Caroline O’Shea is an Irish music and literature enthusiast who plays flute, whistle, and sings vocals for The Ivy Leaf; a traditional Irish band based in Boston, Massachusetts.
What is your morning routine?
I’ll just put it out there: I am not a morning person.
On a typical morning I wake up five minutes before my alarm goes off, reset it to go off ten minutes later, then lay in bed dreading its inevitable sound before I finally drag myself up to shut it off.
I usually shower at night, so I’ll head to the bathroom to wash my face immediately after getting up. I then have my daily internal struggle: eat breakfast, or get dressed first? Though I always wake up famished, getting dressed almost always wins out. Sometimes I even lay out clothes the night before, to save my morning brainpower.
Next, I’ll make breakfast and apply makeup. These things usually happen simultaneously, as I tend to run late.
I’ve gotten migraines since I was ten years old, often triggered by lack of sleep and/or food. Making sure I feel rested is very important to my overall mental health, as I won’t worry about a headache as much when I know I’ve gotten a good eight hours.
If I don’t need to be out the door, I’ll spend the remainder of my morning emailing, practising instruments, and scheduling various tasks/gigs.
How has your morning routine changed over recent years?
I’ve roughly followed this routine my whole life, with a few variations in timing depending on my work situation.
The biggest change has been my waking up earlier. In college, I just… didn’t do mornings. Once I graduated and got a 9-5 job, I forced my body into a feasible pattern to get me to work on time while looking semi-presentable.
I’m currently self-employed as a musician, and I definitely see the benefits of a structured morning routine.
What time do you go to sleep?
Bedtime depends on whether I have a gig or not. If I have no gigs or commitments, I’ll be in bed around 11:00pm. If I have a gig or am out playing at a session, then I’ll be in bed whenever I get home. Some Irish music festivals have you out until 7 or 8:00am playing and seeing friends, which is incredible but completely wrecks my sleep schedule!
I’ve always been a night owl and love staying out late, but when I do I need to be able to sleep in the next day. I run best on eight hours of sleep and passably on seven. Less than that and it’s game over.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I use an alarm any time I need to be somewhere before noon, as I’m a heavy sleeper and don’t trust my internal clock.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I eat as soon as possible after waking up.
I’ll have cereal and milk with fruit, or peanut butter toast, or a bagel and cream cheese. Stick-to-the-ribs type stuff. Lately, I’ve been on a brown sugar-cinnamon oatmeal kick, with milk and cut up apples. If I have time, I’ll make a breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese, and tomato.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Ha. Hahahaha. No. I’m so hungry and dehydrated upon waking up that food is my first priority. I’d love to be up with the sun for yoga or running… maybe someday. Dusk is my preferred workout time.
How about morning meditation?
I’ve done some yoga, but never meditated per se.
Sometimes I’ll lie in bed after turning off the alarm and recall a dream I had during the night, or take a minute to think about nothing before getting out of bed, but that’s about it.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning, either for calls/messages or social media and news?
I recently switched from a flip phone (I know!!) to an iPhone, and I now check it first thing to see what the day has in store for me. That said, I don’t reply to anything until I’ve properly woken up. That could be disastrous.
I’ll check Facebook to see what happened overnight, that’s a habit I should change. Most of my news comes from NPR and a local radio station.
What are your most important tasks in the morning?
Wash up, eat, apply make up. All concrete tasks, all essential to having a 100% functional Caroline.
I have no qualms about going without makeup, but it makes me feel more put together, like I’m putting my game face on. And really, it’s just light stuff with SPF in it as I’m very fair skinned.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Some parts. I’m quite flexible, and I love to travel, two things that come in handy when playing music.
I try to pack quick and easy breakfast foods and snacks to tide me over in mornings if I’m staying someplace where I’m unsure of the breakfast routine/accessibility. I had an incident where a good friend in Ireland generously offered to put me up for the night, only for me to discover the next morning that she’d left for work and had no food in the house as she doesn’t eat breakfast. I started carrying emergency food not long after.
What do you do if you fail to follow your routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
98% of the time, a failure to follow my routine means that I’ve overslept.
As long as I’ve had a good breakfast, I can adapt to a lack of other routine parts. I’ll bring food, makeup, and a hairbrush in the car, check emails on the fly, etc. Doing this makes me feel more scatterbrained, but I try to make up for it throughout the rest of the day and not be too hard on myself!
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