How a Morning Self-Care Routine Saved My Life

my morning routine

I was suicidal in my teens. The harsh social environment of high school, added to an explosive relationship with my parents and topped off by the shame of keeping hidden my own molestation as a child, weighed on me. Death seemed like a relief.

I had a much younger sister. Watching her one day, I decided that I would put in the effort to change my life for her. Who would protect her from the abuse happening if it was still a secret?

Mothering Myself

One day I came upon a book by Gabrielle Roth called Maps to Ecstasy: The Healing Power of Movement. She spoke of the importance of mothering oneself. It deeply resonated with me and I began to try the suggestions she encouraged of listening to your body when your sleepy, hungry, needing comfort, needing to be social or alone. I decided as high school graduation neared that in order to live and cultivate some sort of resilience I was painfully lacking, mothering myself would be my number one goal.

Brutal Commitment to Change

I treated myself as a patient and put myself on a militant routine of self-care, monitoring how I felt by daily journaling. Each entry was a small battle won in efforts to beat my own hopeless self-talk.  As I navigated choosing my self-care activities, I used the benchmark of how far the activities helped me feel from those heavy feelings of hopelessness and apathy.

Grow Resilience or Die

I allotted time every morning to doing selected self-care activities even if it meant waking up earlier, many times dragging myself with one eye open. Committing to my own self-care in mind, body and heart eventually led me to gradually growing a deep fulfillment and reverence for life. Here is how my morning self-care routine saved my life.

1. Looking Forward not Back

I walked myself through a sequence of self-care tasks in the morning like drinking water, taking a walk, reading an inspirational book, emptying my thoughts through freewriting and doing a meditation . By the end of these activities, I would feel a marked positive difference. On days that were particularly hard, where by nightfall my head would hit the pillow heavy with dread, I’d see my journal, inspirational book, and water-filled pitcher for the next morning already laid out and remember what the morning felt like.  I’d then look forward to that and experience relief.

2. Better Choices Led to Better Choices

My new choices in the morning began to spread into the rest of my day, and I found it easier to make better choices without trying. When depressed and feeling hopeless EVERYTHING takes effort yet the minuscule ounce of added energy from my mornings would domino effect into my afternoons and better choices became a natural extension of how I was feeling.

3. Inner Silence Gave Perspective

Through meditation and having had freely dumped my thoughts on paper, the loud nasty voices in my head would be quieted down.  An inner space  would be revealed even if just for split seconds at first. When painful memories would resurface I would be able to see them with a tad more distance and emotional soberness. Somehow I began to feel wider and bigger than the memories, in contrast to often having felt consumed by them. Acceptance ensued and feelings of  being more integrated and at peace slowly replaced the chaotic  inner battlefield.

4. Better Thoughts Start to Prevail

Once done with my self-care morning activities I began to have different thoughts than the usual ones. I remember after the first few times I meditated,  an image of cooing white doves flying into a pinkish, foggy, quiet sky over a body of water came into my mind. I had never thought of that or seen anything like it in my waking life and I was in awe that I could think something so beautiful. That beautiful thought stood contrastingly against the mundane, morbid, fearful, anxious thoughts that were my everyday reality.  Tiny step by tiny step, every morning, I gradually became aware of my inner landscape. It was as if I began to see my inner chatter from the  outside looking in and insights came about how it could be different. I decided that that one beautiful thought was a marker of my progress and used it to motivate me to keep going on the harder days when I felt toe to toe with my own hopelessness and self-harassment. I moved forward in the hopes that one-day beautiful thoughts like that would make up the bulk of my everyday inner world.

5. Circle of Friends Replaced

As my thoughts became more infused with hope and centeredness it was as if I began to emit that outwards and the highly critical, negative people who I’d cross paths with began to fall away. As my paradigm of enduring life slowly was being replaced by the belief that life was to be enjoyed, I began to notice the higher vibe, sweeter, happier people that were doing just that. As the circle of people I surrounded myself with became more positive I began to find the support I needed and things quickly changed for the better. No one can overcome suicidal tendencies alone no matter how amazing their private morning routine is.

