As HSPs, we possess a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli, including emotions, noise, and visual input. It often leads us to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
However, being an HSP can be great. That is if we learn to understand our needs and develop effective self-management strategies and healthy habits to help us maintain emotional balance. One such strategy is the implementation of a morning routine specifically tailored to meet the needs of the highly sensitive person.
I’ve spent the past few years crafting the best morning routine and after 10s (if not 100s) of trials and errors, I’ve identified a set of steps that help me maintain emotional stability, as well as a greater sense of peace throughout the day.
But why a morning routine?
The point of a morning routine is to “prep” you mentally and physically in the morning and put you in an optimal state for the rest of your day. You basically install (in the morning) a new program in your brain that will guide you for the entire day.
So, you can either take charge and dedicate the first 30 to 90 minutes of your morning to getting yourself in the zone, and then have an easier time navigating the rest of your day. Or, you can NOT prep yourself in the morning, and spend the whole day hanging out with your usual friends: suffering, self-doubt, sadness, negativity, laziness, etc.
It’s fine too. But when you get tired of it, come back here. I’ll be waiting.
Before we get into the actual routine, we must establish general guidelines to create a positive environment and set the stage for the routine.
- The best morning routine starts the evening before. Assuming you’ve got that part covered, let’s move on.
- Be mindful of what you “put in”/consume the second you wake up. By this, I mean what you see, hear, read, etc. Prioritize a serene environment at all times but especially in the morning. Resist the urge to check your phone every 5 minutes, the news, your emails…
- Maintain a tidy sleeping space. It has been proven that clutter leads to stress and anxiety (Neuroscience News), and staring at a messy room the second you open your eyes in the morning will impact your mood and mindset, no matter what you think.
- Sleep with your phone on airplane mode and only use it as an alarm clock. If you have kids or need to be reachable for work (I mean really need to, like if you are an on-call news anchor), then get a landline and only give that number to the 2 or 3 people who absolutely must be able to reach you when your phone is off. This will enable you to prioritize self-care without compromising your accessibility when needed.
Ok, now that we got this out of the way, let’s move on to
My go-to morning routine as a highly sensitive person
1. Wake up at the same time every day
This starts the night before, btw, by going to bed at the same time each night as well.
Research has shown that a consistent sleep schedule improves mental and physical well-being (source: Verywell Health).
So, waking up at the same time every day not only improves your sleep but also acts as an anchor, a cue that will tell your body when to be awake and when to sleep. This in turn will make it easier for your body and mind to stick to your routine.
2. Listen to something soothing or constructive in the morning
Begin your morning with a soothing or relevant auditory experience such as a guided meditation, or gentle music. By “relevant” I mean an audio file that you deliberately chose according to your specific needs of the moment. One that will prep your mind and redirect your mental dialog to where you want it to go.
For example, when I wake up, my mind tends to jump in “negative mode” right away.
So, if I feel discouraged by my chronic illness, I will listen to a guided miracle meditation; if I feel agitated or sad, I will listen to a chapter of a book on mindfulness (like The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle), etc.
Figure out your needs of the moment, and then listen to something that helps replace your thoughts.
Ideally, you will have that audio prepared and uploaded to your phone the night before, so that it’s accessible even if you are on airplane mode!
3. Meditate or pray
As soon as possible after you wake up, engage in a meditation or prayer session to center yourself and cultivate a sense of inner peace.
You don’t have to be a believer to pray. Just speak to the Universe, or The Force, if that’s what you want.
When I dedicate time first thing in the morning to quiet my thoughts (and then replace them with more positive ones), it has a significant impact on my ability to manage my emotions throughout the day and navigate life with a lot more equanimity.
And when I don’t, I feel the impact.
4. Practice gratitude
When you are grateful, you are in a more positive mindset. Cultivating a more positive mindset, especially as soon as the day begins, helps highly sensitive people to be more emotionally resilient throughout the day.
Dedicate a few moments each morning to express gratitude for all the blessings in your life. You can do so through journaling, silent reflection, or verbal affirmations.
And if you think you have nothing to be grateful for, think again.
5. Do some light exercise, like stretching or yoga
Incorporate some light physical activity into your morning routine, such as stretching, tai chi, or yoga, to awaken your body and mind.
The gentle movements will help energize your body and kickstart your day.
When I don’t stretch in the morning, it takes a lot more mental energy to get my body and mind to align, and force myself to do things. But after a 10 to 30-minute stretch, my body and mind are both ready to go!
If you don’t feel like it, start stretching in bed. 3 years later and that’s still what I do!
6. Mindful breathing exercises
Incorporate mindful breathing exercises into your morning routine. It will help promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.
Taking slow, deep breaths keeps us in the present moment. It can also help manage our mental health, calm our nervous system, and help center our minds (source: Choosing Therapy).
I personally do my breathing exercises while I stretch. I mean, sometimes I only have 15 minutes to dedicate to my full morning routine, and every element of this routine matters!
7. Go for a walk
A brief walk in the morning will have a positive impact on your emotional well-being.
Take this time to feel the sun on your face, the wind on your skin… The brief contact with nature will help ground you in the present moment.
And trust me, even a short 10-minute walk outside in the morning is better than no walk at all. And a 10-minute walk every day is better than walking 2 hours every one or two weeks.
8. Eat a low-carb breakfast to reduce sugar spikes
When I start my day with sugar and carbs, it has an impact on my ability to regulate myself, mood, emotions, and cravings throughout the day. And it’s not just me (source: Hindustan Times).
However, ever since switching to an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming fewer (to no) refined carbs and no sugar, and following an overall low-carb diet, my mood has stabilized greatly.
But the thing that has the most impact, is what I eat first thing in the morning. I can make exceptions to my diet, but I make them later in the day, NOT in the morning.
For breakfast, I try to stick to veggies, protein, and healthy fats, but you do you. Test things out and figure out what works best for you.
9. Do not “open yourself to the world” (by turning your phone back on, for example) until your whole morning routine is complete
Of course, I don’t mean that you should be rude to people. But you should resist the temptation to immerse yourself in external demands until after your morning routine is complete.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found for managing my sensitivity has been to learn self-management skills and emotional resilience rechniques. It’s still a work in progress.
But yes, it is possible to be more resilient, emotionally stable, and serene, even as an HSP. To achieve that, we must however, prioritize mindfulness and self-care. And for me, well, I achieved that with a routine.
Remember, you have the right, if not the duty, to protect your emotional well-being and cultivate a sense of inner peace first. Especially as a highly sensitive person.
If you don’t, it will only make things harder for you AND for everyone else you interact with throughout the day.