Does the phrase "daily grind," ever feel a bit too literal?
You know those days where your body starts rebelling the moment you get out of bed, and it just feels like every hour laid out ahead of you is a millstone that will grind away another layer of your dwindling will to live, leaving you one step closer to a fundamental collapse. No? Just me? Well then, I guess this article is just for me. Here are some behaviors that I should avoid so I don't dissolve into a formless puddle of despair.
Have you ever had a roommate or a family member who hit the snooze button like a game of whack-a-mole? I once lied awake in a friend's apartment for two hours, listening to his roommate's alarm go off every seven minutes. And when the roommate finally stumbled out of bed, he didn't exactly look well-rested. There's a reason for that. The snooze function on your phone gives you some wiggle room to adjust how much of a deferment you want on starting your day, but chances are it's not nearly enough, and hitting it over and over is just going to make you even more exhausted.
If the idea is that you want a chance to feel a little more rested, then you need to give yourself enough time to go through a full REM cycle. How long one cycle lasts varies from person to person, but the minimum is generally around 15 minutes. You need an actual nap. The usual range of up to nine minutes is just a cruel and disruptive tease. If you really want to ease into your day, you can try setting two alarms, 15-20 minutes apart, and see if you're ready to wake up after the second one goes off.
Taking a Hot Shower
There is nothing more relaxing than standing in the flow of heat from your shower head, letting your muscles melt away as the steam rises around you. It's almost as good as just staying in bed. I'm getting drowsy just…thinking…about…Blah! That is not what you need when you're just waking up. If you take a hot shower in the morning, all that relaxing energy is setting you up for exhaustion. Hot showers not only soothe you into a sleepy state; they can also dry out your skin. You don't need a massage. You need to be awake and alert for your day. You need a smack in the face. You need the bracing cold at the other end of the shower knob. Cold water is better for your skin and hair, and it actually induces the diving reflex, which directs oxygen to your heart and brain, and gets your blood flowing. But if you don't think you can handle the tough love of a cold shower in the morning, you can get a lot of the benefit by flipping to cold for the last 30 seconds of your morning routine, just to give yourself that quick shock that gets you going.
Keeping Your Bedroom Cold
If you're trying to save money on your heating bill this winter—or if you love blasting the A/C on summer nights—you may find yourself waking up already tired, with stiff or cramping arms and legs. If that's the case, you've likely been working out all night. When your room isn't warm enough, your body has to compensate by tensing the muscles in your limbs to increase blood flow. You are burning energy to keep from freezing, and not getting the deep, relaxed, and restorative sleep you need. Keeping things a little warmer and taking that relaxing warm shower just before bed can help relieve these issues.
Having a Late-Night Snack
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When you're really tired, your willpower breaks down. So it's understandable that if you're still a bit hungry before bed, maybe you no longer have the strength to resist some leftover chicken, or a handful of chips, or an entire sleeve of Oreos. But your body is not built to digest that food while you sleep. If you eat before bed—particularly starches—you're likely to sleep badly and wake up with indigestion. More than that, your body's natural rhythms are tied to your eating habits, so you're most likely to be ready for a new day about 12 hours after your last meal. If you often find yourself hungry in the hour or two before bed, try eating a larger dinner, or just power through the hunger and wake up hungry enough that you don't even consider…
Maybe you're one of those people who never does anything before your first cup of coffee in the morning. If that mantra includes skipping breakfast, you're doing yourself a disservice. Eating a good breakfast can help regulate your appetite and stabilize your energy through the day, but what's even more important for coffee drinkers is that having some food in your stomach protects you from the harmful effects of coffee's acidity. So if you want to keep your stomach lining intact, consider a healthy, hearty breakfast—or at least a few bites of toast.
So maybe I'll start taking my own advice, and stop being ground into a fine dust by the daily grind.