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Balanced Beginnings: a Complete Guide to Starting a Stress-Free Day

Posted Feb 16 2011 11:01am

This post was written by Anastasiya . Follow me on Twitter or StumbleUpon and keep your life balanced!

Morning is always the most important part of the day. Who can argue with that?

Just imagine that you are sleeping deeply and suddenly you hear somebody cutting grass right outside of your window. I am pretty sure that you won’t be too thrilled about the beginning of this day.

Let’s imagine that you get up and you already know that you are running late. You frantically put on some clothes, you rush your kids to get to school or daycare (and of course on these days your kids take forever to finish their breakfast and get dressed), you get in the car (and of course later on you realize that you forgot to take something), stop by a drive-through to get yourself a cup of coffee and some poor excuse for a breakfast and you finally get to your destination.
Needless to say that after a morning like that you feel like everything is falling out of your hands and you are stressed beyond measure before your day even started. Not the most balanced approach to starting your day, I must admit.

Getting your day started right from the minute you wake up will guarantee (at least to the largest extent of your control) that

  • you will have plenty of time for all your tasks and “me” breaks (remember about our 10-minute exercise breaks?),
  • stress won’t even dare get close to you,
  • you will have plenty of energy during the day and in general,
  • your day will be balanced and pleasant.

Let’s dive into the secrets of starting your day the right way.

1. Prepare for an amazing morning

Our life is a cycle and before you are ready to start your day you need to finish your previous day. It can be a topic for a separate seminar but you can look through some main points in one of my older post: 11 tips on how to finish your day right .

The most important part is to go to bed at reasonable time. How many hours of sleep do you need to feel well-rested? Each person is different and while some feel great after only 6 hours of sleep others will require 8-9 full hours of zzzzzz. I personally know that my body needs 8 hours of sleep and unless I get that much I feel tired and low on energy the next day.

2. Start Your Day with Proper Breakfast

It is often said that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I can also add that Breakfast is the easiest-to-skip meal of the day.

We often miss out on breakfast because we do not have time to fix it, we are not hungry or we are trying to shed a few pounds. Unfortunately this eating habit makes you eat more during lunch and later that day, it also makes you crave high-energy (read: high in fat and refined carbs) foods. It makes you moody and irritated.

In the morning our bodies are getting out of the night fast (just think about it, night is the longest period for starving our body!) By the afternoon glycogen supplies (molecules that work as primary energy sources for the body) start to deplete. By lunch you start feeling fatigued, you lose your focus and the ability to think fast and make decisions. Usually in this state you reach for a cup of coffee with a high-carb treat which makes your blood sugar levels shoot out of the roof only making you even more fatigued in an hour or so.

Here are just a few quick facts why balanced breakfast is so important:

  • Children and adults who eat breakfast perform better on tests, have better focus and concentration, they are also able to think faster and make faster decisions (Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital study)

  • Eating breakfast improves your late-morning mood as well as has advantageous effects on satiety and cognitive performance (University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School)

  • Eating breakfast keeps you thin. Not only a low-fat breakfast helps you lose weight but it keeps the scale from creeping up with years (National Weight Control Registry)

  • Breakfast jump-starts your metabolism so that you can start metabolizing fat stored in your body (Duke University Medical School)

  • Eating breakfast keeps the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol lower protecting your ticker for years to come (October 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

  • People who typically eat breakfast also get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc and iron—and less fat and dietary cholesterol. Perhaps it’s because they often eat cereal, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, and fruit, which is naturally nutrient-rich.

Balanced and Fast Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast as any other meal should be a balanced combination of nutrients that will give your body enough energy to go through the entire day. It’s important to include whole grains, fruits or vegetables, protein and healthy fats in your breakfast, but combining any two of these ingredients will still be a great choice. Take a look at these healthy breakfast options below:

Low-fat protein: low-fat yogurt, Greek yogurt, eggs or egg whites (if you are watching your cholesterol you can mix 1 full egg with 2-3 egg whites or substitute for egg beaters), cottage cheese, natural peanut butter, skim milk or soy milk, smoked salmon, lean slices of meat and poultry.

Whole-grains: whole grain cereal (choose types that have at least 3 g of fiber per serving and not more than 9g of sugar), oatmeal, whole-grain bagel or a piece of toast, whole-grain waffles, whole-grain pancakes.

