Don't start your day stressing! Experts dish on how they put themselves in a relaxed state of mind each morning. By Jane Bianchi, REDBOOK.
Ease into waking up
Does your alarm clock honking at a nearly eardrum-shattering volume really make you want to get out of bed? Chances are, it has you shoving your pillow over your head and hitting the snooze button. Newsflash: There's a less traumatic way to rise and shine. "I wake up to soothing music or nature sounds that gradually intensify," says Lev Natan, a life coach at The Medicine Tree Center in New York's Hudson Valley. "I make a playlist. The first song might be a gentle flute tune, the trickle of a stream, or the 'om' chant. The second song might be more energizing, such as rhythmic drumming." Banish the default iPhone alarm that greets you at 7 a.m., and scroll through other options - or consider shelling out the 99 cents for a more soothing tone.
Ask yourself one question
As soon as you wake up, assess how you feel about life in the context of the day ahead. Then put your answer on a scale from one - "life is miserable" - to 10 - "I love my life!" This strategy works well for Samantha Sutton, a life coach with the Handel Group in New York City. "If my score is an eight or lower, I schedule a call with a trusted friend so I can vent and get advice," she says. "If my score is a nine or 10, I sit still for 30 seconds and cherish the feeling."
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Remind yourself what you need this year
Each January, Janet Harvey, a life coach in Edmonds, WA, comes up with a few two-word "intention statements," and writes each on an index card. It's not too late to set your intentions for 2013, so go ahead and make like it's New Year's. Harvey uses "abundant balance" to remind herself that it's okay to decline to some requests and "harmonious pause" helps her remember to take a time-out and go for a walk outside whenever she feels frustrated. Each morning, she goes over her intention statements and journals how she'll put them into practice that day.
Look at a vision board
Jairek Robbins, the San Diego-based life coach behind Jairek Robbins Companies, keeps and regularly updates a vision board, and stares at for one minute each morning. The bulletin board contains magazine tear-outs and Web print-outs of phrases, photos, and illustrations that signify what he hopes to achieve in life. "It has pictures of places that I want to visit, like Machu Picchu and Mount Kilimanjaro, and numbers that represent business goals, such as how many people I want to help this year," he says. Whether yours involves thumbtacks or lives on Pinterest, stay focused on your goals with a collection of the words and images that inspire you.
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"My 17-year-old daughter Alex and I have a routine," says Jennifer Voss, a certified Martha Beck life coach in Knoxville, TN. "We can't start the day without making and drinking a green smoothie for breakfast. The beverage is physically and mentally rejuvenating, and the morning tradition helps us make time for each other and bond emotionally." Her magical mixture includes almond milk, spinach, kale, and fresh fruit like strawberries, blueberries, and bananas. Whatever you choose to sip - or nosh on - first thing, follow Voss' lead and carve out time to connect with your family and your health first thing.
"The most important thing that I do each morning is meditate," says Janice Lewis, president of JaniceTime, a Chicago-based life coaching business. "At the moment, I'm using an audio-guided meditation by Susie Mantell called Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace that I downloaded onto my iPod." Each morning, she lies on her living room couch, crosses her arms on her chest, palms down, and then takes slow, deep breaths while listening to the instructions for at least 30 minutes. Even if you can't spare that much time, a few moments of quiet-time can be incredibly beneficial.
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Read a stimulating book
Are you an early riser? Debra Hickok, the life coach behind Boston-based Featherstone, gets up before her family, goes to her office, shuts the door, and relishes the sweet silence. There, she sits in a cushioned chair facing the window and reads philosophical teachings or reflective poetry for five to 10 minutes. "I love The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, which has a one-page passage dedicated to every day of the year," she says. Her other favorites include works by Eckhart Tolle, Brené Brown, Rumi, and Pema Chodron. "They inspire me and provide a mental focus for my day."
Dissect your daily goals
How often do you accomplish everything on your daily to-do list? If your answer - like many of ours - is "never," then try this tip from Susan Fox, a life coach with A.I.M. High Coaching in the Bay Area. "Each morning, I break large projects that I'm working on into bite-sized, achievable daily goals," she says. Instead of writing something vague on her daily calendar, like "handle marketing plan," she'll jot down something more specific, such as "edit final version of marketing email and send it to 10 people" - and then pencil it into a particular time slot.
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