A de-stress breakfast is not just what we eat…..
Breakfast isn’t just about content (although you can see some here); the style in which you greet the day and first feed yourself can set a precedent for the whole day. My clients often report with absolute wonder how they feel life becomes so much easier when they take time to ease into the day. They can really see this time as growing the roots from which the day can unfold – pretty different to feeling like you’ve been shot out of a cannon to suddenly arrive shell-shocked at work or the gym.
It’s possible you’re not awakening to a gentle chorus of birdsong, ready to be fed delicate morsels by your personal chef on your tropical veranda. If like me – and most of my clients – there seems to be a morning obstacle course to negotiate, then finding, creating and holding onto space for a regular de-stressing breakfast time routine may seem more than a tad challenging. When our lives are full of routine activities like going to work, it can become all too easy to go into automatic mode. For breakfast time that can mean just getting through the often painful bit between getting up when you don’t want to and leaving the house sooner than you’d like. When we don’t easily jump out of bed with the joys of spring, getting up earlier can simply not happen when morning comes; even if we promised ourselves we would the night before…
Finding my morning rhythm
Take me for instance, in my ideal, fantasy world I would wake easily, do half an hour’s yoga practice, eat a leisurely breakfast with Radio 4 and then get ready to leave the house at whatever pace suited my energy on that morning. Truth is I’ve never been a morning person, so I’ve always struggled with getting out of bed. I just love it there in that warm, safe place and simply don’t have that imperative I hear others describe; to “just have to get up when I wake up”. Coming out of dreamland has always seemed like a rude awakening. It took a dedicated period of time in my twenties to learn to get up to prioritise eating before work, rather than just bolting out of the door – perfecting the art of getting ready in the least minutes to allow for an hour of alarm snoozes.
It soon became clear that this breakfast thing was the only way to manage energy throughout the rest of the day, the only way to gain control of my raging sugar addiction and the only way to come out of cycles of reactive stress. I soon became to enjoy my breakfast so much that looking forward to it helped me get up. Then I began to find more time to enjoy it and so began a love affair of this precious time to gather in before the day. We often complain about not having enough time for ourselves in the evening, whilst ignoring the potential quality our morning time could have. When you get into the morning swing, it becomes easier to get those early nights you need to be able to enjoy the morning.
Now I have a school run and a very chaotic work schedule in between, so the perfect spacious start often seems a long way away and I do just have to jump to it at the sound of “Mummy!”, usually before I want to wake up. However possible, I always make time to simply stop, breathe and notice how I am and not follow my mind into rushing forward into the day – that could be as simple as really feeling the sensations of moisturising my face for 30 seconds. The following quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book on Mindfulness, Coming to Our Senses always makes me smile and helps me come back to the present moment:
- “When you are taking a shower, check and see if you are in the shower. You may already be in a meeting at work. Maybe the whole meeting is in the shower with you.”
This especially applies to the time taken to eat my breakfast. At more stressed times, I see my food choices become less sustaining, sitting and chewing eroded away and my mind chomping at the possible outcomes of the day to come. Very natural of course and a typical scenario for the majority of clients I see. How to pull this round to find the right rhythm for you is individual and depends on a huge amount of variables, but the following suggestions can be played with to help you find the right balance of calm when motivating yourself towards the rest of your day.
Creating your own De-Stress Buffers for the coming day:
- Pack your bag and lunch the night before, decide what you’re wearing and write a list of anything you need to remember – replace rush and panic with feeling prepared. I always see this organisation as liberating, even if I just get a little done.
- Before leaping out of bed, sit up in bed or on the side of your bed to gently allow your body to acclimatise to be upright, conscious and to step back from the urge to just plough forward without care. Be aware of your breathing and simply move some fluidity through your body as you feel; moving your spine, pelvis, shoulders and neck as feels right for you.
- Resist plugging straight into the technology; any emails or texts can wait and you can set a daily time when you are ready to receive communication and information. Give your brain some space to feel before moving into stress-inducing thinking and reacting mode.
- Either enjoy breakfast preparation or get as much together the night before as possible. Then designate a clear time to simply sit, chew and taste the whole of your meal – 20 minutes is optimal, even 5 minutes more than now is a step in the right direction.
- Give a five minute stop-gap before leaving the house, a buffer zone between you and the outside world where you calmly find any last bits of forgotten stuff, put your shoes and coat without panic and step outside with a sense of grace.