Morning Routines When You’re a Parent With Depression
I've been having a bit of a depression relapse lately. It's probably part seasonal, part stressful stage, part timing. There's little point in speculating why. My inner voice has been very difficult lately, not wanting to do the things I know help me. My patience is low, and I'm giving up the fight a little easier than I usually do.
I'm trying to make some changes, and I'm reaching out for some other help. One thing I know I need more of is a morning routine. Nothing complicated, just a few rituals when I get out of bed to help get out of the just-woke-up fog and start my day on the right path.
Morning routines are hard with kids. The routine tends to be focused on their needs and rarely on ours. We make sure their bellies are full, teeth and hair are brushed, outfit matches, and bag packed and take care of our needs in between. But I know when I carve out a bit of calm and organization for myself in the morning, my day starts off better.
Here are a few things I like to include in my morning routine. These things in particular help me with certain symptoms of depression that are chronic for me.
Make Your Bed
If you told 16-year-old me I would be making my bed every day as an adult, I would have laughed in your face (and probably uttered a few expletives and given you the finger). But my day is better when I start by making my bed (and yes, mother, you did tell me so!).
In Bali, I was in awe of the rituals the locals performed throughout the day, particularly the morning offerings. I started making my bed in the spirit of a morning offering to my space. But it has turned into so much more.
When you start the day off making your bed, you have accomplished something within 5 minutes of waking up. You start your day ahead. You are less likely to crawl back into bed. You start your day off by closing your sleep space and being mindful of your home. The cleanliness of my space is a way I gauge my level of depression. When I`m depressed, my space is a wreck, and I am not motivated to clean it. If I start the day caring for my space, I am less likely to slip into depressed habits.
Eat In The Light
One of my favorite places to sit is our dining table. We have these beautiful Restoration Hardware chairs and a solid West Elm table. But most importantly, they are bathed in light from our west facing patio windows.The light helps set my circadian clock to day time. Many people with depression struggle with circadian rhythm, so this is a necessity. In the summer, I love to start the day on our patio amongst our flowers (I’m so glad it’s private enough I can go out in my PJ’s).
Make A List
Keep it a simple list, but make one! I keep Post It Notes on the table and scratch out a short, 5-item list there. I don`t always get it done. Sometimes I get none of it done. I try and keep it balanced between fun things and chores. I try to include an item of self care. I also put one thing I’ve already done on the list, just to cross it off, so I have a sense of accomplishment!
Keep Your Kids Occupied
I let my kids watch TV in the morning. In an ideal world, they’d be able to find other ways to occupy themselves. But they’re 4 and 2, and they are really needy right now. Breccan, like his mom, is slow to wake up. I set them up with a banana and whatever the latest show is, set the timer for 20 minutes, and relax with my breakfast. It’s not perfect, but if I can start my day calmly, I am in a better position to interact with them as the day goes on.
Set A Timer
If I don't set a timer, I have a hard time not lingering with breakfast. Then, before I know it, the kids have gotten squirelly, my tea has gone cold, and my bratty inner voice is shouting “But I don`t want to get moving yet!” I set myself 20-30 minutes to relax with my breakfast, make my list, and then move onto chores and getting out the door. It helps to have the timer where the kids can see it too, because I can send them to it when they come pester me.
I know I am better when I do these things. My relationship with routine is complicated. I know people with mental illness do better with structure and routine. But my soul is happier with spontaneity and adventure. When I get stuck in too much routine, I get rebellious. It's probably one of the hardest things about motherhood for me.
What are some things you include in your morning routine? How do you balance routine and spontaneity?