What is your morning routine?
My morning routine varies so wildly that it seems inaccurate to call it a routine. Instead, I have a series of rituals which I undertake every day.
I suffer from IBD, which means I have extremely limited resources of energy, and I never know from day to day how much I’m going to be able to accomplish. Some days my morning rituals are the only things that I get done, and they take me all day. Other days I’m able to complete my rituals early and crack on with other stuff during the day.
My morning rituals are sacred and, for me, they are the difference between a peaceful, creative life and absolute chaos!
Every morning, on waking, I make myself coffee in my beautiful old Emma Bridgewater cup and saucer - it makes me happy every time I lay my eyes on it. I generally have two or three cups of coffee over the course of the morning.
Whilst the first cup is brewing I light my candles. I usually have a handful of tea lights burning throughout the day (I’m half-Danish and we Danes are obsessed with candles!), but in the morning I light a special scented candle as well. This helps me to get into a peaceful and relaxed frame of mind and reminds me that this is my sacred time. My favourite candle for this purpose is a rose and geranium one by Diptyque – the scent of it is so linked with the ritual that as soon as I smell it I’m instantly more relaxed.
Coffee in hand and candles burning, I take a few deep calming breaths and open my journal. I free-write for around half an hour, just letting the words pour out onto the page. More often than not I’ll find the seed of an article or part of a book when I look over the pages later on, but sometimes it’s just a stream of consciousness to help process what’s going on in my life.
After my writing, I gather my art supplies and draw for another half hour or so. This is my time for experimenting with new techniques and materials, rather than working on commissions or book illustrations. I quite often copy the work of other artists I admire to understand more about the craft, or I’ll do a few exercises from a drawing instruction book. It’s a great warm up and keeps me in the curious, exploratory mindset of a beginner.
Those are my staples – coffee, candles, writing and drawing. Occasionally I’ll add meditation into the mix, but I find the rituals themselves so meditative that I don’t always feel it’s necessary.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
On and off for about five years.
What time do you go to sleep?
Again, it varies.
I have a fantasy I can fall asleep at 10:00pm every night like clockwork and wake up at dawn, but it never works out like that. Depending on what’s going on with my illness and energy levels, it can be anywhere between 9:00pm and 3:00am.
I’m a total night owl and sometimes get hit with a burst of energy at 11:00pm – I’ve learned never to waste energy when it arrives so I try to make the most of it when it’s there!
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
I try not to use an alarm and just wake up when I’m ready to – unfortunately I’m part dormouse and have been known to sleep around the clock on more than one occasion.
The days when I need to be up for a particular time I always set the alarm much earlier than I need to because I’m completely in love with the snooze cycle. There’s something about that nebulous half-awake, half-asleep state that I find really powerful. I often find that the solutions to any problems I’ve been struggling with just come to me in that state, and I also get insights and ideas like nobody’s business. Luckily, because I write so soon after waking, I find it relatively easy to capture these insights and make use of them.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
I’m very bad at eating breakfast – I don’t usually think about food until around lunchtime, and then I’ll have breakfast. I usually have cereal and fruit or toast.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
I love yoga and try to squeeze in a bit of that as often as I can – I haven’t been very good at making it a habit recently, although I’d like to.
I used to do 45 minutes of yoga practice every morning, and it made me feel incredible. I stopped doing it so often when I started running last year, but I sprained my ankle a couple of months ago so had to put the running on pause as well. It’s been frustrating.
To be honest, though, I’m not as good at exercising as I’d like to be, although I do tend to stop work and have dancing breaks throughout the day!
How about morning meditation?
I do occasionally meditate in the mornings, though I prefer to do it in the evenings before bed. I love Susan Piver’s guided mindfulness meditations – she has such a lovely soothing voice.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I always check email first thing, but I don’t respond to anything until much later in the day.
It’s a horrible thing to do, but I guess that’s the downside of having a phone by your bed instead of a clock! I’ve been meaning to buy an alarm clock so I can leave my phone out of reach until I’m ready to take action on emails.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
The only thing I use is the sleepyti.me bedtime calculator – it calculates when you should wake up (or go to bed) based on the number and length of your sleep cycles. It’s a really useful website.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
I follow exactly the same routine at the weekends.
I’m fortunate to be able to run my life outside of normal working hours, so traditional weekdays and weekends don’t really apply to me. I follow my own rhythms and decide when to work based on my energy level rather than what day of the week it is.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
It’s much more difficult when I’m away from home, although I do try and make sure I carve out some time for coffee and journaling at some point during the day.
If I’m travelling alone it’s easy to keep it up, but if I’m with other people then I enjoy the variety of doing something different for a few days. I’m pretty flexible.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
It’s not that big a deal if I miss a day here or there, but I certainly feel it if I miss out for too long. The only exception is my coffee – woe betide anyone who tries talking to me before I’ve had a cup of coffee!
Usually, if I’m short on time and have to go out for an appointment or something, I’ll do my rituals later in the day, so I still get the benefit. But it’s not quite as good as doing them first thing.