Working from home has enormous benefits, from flexibility and autonomy to time-savings and cost-effectiveness. But remote work is not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to dividing your day into distinct work and non-work segments.
An annual survey of remote workers conducted by Buffer, a social media app, has consistently found that one of the biggest challenges of working from home is the inability to unplug from work. In the 2021 results, this challenge was especially prevalent.
One of the reasons people aren’t able to detach is the lack of physical boundaries between their personal and work lives. While we may not be able to literally separate the two, we can still separate them mentally. Routines help us to clearly demarcate these important lines.
A morning routine, in particular, could be the solution to overcoming many of the challenges remote workers are facing. A healthy morning routine is a way to ground yourself before the day starts. It provides space in your day to put yourself first, giving you time to dedicate to your health and well-being. Having me-time before work encourages better balance with work-from-home responsibilities.
If you’re struggling with setting clear boundaries, try building a personalized morning routine to set you up for a healthy and productive workday. Here are five ideas to incorporate into your pre-work ritual.
1. Plan Ahead
A solid morning routine starts the night before. By planning ahead, you can start each morning with a clear roadmap of what to tackle first and in what order.
There are a few good reasons to plan your day the night before:
- Wrapping up your workday by planning for the following day helps you mentally unplug for the night and not worry about tomorrow’s to-do list.
- By planning the night ahead, you’ll have extra time in the morning to do other things for your well-being.
- Having a clear morning plan eliminates decision-making, which can quickly fatigue your brain before your day even begins.
- Pre-planning your day ahead of time minimizes the amount of stress you have to deal with each morning.
This last point is critical for anyone feeling work-from-home burnout. Mornings already tend to be stressful. When you wake up, your brain releases cortisol, a stress hormone, to help you wake up. While this is beneficial for getting you out of bed, it can also be mentally taxing.
The extra cortisol in your system can cause your brain to fixate on what needs to be done for the day. Not planning ahead can compound the natural morning stress you already feel. However, if you’ve planned the night before, you mitigate the amount of stress your mind takes on first thing in the morning.
2. Get Yourself Ready
Many remote workers quickly realize that working from home in your pajamas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s also another potential reason why people have a hard time separating their work and home lives. The act of getting ready for work, even if you aren’t leaving the house, has powerful mental and physical benefits.
First of all, everyone feels more confident and presentable once they’ve showered and gotten ready for the day. Secondly, it’s a distinct way to mark the beginning of an official workday instead of a day where you work from home. Whether you’re going to be on camera that day or not, getting ready will make you feel more focused.
Here are some ways to put some effort into getting ready before work:
- Shower and get dressed, even if you aren’t meeting with anyone.
- Have your coffee and breakfast outside your workspace, whether in the kitchen, on the porch or any other place that’s not your desk.
- Do some light chores or clean-up so that dirty dishes won’t distract you later in the day when your focus tends to wane.
It’s good to follow a specific order when you get ready in the morning. Do you brush your teeth before or after you shower? Do you eat breakfast before or after you get the kids ready or take the dog for a walk? Having a hierarchy of decisions not only saves time and mental energy but also prevents you from forgetting things.
3. Relax Your Mind
Your morning routine should ideally incorporate some regenerative and energizing self-care.
As we continue to navigate life through a pandemic, practicing mindfulness has become as important as ever. Mindfulness is a way to cultivate the skill of self-awareness. Ultimately, someone with higher levels of mindfulness is less affected by negative internal states like anxiety.
Because many people tend to be rushed and stressed in the mornings, taking an early morning mindfulness break can help lessen the pressure you might feel before work.
There are a few ways to include mindfulness in your morning routine:
- Guided meditations: Follow an instructor as they help you focus on the present moment and guide you into mental relaxation. Guided meditations are available on YouTube or by using an app, like Calm or Headspace.
- Breathing techniques: Mindful breathing is the practice of using your breath to help you relax. There are many different techniques, but the simplest one is to just take a few slow, deep breaths and notice your body relax. You can do a mindful breathing exercise in as little as two minutes.
- Progressive muscle relaxation: Using your own control over your muscle tension, you can ease your body into a state of mental and physical relaxation. Progressively contract and release each muscle group, one at a time. Pair it with your breath by taking a long, deep inhale as you tighten your muscles, and letting out a long, slow exhale as you release. Spend 2-5 minutes on this exercise, repeating it a few times.
If you tend to spend a lot of time on video calls during your day, mindfulness may be even more critical for you. Recently, many people have reported feeling Zoom fatigue, which is the exhaustion you experience after video conferences.
If you’ve noticed that video calls leave you feeling drained, taking a daily mindfulness break to reset yourself could be extremely beneficial to maintaining your mental stamina. Mindfulness breaks can be as short as two minutes, so they don’t require a big commitment during a time-crunched morning routine.
4. Move Your Body
Morning movement has short-term and long-term benefits. It can help increase your focus and mood for the day, but over time, daily exercise has protective benefits for longevity and disease prevention.
You might want to switch it up each day, with some days dedicated to intense workouts and busier days reserved for quick activity.
Here are some morning workout ideas that range from intense to light exercise:
- Cardio — Heart-pumping activity like running, swimming or cycling
- Strength training — If gyms are open in your area, try 30-45 minutes of weights, whether with free weights or weight machines
- Moderate exercise — A brisk walk around the block or some bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups.
- Light movement — A series of stretches or yoga poses to get the blood flowing.
If you can, try to go outside for a few minutes each morning. When you work from home, there are no commutes or lunch breaks with co-workers, so you tend to spend more time indoors. Being outdoors is a proven way to increase mood, reduce stress and boost mental clarity.
5. Boost Your Mood
In these stressful times, we’re facing a lot of uncertainty. To protect your health, it’s important to stay committed to doing things you enjoy — things that put you in a good mood and contribute to your overall well-being.
Here are some morning routine ideas to boost your mood:
- Read something inspirational, such as a good news story.
- Make a list of things you’re grateful for or looking forward to.
- Do something creative, such as a project you’ve got on the go.
- Spend a few minutes on a personal goal, like learning a new language, writing a book or whatever else is fueling you.
By actively doing things to boost your mood, you’ll experience higher levels of happiness and satisfaction. Being in a good mood is also good for your physical health. People who report having consistently higher moods tend to have stronger immune systems and experience less illness and fewer aches and pains.
Healthy Work-From-Home Solutions From Relax The Back
Morning wellness routines are possible with the right solutions for mind and body. Relax The Back’s range of personal well-being products, including massage recliners and meditation chairs, can help you have the perfect morning routine.