evidence-informed strategies and encouragement for your self-care

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Morning Routine

This series explores simple but effective self-care strategies for the time-strapped.

For when we currently find ourselves over worked, over scheduled, and over extended.

We'll focus on the many little things we CAN do as exhausted parents, weekend warriors, and stressed caregivers - even though we're out of time, out of patience, and out of luck when it comes to fitting in self-care.

Let's roll.

THE MORNING: frantic unbridled chaos for many time-strapped folks.

Getting up, getting ready, and just getting out the door usually zaps any potential for self-care during this time.

But with a bit of creativity and pre-planning, some little changes become big changes over time.


□ SOOTHE THE BODY Give your body a jump start for a hectic day, by applying heat. Heat dilates the blood vessels which increases blood flow to grumpy muscles - encouraging faster healing and recovery. It can also be soothing to the nervous system - reducing tension and stress. Two birds, one stone. Already a win for the time-strapped.

When the alarm goes off, turn on a heated mattress pad. Or better yet, plug it into a wall outlet timer and never have to think about it - set when you want it to turn on and forget it - just wake up warm and relaxed.

□ MOVE THE BODY Before you get out of bed, put weight and strain on major joints and muscles, and place the world upon your shoulders: get things moving first.

Easy, slow, intentional stretching and movement can gently "wake up" problematic areas instead of hopping out of bed and jolting the whole system.

Kid(s) already in bed hounding you to get up? Involve them in your morning stretch. Be movement buddies. Model healthy self-care. If they're at an age when they naturally mimic or want to be a helper, use that to your advantage.


Often those few precious minutes before we get out of bed are the best shot we've got at consistently practicing meditation or mindfulness. The rest of the day is too packed, and by the end of it, we're one more groan away from zombie status.

There's lots of great apps - my favorites are Waking Up and HeadSpace - if you're not sure where to start or how to "do" mindfulness.

Or, you can do something as cliche but time-tested as counting your blessings. Praying or thinking of others. Carving out a moment of gratefulness. A quick jot in a journal.


□ SOOTHE THE BODY If you shower in the morning, take a few extra minutes as another opportunity to get in some extra heat to calm aches and pains.

Does your shower head have a jet setting? Turn it to blast mode and get the additional benefits of more pressure. If not, replacing the shower head with one that does is definitely a great home improvement and self-care upgrade.


Although showers aren't the most movement-friendly environments, it's a good place to do a body check-in. A once-over on these fantastic machines we drive around in all day.

- How do I feel overall? - Does anything hurt in general?

- Does anything hurt with movement? - If so, with what kind(s) of movement?

And the bonus round:

- Do I have any bruises or scrapes I didn't realize? - Any moles that have changed shape, size, or color? - When's the last time I did a breast cancer self-exam?


Shower time can also be a good time to listen to guided meditative or mindfullness audio. Or just listen to some tunes or a podcast that brings you happiness.

It's easy to get into the habit of having our mind race in the shower with today's to-dos and yesterdays oops-forgots. But what can you do about it while your wet and soapy? Nothing. Might as well use the time to relax and care for yourself.



If you sit down to eat breakfast or partake in a morning beverage, it's again another opportunity to get in some heat. Consider popping on an electric heating pad while you're seated. Here's my favorite that's designed for the neck and shoulders, but can also be wrapped around pretty much any grumpy body part.


While it may seem odd to move your body while you're sitting down enjoying a meal, it can be done. And if it's the time and place you've got, use it.

- Turn and rotate your head to loosen up the neck. - Shrug and twirl your shoulders to shake off upper body tension.

- Twist your torso from side to side to free up the ribcage and back. - Swing your legs to engage the knee in non-weight-bearing movement.


At the breakfast table, it's important to not only be aware of what our body is ingesting, but what our mind is ingesting.

Evaluate what you take in and how it may impact the rest of your day. Do you and your family have the news on first thing? How does that make everyone feel? Does it only serve to make everyone upset and worried before the day's begun?

Could this "down time" of eating be a time to ingest something else instead? Calming or joyful music. An interesting or funny podcast. Or perhaps just quietness. Enjoying the calm before the storm.



If your morning is complete chaos, then laying in bed, taking a longer shower, or sitting at the table is not gonna happen. But, there may still be some ways to get heat to reduce achy joints and muscles. Warm up a microwavable heat pack and using your own clothing or a scarf or belt, fasten the heat where you need it most. Self-care on the go.

If you're having a particularly sore or painful morning - slept wrong... lifted a couch you shouldn't have... chronic pain flare up... facing a deadline and shoulders have been up at your ears for the last 72 hours - a topical muscle reliever might be a good tool. Those type of products act as temporary distraction to the nervous system - a brain band-aid - so you may be more comfortable and relaxed throughout your day.


While running around, there's no lack of movement. But the types and kinds of movement may be something to think about.

Do you repeatedly strain your body in the morning trying to get everything done? If so, are there ways to reduce that load? - Asking or requiring others for help. - Doing some tasks the night before. - Adjusting or letting go of expectations.


Mornings can be crunch time. But there may also be moments of opportunity to slow down. Take deep breaths. Shut down the negative self-talk. Sometimes we just need that reminder. That permission. Slow down. Breathe. The sun will rise again tomorrow.

Time-Strapped Article Series

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Morning Routine

Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: The Commute Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Daily Life Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Evening Routine - - -

Time-Strapped eBook

Enjoying this series? Check out the eBook, which includes additional resources and tools. learn more...

Hey there! My name's Raechel. I'm the author of The Bodies We Live In blog. I'm also a licensed massage therapist and owner of Massage Sci in Holland, Michigan.


In my free time, I enjoy writing about wellness; researching pain science; trying to grow things in my garden; being far too fond of semi-colons; and avid sci-fi nerding.