It is 5:00 AM, and your alarm goes off. You grab your phone, turn off your alarm, and hit the snooze button, when it rings again, you check your social media profiles, emails and important news as you lay in bed. Fast forward to 9:00 or 10:00 PM. You lay in bed with phone in hand, scrolling through social media, maybe checking your emails one last time, and seeing if there was any breaking news that you missed. If this sounds familiar, then you are not alone. With the evolution of technology, many individuals start and end their days like this. Our phones help us get work done, connect with people and are valuable resources for gathering information about the world. While each of these components is important, we become distracted by the world around us and focus less on what is going on within us.
I was listening to a podcast recently where the guest was none other than Matthew McConaughey, and something he said stuck out. Along his journey to being successful, he would often journal. The intention being because he wanted to make sure he was in the right mental space to function properly. He said, “check in with yourself before you check in with the world”, and I couldn't agree with him more. We are too often concerned with how others feel, what they are doing, and ultimately, we are less concerned with how we feel, and how we are doing. It is acceptable to be concerned with your own well-being before checking in on others, but it is about making a more concerted effort to do that.
Put Your Phone Away!
There are benefits to checking in with yourself before checking in with the world around you. Benefits which come in the form of self-care, which are strategies and activities you participate in to improve your overall well-being. Self-care can improve your physical and emotional health, as well as nurturing others, but ultimately, it allows you to reconnect with yourself. By doing this, you become more productive because you have a clearer mind, your stress levels decrease, your immune system gets a needed boost. When your body and mind are in such a state, not only will your overall well-being be impacted, but it puts you in a better position to improve the well-being of others because you have a clearer conscious to do so.
Research has shown us that cell phone usage, or any type of screen usage, can have a detrimental impact on our brains. First, your circadian clock rhythm becomes delayed. Your circadian rhythm assists with many bodily functions that include your metabolism and your mood. The artificial light that comes from your cell phone messes up the circadian rhythm and makes it more difficult for your body to respond effectively. One way to maintain your circadian rhythm is the secretion of melatonin, which is also impacted by low problem-solving light. As a result, screen usage makes your mind more alert when it should be winding down, so you actually become more awake. In research conducted where participants used E-readers before bed, results showed that it took participants an average of 10 minutes longer to fall asleep. Not only is your ability to fall asleep impacted, but so is your ability to reach REM sleep. Our body relies on REM sleep to restore our body and mind, solidifies memories, and is linked to our creative side and problem solving skills. When you fail to reach this state, you wake up feeling groggy and less motivated to complete daily tasks. Are you technically damaging your brain? No, but you are keeping your mind and body from being as fresh as possible. To be your best self, to function at a more optimal level, you need sleep so you can feel rejuvenated the next day.
Me, Myself, and I
For the longest time, the first thing I would do in the morning was scroll through Instagram (I still do this occasionally.) I wanted to catch up on everybody's stories, pick up on conversations and see what new funny memes there were. As a result of this, I would stay in bed longer than I anticipated. When this would happen, I would say how lazy I was for not getting out of bed like I should’ve. This is not an ideal way to start your day; as a result, my day would be further thrown off. I would still be productive, but not as productive.
Similar to my mornings, evenings ended in a similar fashion. As I got into bed and under the covers, I would pull out my phone and scroll through Instagram. I wanted to see what new stories people put up, if I missed any photos or memes, and occasionally this would take me so far down the rabbit hole that I would end up on YouTube watching squirrels water skiing. Once I put my phone away, my mind was so stimulated that it was difficult to fall asleep. I struggle with falling asleep already, so adding an over-stimulated brain to the equation did not make it easier. As you can imagine, having a hard time falling asleep meant I slept less, which meant I woke up groggy, tired and upset that I had to be awake. It was a vicious cycle.
Once I got to Graduate School, I started incorporating morning and nightly routines. Both have changed over the years, but my morning routine would consist of either yoga or meditation and journaling about my intentions for the day. Now, I go to the gym first thing in the morning before I talk to anybody. I want my body and mind to feel good and clear before I officially start my day. My nightly routine consists of a combination of deep breathing, journaling, reading and putting my phone on silent and plugged into the wall 30 minutes before getting into bed. My sleeping patterns still are not the best, but they have definitely improved since establishing a nightly routine.
Find Your Routine
Establishing a routine can help quiet your mind, put you in an ideal physiological state to execute a task and directs your attention to the president moment. Whether it is a morning routine to help get your day started on the right foot, an evening routine to help you relax, or a routine to help you prepare for an upcoming presentation or workout, these habits can put your mind and body where it needs to be for you to be the best version of yourself.
There is not a one size fits all approach to developing routines. Everyone is different; therefore, everyone will have different components. The time of day you perform your routine also might look different. For example, maybe your morning routine consists of having your first sip of coffee before checking your emails. Having a sip of coffee before bed, on the other hand, might not be very helpful. It is about developing a routine that is unique to you.
Some activities to consider when developing a routine include journaling, meditation, yoga, going outside for a walk or run, making a cup of coffee, repeating short phrases to yourself that motivate you to start your day or help you throughout or reading a book before you go to bed. Find out what works for you and remain consistent with it. Just because you do something once does not mean you found the cure. In order for your routine to put your body and mind in a more optimal state, you have to be consistent. Doing this will allow you to make adjustments along the way to help your routine become that much more effective.
It is more difficult to take care of others if you do not know how to take care of yourself. While it may sound selfish to take care of yourself first, it actually puts you in a better place to help and support others. So take time for yourself, develop a morning and evening routine, and make sure that you are doing alright before check in on the world around you.
By: Joey Velez, Ma, MBA.