Full disclosure: for most of my adult life I’ve been a proud Poster Child for the ‘Type A’ Personality. If you’re one of these people, you know the signs and symptoms; an optimistic “Let’s DO this!” approach. Assertive, maybe even a little aggressive sometimes. Driven to succeed, no matter the task: reaching a chosen goal becomes a mental, emotional and physical mission. We make other people just watching us feel ready for a nap.
Back in the day – before ‘pop psychology’ (more accessible knowledge for the masses), there were other words to describe Type A people: neurotic; high-strung; intense; twitchy. As a child of the 1960’s, when long hair was often worn in a high pony (with cat’s eye eyeliner and opalescent lipstick, by the way), the expression “Her ponytail’s WAY too tight !” meant the same thing. The background to this subtle ‘burn’? Mothers who’d grown up with bobs and ‘page-boy’ hairstyles tried to neaten-up their little long-haired school girls with ponies that wouldn’t come loose during the day. Ergo, the elastics holding our hair were so tight that our heads hurt and faces felt stretched as high as our ponies. No joke.
But it really doesn’t matter these days, whether or not you consider yourself Type A, or B (or C, or D – what the heck). There’s already enough external stress in our lives without thinking about what we do to ourselves. Even if you try, or prefer to live in a vacuum – ignoring the daily news or newsfeeds – there’s practically no way of escaping what’s going on all around us. I went to see a film this past weekend – a distracting, and pretty well-done comedy. But there was dialogue – brief, but still — that included current political controversies. Really ?? I came here to escape, ok? Not be reminded of the mess ‘out there’.
So, what can be done to prep ourselves before greeting the day and a) revving-up our Type A engines, or b) mentally preparing ourselves for the evitable onslaught of instant updates that have the power to rock our worlds in a not-so-helpful way?
Do you remember the way-back meme of “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!” ? That’s how I know a lot of people react when someone suggests meditation and other forms of self-soothing that may be very beneficial, but feel so time-consuming and sometimes even questionable (as far as the time-commitment / benefit ratio).
Which is why I’m going to offer my own 5 Step, 5 Minute Routine that anyone can do before rolling out of bed. The more you do it, the more it becomes a habit that you actually look forward to. Because it’s so easy. Because it’s so fast. And because it feels lazy, and healthy at the same time. As if you just discovered that your favorite junk food (mine happens to be Oreos) was actually low-cal, chockfull of vitamins, and life-extending.
Step One, Breathing: the exact moment that you wake up, roll onto your back and consciously relax your body; from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Take a total of four slow, deep breaths in (expand those lungs!), exhaling fully and completely before taking the breath. It helps to keep your eyes closed. Visuals get the brain going.
Step Two, Stretching: gently turn your head from side to side four times, relaxing your neck muscles, just letting the weight of your head rest in the pillow comfortably. Next, point and flex your toes ten times. Next, bring your knees up, and into your chest; wrap your arms around your shins and hug yourself while stretching out your lower back. Hold for a count of ten.
Step Three, Appreciation: wait — you’re not actively thinking yet! Be still and let your mind appreciate how your body feels in bed; your soft pillow and warm blankets; the morning light (and promise of a new day); just being alive and safe in your little bedroom world.
Step Four, Gratitude: think of three things or people that are of genuine comfort to you (could be the cat on your bed). Offer a ‘thank you’.
Step Five, Anticipate: yesterday is over and done with. What – or who – do you want to show up in your life today? Invite personal progress, success, love, health, strength (whatever you truly want and need) into your day.
When you first do these Steps, you may take a little longer than 5 minutes. But as I mentioned a few sentences ago, it will become a happy, efficient habit or routine that feels like Protection against all manner of unhappy interference that you might come across during the day. Best of all, it reminds you that you did do something akin to Self-Care today. And you didn’t have to get out of bed to do it.