Nothing Replaces Community

Changing my daily activities by focusing on how I started my day helped me tremendously and led me finally to finding that support I needed. Reaching out for help was the biggest hump to get over and biggest benefactor in my own healing. If you’re struggling I encourage you to take your own steps of self-care, however small, and reach out to those in your community. Receiving support from your community is a basic need of mental and emotional health that can’t be taken lightly, especially in these times where the superficiality of social media interactions so easily replace real, intimate conversations one on one.

16 thoughts on “How a Morning Self-Care Routine Saved My Life”

  1. I find this so practical and refreshing. Thank you for your radical honesty. I too have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. It is really important to aknowledge that climbing out of the hole is a step by step, day by day process and to just keep reaching for the next right thing you can in the moment and bring intentionality to it.

    1. I’m glad this was useful to you Mimi. You’re right it is a process of taking one choice at a time, sometimes a breath at a time. Thank you for sharing!

  2. This article reminds me of the Serenity prayer:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    We all have our own ups and downs but we should not forget that during times of depression, we just need to hold on because at the end of the tunnel, happiness will be waiting for us.

    1. Thank you for that powerful prayer Rudolfo. I came across that prayer in those times and it reminded me to keep taking steps to change the things I could no matter how tiny and seemingly insignificant.

      Yes everything changes and hard times are not forever. Thank you for that reminder

    1. Thank you for your comment Brittany! Thank God for family. I don’t know how things would of panned out had I not had someone I thought I needed to protect.

  3. A wonderfully inspirational post which shows how difficult it can be to start on the road to a better outlook, but how persistence and resourcefulness can win out. So many self – help articles are out there, but what this shows is it’s the discipline to carry on even at your lowest point or points which ultimately make the difference.

    All the best Lorena and thank you for sharing.

    1. Glad the post was of use to you Flattcatt. Your words are very kind. Thank you. I must say perhaps I was lucky to have a little sister I loved. The discipline and resourcefulness was born from love. With all the chaos inside of me, that little bit of love remaining saved me

  4. You are beautiful and strong.

    You are love and truth.

    You are kindness and compassion.

    You had the courage to overcome the lies that life had been telling you. That is a beacon of hope to others that they can do the same. And all of us who are on that path THANK YOU.

  5. This is something I feel I have needed to do for myself for a long time. Thank you for explaining how easy it can be to keep it simple but stay committed. Appreciated!

    1. Hello Jennifer,
      Yes I had such little energy I had to keep it very simple. The steps had to be small
      in order for my self care to be sustainable. Glad the post was of use to you. Thank you for sharing Jennifer!

  6. That’s such an inspirational story Lorena. There’s so much to relate to in your story: how you found purpose in being there for your little sister; the responsibility you took for a way forward; your perseverance; how good habits have helped spawn more good habits; the recognition of the importance of community etc. etc. That’s a real wow! of a post. Thanks so much for sharing. I may feature you in a post on my blog at some point if that’s okay. I’m always looking for stories that can give people hope. I’ll contact you via your own blog as well.

  7. Hello Pete!

    So happy my story was of use. Thank you for your kind words. I’d love to share my story with anyone you know is looking for this kind of information.

  8. It is great to hear that your strength came from loving your sister. It is important to notice how our behaviour affects others. Like you said, if we want to take care of others we must take care of ourselves first. We are our own children. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  9. Lorena, a wonderful testimonial to the power of morning habits! This especially stood out for me – “Tiny step by tiny step, every morning, I gradually became aware of my inner landscape”
    Mornings have changed my life too, since I started experimenting with morning rituals in 2012. I’ve since adopted this philosophy – Good mornings lead to meaningful days. Meaningful days lead to a fulfilling life.

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