Monday, January 4, 2016

5 hacks for stress-free mornings

I hope that you are having a great start of the year, it’s always good to have some time to disconnect, relax and plan on the milestones for the new chapter, and this year in particular I was very eager to be able to start in a high note as the end of 2015 was literally a mess.

With all the work (and stress) in the year closure activities I was simply exhausted, in some way I feel as if I have skipped Christmas this time: I have a room filled with all the supplies for December’s DIY projects for the blog that will have to wait for next year to be done, Christmas cards that were not sent, presents that I’ve still not delivered and blog posts that only exist in my mind.
I was able to have a very pleasant Christmas dinner with my family and for New Year I decided that I simply wanted to rest: sleep & eat and then repeat: sleep & eat, until I felt again like myself and start thinking in ways to prepare for January's chaotic days.

Failing to prepare equals to prepare to fail

They say that those who fail to prepare are actually putting themselves in the way to fail, and although there will always be unpredictable situations those that have a plan will be closer to conquer that those who didn’t, below are 5 recommendations to help you get set that will aid removing some stress from your mornings:

1) Plan your meals

I remember when I started my cubicle life seeing people carrying their lunch bags, I always thought that it was probably a burden for them to take this bag with them, waiting in line for long minutes to use the microwave and washing all those dishes at home, while I'd just go to the cafeteria to buy something and once done through away the paper plates, yes, it was harder for them, but it definitely was better and I was not aware of that until I started gaining weight and having health issues.
Now I’m more conscious on what I eat, I plan my meals on weekends, visit farmer’s markets in addition to supermarkets and take 2 hours of my Sunday to cook the main courses for the week. It saves a lot of time in the weekday’s mornings as I only have to worry about what I will have for breakfast and I don’t have to stress about what I will eat at lunch or how healthy my meals will be.
For more ideas on how to plan your meals check this article about eating healthy all week based on Sunday preparations (link)

2) Create a work “uniform”

One of the most difficult decisions that we made in the early hours is what clothes we’ll wear, it might sound superficial but this is a very important issue that can even impact your career path, and this can be specially difficult for women because let’s face it, men wear shirts and pants, easy, women instead have lots of possible combinations: shirts, blouses, dress, pants, skirts, and then the shoes: flats, heels, boots, etc., not easy at all.

I used to panic about this, I remember trying something on, and later changing the top, and later the shoes, etc., and by the moment I leave my house it was already late and I was wearing something completely different to what I initially selected, so now imagine when I was informed about my one month overseas assignment requiring business casual dress, I just panic, but it turned out to be a great learning experience.
I would be 20 days at the office, so I planned for 10 different outfits that I’d only need to repeat once, this was interesting because the items that I chose needed to be met my later developed 5 rules criteria: 
  1. Appropriated for work
  2. With the perfect fit (if required take it to the tailor before start using it)
  3. Easy to clean (avoiding dry-clean garments)
  4. Weather proof (not too light and not too heavy) 
  5. Color/print should be easy to coordinate

Once back I took it further and created a “work capsule” that includes a mix of trousers, dark jeans, shirts/blouses, midi heels and blazers/coats that I use for work, it’s a limited list of items and whenever I want to buy something new it can only be a replacement so I don’t start accumulating stuff, of course any item that is added must met the 5 rules above (which doesn’t necessarily apply to the clothes that are not bought for work hahaha)
My mornings are easier now, I simply choose items from the capsule and run for work, and by the time I get back to my house after work I immediately change clothes because that is my way to say: good-bye work, time to play.

I recently read about this girl that took the uniform idea to the extreme and uses every day the same thing, read more about it here.

3) Start your day the night before

Somehow morning minutes seem to last a lot less than 60 seconds, the more activities that you plan for the mornings the more stressed that you can get by seeing the clock ticking while you are still trying to find your shoes.
Good news is that there are a lot of things that you can do in advance to release morning time:
  • Shower before going to bed, if you have problems getting away from your bed, you take forever to get showered or you want to avoid having to dry your hair in the mornings then you should try showering at night, you’ll have plenty of time, no hurry, it will help you to unwind and you’ll be saving some (golden) morning minutes.
  • Prepare your breakfast, if you don’t want to deal with morning rush you might consider anticipating your breakfast preparation, overnight oats and chia puddings are trending now and even if you are a smoothie lover and want to have them as fresh as possible, you can chop all your ingredients and save in the fridge so the next morning you just put everything in the blender and be ready to go in a couple of minutes.
  • “Pack” for the day, if you are like me that every morning before leaving run from one room to the other looking for the house keys, the car keys, the cellphone, the cellphone charger, etc., you might be able to save a good amount of time but putting everything that you’ll need for the next day together and ready just to be grabbed on your way out.

4) Invest in your tools

Especially those being used in a daily basis, you couldn’t believe the time that can be saved by using a powerful hair dryer, a professional hair straightener and my favorite, the steamer iron, again, every morning minute saved is a minute that releases pressure so make sure that the tools that you use in your routine are really helping you and not generating more overhead.

5) Make your commutes more enjoyable

Let’s be honest, commutes can be the best recipe for a stressful day: traffic jam, crowds, packed parking lots, etc., but there are always ways to make the mornings more pleasant:
  • Find the roads that are less popular and take advantage of google maps/ waze to create a faster/shorter route.
  • Select a happy playlist to help setting the mood or listen to an entertaining radio show, if you have a very long commute listening to audiobooks is a very good idea
  • Catch up with friends commuting at the same time, a friend of mine in a long-distance relationship uses this time to talk with her boyfriend who is also commuting, as both of them drive to their works people around should probably thing that they are singing!
  • Carpool, if you do it with your friends you can just fool around but if you can carpool with other people is a great way to do networking.
  • Get up a earlier, it usually helps to avoid rush hours, to find a better located place in the parking lot and you’ll probably be able to leave the office earlier than the rest so your way back home can be more peaceful.

So cheers for the New Year, hoping we can keep it as stress free as possible, if you have any other tip to help soothing the pain of weekday mornings please share in the comments sections, whatever can help released some pressure will always be more than welcome.