Healthy fat: natural peanut butter (natural varieties do not have added hydrogenated oils or sugar), any nuts, avocado, ground flax seeds.

Produce: dried and fresh berries, fruit, freshly squeezed juices, vegetables that you can add to your omelets.

3. Exercise

Exercise is an important routine that will help your body wake up and will energize you for the entire day. Morning runs or gym workouts might not be for everybody in the morning but thankfully there are other ways to exercise.

  • Start your day with a 10-15 minute gentle stretch.
  • Try a Yoga warm-up – Sun Salutation.
  • Go for a 15-20 minute walk if you have time.
  • Dance to your favorite song.
  • Do any other exercise that you like.

The most important thing about exercise is to do at least something. Choose one particular exercise or routine that you will do no matter what. If you woke up late or not feeling good do just 5 minutes of simple exercises. Examples:

  • Jumping jacks,
  • Crunches,
  • Pushups,
  • Squats,
  • Lunges,
  • Active stretches (do not start by lying down on the floor or you will slip back into the Dreamland immediately.)

You can set up a timer and try to get maximum amount of exercises into just 5 minutes. Modify exercises to suit your fitness level and goals.

4. Create your morning routine

Routines might seem boring but they can be a great way to start your day when your brain is not completely running at full speed yet. Try to make your routine productive and creative and do not include things like watching TV or checking email in this routine. Your routine should eliminate all distractions and help your mind focus on work or important tasks of the day.

Make a habit to do at least one thing regularly every morning. It will be a sign to your body and brain to wake u and start the day. I start every morning with a big glass of water with juice of half a lemon. This drink energizes me better than coffee and gives me a good boost of vitamin C.

5. Morning don’ts

There are things that can make your day great and balanced and there are things that will steal your time and leave you in midmorning frustration. Here is the list of things that you SHOULD NOT DO first thing in the morning if you want to start a great day:

  • Watch TV
  • Check your email
  • Read newspapers, watch news or use any other way of emerging yourself into the ocean of world problems
  • Surf the web
  • Worry about the problems of the previous day from the minute you open your eyes
  • Be a perfectionist (it’s okay if your bed is not perfectly made)
  • Start your day with an argument

6. Wake up your creativity

In the morning your brain is fresh and is ready to produce amazing ideas and solve the most difficult tasks.

Try to set 20-30 minutes aside to write in your journal in the morning or start a personal blog. You can

  • reflect on your life,
  • write down thoughts that popped up in your head when you woke up,
  • analyze situations that seemed stressful,
  • do a few creativity exercises that broaden your outlook and help you find solutions to different problems.

Journaling has a lot of health benefits, one of them being stress relief. Other proven benefits of journaling include improved cognitive function, stronger immune system, decreased symptoms of asthma, arthritis and other chronic conditions as well as more positive attitude towards life (positivity is one of the cornerstones of life balance.)

7. Devote time to your spiritual needs

Nourishing our body in the morning is important but taking care of our inner peace and feeding our spirituality is even more vital.

Start your day with a prayer: be thankful for what you have in life, ask for wisdom and advice with your daily tasks.

If you are a Christian as I am read a few verses from the Bible and set aside some time to talk to God.

If you are not a Christian then at least spend this time meditating.

8. Breathe

Most of the time we get used to a particular breathing pattern that we maintain our entire life. There are dozens of breathing techniques that we can use to energize our body, increase oxygen consumption and improve blood circulation. Take a look at these breathing techniques to start your day.

Morning is a wonderful part of the day but only when you look forward to it. Start making one change to your morning routine at a time and soon you will feel more balanced and energized throughout the day.

Do you want more tips and strategies on how to start your day right?

This article is an excerpt from the seminar Balanced Beginnings: a Complete Guide to Starting a Stress-Free Day which I created for the members of the Balance In Me Club. The rest of the seminar covers the following topics:

  • tips on how to start waking up earlier and going to bed earlier,
  • 14 fast and healthy breakfast recipes,
  • best drinks to jump-start your day,
  • 2 morning workout videos for any fitness level,
  • exclusive download of the Life Balance Workbook which you can use for your journaling exercises.

If you are interested in any of these topics and if you want to get access to the materials of the retreat From a Sedentary to an Active Lifestyle in 1 Month you can become a member of the Balance In Me Club. Read more about it here .

Keep it balanced!

Photo credit: Meredith_Farmer

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