and even contemplating suicide. If a handful of people give what’s worked for me a shot and end up on a better path for it I’ll be really happy I wrote it and put it here.
Next, we’re still trying to figure out how to bring as much of our physical store experience online as possible. This is the sort of conversation that would happen in our brick and mortar and I think that’s part of what made us different. We had so many conversations in the shop over our last few weeks about politics, COVID, raising kids, etc. We weren’t afraid to be vulnerable or honest and neither were the people in our shop. I’d like that to continue as much as it can.
And finally, I’m always searching for that line where I end and Tigertree begins. It's bizarre when you've had a brand for over a third of your life to try and sort that out. The things we carry are immensely impacted by these sorts of moments in my life so it feels related enough to me. But more importantly, there are times I create something for a group of friends or some other personal outlet but if I think it could make a meaningful change, and might be needed elsewhere, I’ll use these channels to amplify the broadcast. So, yes, it feels a little weirdly personal to be sharing but it feels more selfish not to.
How did this routine come to be?
Really by accident. I’ve read several books and articles on morning routines and tried to adopt them for probably the wrong reasons. Meaning at least partially tied to success in business rather than overall wellbeing. I’d do them for a couple of weeks and maybe feel a little better but no seismic shifts and eventually the practice would fall off never to be picked back up.
I previously read a bit on Wim Hof and watched a couple of short documentaries on him. If you're unfamiliar you really should look into him. I read the book Breath a couple of months ago (also highly recommended) and it really connected some dots for me. I've seen friends praise cold tubs or showers. I've talked about a daily yoga practice forever...
Given how upside down everything is right now to begin with I just decided **** it, I’m just going to do all of it.
Before all of this started I was feeling bad in every way possible. I dug my Samsung Galaxy watch out of the drawer and was shocked. It uses some sort of variable heart rate thing for your stress level. Not sure how it works but anecdotally speaking I believe in it. My average and current stress levels were basically pegged all the way to the right in the red zone and my resting heart rate was in the high 90’s.
In less than two months (but many of the results were noticeable within a few days) I:
- Have a resting heart rate around 60
- Maintain average and current stress (on the watch meter but can confirm I feel significantly better) both in the green zone all of the time
- Am more patient with my kids and able to better connect with them
- Sleep better
- Lost weight
- Wake up energized and not sore
- Have more focus and energy than ever
- Just feel great most of the time
I’m still concerned about stuff. I’ve learned to control that concern and act on it as opposed to living in a constant state of worry and dread. Like a lot of creatives I’ve always operated under this idea that “stress motivates me.” That line is nonsense, whatever you feel compelled to put your creative energy towards motivates you. Stress is just robbing you of the time you could be spending actually changing the things that need changing.
Okay enough with the backstory out with the routine already!
ONE - I wake up early. I kind of get to cheat with this one as I have an 11 month old that really just started sleeping a little later. As a result I just wake up around 5:30. With the exception of days he does not sleep well in the beginning of the night and I need a bit more sleep or he wakes up early, I get up sometime between 5-6, whenever I wake naturally. I find it’s way easier to do any sort of personal improvement thing like journaling, mediation or what I am laying out here, before your mind gets cluttered. It sets a great tone for the day
TWO - I immediately do five rounds of Wim Hof Breathing. I recommend getting the app, as tracking your data helps. It’s makes it easier to build a consistent practice. Basically you over breathe for a bit and then hold your breath. It sounds nuts but it works, and again the book Breath goes into why.
If you’ve had a meditation practice in the past but struggled to stick with it this might be for you. The result is a similar calm but with a ton of energy and focus. It doesn't feel as passive and you aren't constantly thinking, "am I doing this right?"I still recommend it even if you have a mindfulness meditation practice.
I've noticed two things that seemed profound to me, both regarding time.
We have a sweeping second hand clock in our bedroom where I often do this practice. One day I decided to just stare at the clock. The realization of how much the way we experience time is altered when we pay attention to it was overwhelming. It slows down considerably. .
The second is how in tune I have become with my body. You use a timer for the breathing practice. I can open my eyes and almost always know, to the second, how long I've been holding my breath. That hyper awareness of your body and time is powerful.
THREE - I do two rounds of Wim Hof pushups. You do the same lead-in to the breathing exercise but you do pushups during your breath hold. It sounds crazy but I swear after the first few days you can do like 2-3 times the maximum number of pushups you can do normally, while holding your breath the whole time. For real stop reading this right now and do as many pushups as you can. Write it down. Do this for three days and compare.
I like that it shows you that your body was capable of this the whole time. It’s a nice frame of reference for approaching problems in a different direction, often with tools already at your disposal.
FOUR - Then I do yoga. Usually I do a 20 minute video from Youtube unless I have time for more. I am comically not flexible. Like when the person on the yoga video says to grab your feet, or your ankles if you can’t and then kind of laughs and says “or your knees,” I’m a knees guy. I’d like to work on that a bit but I think this is more about taking the time for yourself and continuing breath work, bringing your resting heart rate down further.
FIVE - Then I take a cold shower. There is a timer for this in the Wim Hof App as well. I’ve had a lot of entrepreneur friends praise cold showers or cold tubs for years. My guess is that it has something to do with teaching yourself that you can choose whether or not to react to something. It’s uncomfortable at first but now I honestly love it. I promise you’ll hate me the first week and then get into it. As a bonus showers are short so you waste less time and water.
I will admit that as the weather has turned cool I generally heat up with warm water after for maybe 30 seconds. I do about a 2 minute cold shower and haven't noticed my ability to withstand the cold diminished as I've added the heat at the end.
SIX (or maybe this is more like the prequel) - I saved this one for last because it's not exactly a morning routine thing but it’s related, and I might lose a few of you on it. I cut out alcohol. Due to a lingering back issue I had to do a few rounds of medication you aren’t supposed to drink on. I noticed I was feeling better so I just kind of stuck with it. It wasn’t really intentional at first but then a few weeks in I had two margaritas with dinner and the next day my resting heart rate was close to 90 again and I was noticeably more anxious.
I’m sure I’ll reintroduce it at some point but for basically my whole adult life I’ve really never given it much thought. Especially as I've gotten older, I hardly ever have more than one or two drinks so brushed off any notion that it was impacting the following day. If and when I do bring it back I’ll do so with a better understanding of how it impacts me.
Talk to your doctor!
I want to make sure I mention that you should consult with your doctor before you do most of this. Especially if you have any underlying heart issues or are on any medication. I’d imagine the large swings in your resting heart rate could have negative consequences, and the fact that “I’d imagine that” and don’t know is even more reason to talk to your doctor. In fact I’ve had a couple of days where my heart rate was too low and I could feel that too. Since then I’ve stopped pushing myself as hard and pay more attention to my body.
Give it a shot and let me know!
If you’re feeling hopeless or have accepted that “this” is how you should feel with everything going on I would encourage you to give this a shot. It’s about a half an hour of my day and it makes the other 23.5 immeasurably (but I guess also measurably) better. My increased productivity more than makes up for that half an hour but even if it did not, I’d gladly sacrifice the time. I am not suggesting this replace therapy, medication or anything else you need to cope but it’s made such a profound difference in my life in such a short period of time.
Comment below if you've tried this out and it's made a difference in your life. I'd also love to hear if you've added anything to it or altered it in anyway!
And if you're hooked on the personal improvement train check out our growing Gifts For Personal Growth People section.