The 4 Things My Morning Routine Always Includes To Stave Off Anxiety All Day Long
What's it like to start your day if you're mbg's food director, a yogi, or a food blogger/TV producer who wakes up at 3 a.m.? In this new series sponsored by Quaker® Old Fashioned Oats, nutrition and wellness enthusiasts let you in on their tried-and-true morning routines and all the nourishing habits that set them up for a feel-good day.
I try to fit a LOT in my day—I recipe develop for mbg and my upcoming cookbook, I work on my food-filled Instagram account, and (oh yeah!) I work full-time as the food director in mbg's DUMBO office. I've interviewed enough experts to know that a good morning routine is the key to a successful day, so I do my best to sneak in elements that are calming, grounding, and set me up for a productive, joyful day.
That said, I'm often a hot mess in the morning. I'm naturally a night owl—when I used to make my own hours, I'd work until 3 or 4 in the morning, and then sleep until 10 or 11 a.m.—and I still have to cajole myself into getting into bed around midnight, when I read a book to fall asleep (If I have a book, I fall asleep within 15 minutes; if I don't, I might be awake all night). My mornings are largely focused on staving off my anxiety (something I've struggled with for years), setting myself up for a calm day, and feeding myself, my husband, and my cat.
I've been waking up without an alarm for the better half of a year, and it makes the biggest difference in my mood. People think I'm crazy when I tell them this, but my alarm would often go off only a few minutes before I would naturally wake up, and it would make me wake up in a state of panic that would lead to a rushed, anxious morning. Most days, even without an alarm, I wake up around 8 or 8:15, and I modify my morning routine to accommodate how much time I have. The very first thing I do—before I swallow or drink any water—is use my beloved brushing rinse. It's made from hydrogen peroxide, water, and essential oils, and it whitens my teeth and clears away all of the bacteria that built up overnight. Then I brush with my electric toothbrush.
I drink a big glass of room temperature water. (I used to do the whole lemon water thing, but I felt like it wasn't adding much in the way of benefits, and I didn't love the effects on my tooth enamel.) And I take my probiotic and prebiotics to boot.
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I woke up this morning feeling really anxious and depressed. I knew I should meditate and work out (it always makes me feel better) but instead I lay there, feeling more lethargic and tired and panicky. I'm lucky enough to have a company that I can openly share this stuff with, and I think it's so important to share it if you can, when you can. "I can't come to dinner tonight—I'm feeling really anxious." " I'm taking a WFH day because I had a panic attack." "Can you help make dinner/run this errand/whatever?" Yes, anxiety has become less stigmatized, but all too often, it's when we're on the other side. I USED to be so anxious but look how great I am now. I suffer from anxiety but I'm still the best friend/coworker/daughter/mother. The more we talk about how anxiety really impacts our lives in the present, the more we can help the world understand what living with anxiety is actually like. If we hide it, how can we expect people to see us or help us? I took everything really, really slowly today. I ate a burrito because it was comforting and I needed comfort. I cuddled my cat. Eventually, I did a 20 minute home workout, and meditate for another 20 minutes. I took CBD. I talked to a friend. And I'm still not really feeling that much better. That's the other thing people need to know about anxiety, that if we hide we're hiding from them: Sometimes, all of the wellness practices in the world don't make it go away. Us anxiety folks LOVE control which means we LOVE changing our diets or installing a water filter or taking a new supplement because we think it means, finally, we'll wrestle back the steering wheel of our bodies. But sometimes, we can't. We're passengers, along for the ride, and even if we don't always enjoy it, we need to realize that that's okay.
I was never a morning workout person (OK, OK, I was never really a workout person at all), but I've been doing them for the last six months, and honestly, I might be a convert. I never wake up perfectly calm—rather, I feel like a 4 on a scale of 1 (unanxious) to 10 (panic attack). If I do nothing in the morning, the 4 continues to grow throughout the day, but when I work out and/or meditate (which will come later!), it drops down to a 1 or 2.
I've been working out every morning with a combination of dance, Pilates, and yoga. It makes me super sore, and I can bow out of the crazy athleisure runway show that so many yoga studios have become and just do the workouts in my skivvies on my living room floor.
I've been meditating every day for the last three years, and it's made a bigger difference in my life than any other wellness activity. I can really tell on days I don't meditate, which is, I think, the best reason to incorporate a new wellness routine into your life. Seeing benefits immediately versus in a far-flung, intangible future is the type of motivation I need. I do Vedic meditation, which involves a mantra, and I sit for 20 minutes. I don't look at all cute like the girls you see meditating on Instagram—usually I have headphones on playing white noise to drown out the construction sounds in my building, a cat on my lap, and a very serious look on my face.
I’ve been meditating every day for the last three years, and it’s made a bigger difference in my life than any other wellness activity.
I hop in the shower. I don't wash my face in the morning (at night, I oil cleanse, so I just rinse that off), and I rarely wash my hair because hoo-boy does that add time to my day. My showers end up being less than two minutes, which my husband (the king of 20-minute showers) is mind-boggled by. But I have things to do!
I'm basically a green smoothie evangelist, to the point where friends will stop my preaching and be like, "Yeah, yeah, Liz, we get it, you think green smoothies are the best breakfast!" But they are! They take five minutes to make, involve little cleanup, and by 9 a.m., you will have gotten a head start on your vegetable intake for the day, letting you relax and, you know, cave into a cookie craving later.
I switch it up daily, but I always do a hefty bunch of greens, some type of protein, some type of fat, a banana, and handful of frozen fruit. I also LOVE playing with different fun flavor combinations that make breakfast feel more like dessert (I have the world's biggest sweet tooth): chocolate cherry cardamom or mint chocolate chip are my go-to's right now. I always make a blender-full, which is enough for four full Mason jars—one for my husband and me today, and one for the next day's breakfast option (little-known fact—smoothies can keep for up to 48 hours!).
I also try to make a snack to bring to work so I don't eat all of the chocolate bars littering my desk (the perils of being a food editor!). Today, I made cookie-dough energy balls by adding some oats, Medjool dates, cashew butter, and vanilla powder to my food processor. I let it run until everything is super smooth, then pulse in cacao nibs and roll the whole sticky mixture into balls. I pop a few into my bag and a few into my husband's. Already looking forward to the afternoon.
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This smoothie kind of looks like 💩, but it is so damn delicious that I can’t not share it with you (also all the pretty colored smoothies on insta kinda kill me cuz usually they don’t have greens and they DO have toooons of blood sugar spiking fruit😐). After indulging all weekend in Newport, Rhode Island (ie one of the most beautiful magical places on earth), my body needed a reset, bad, but I was still craving chocolate cuz, well, I’m always craving chocolate. So I whipped up this Chocolate Cherry Almond Cardamom situation with: A huge handful of mixed greens 1 banana A handful of @traderjoes frozen cherries 2 scoops of @vitalproteins chocolate berry collagen powder A generous splash of almond extract A generous pinch of cardamom A few spoonfuls cacao powder A pinch of salt One avocado Blended it all with water till smooth. This made enough for two, cuz it’d be kinda mean to not give any to Zack 😝
Time for skin care and makeup! I don't wear much, but I like to put on a serum with vitamin C, E, and ferulic acid for extra protection from pollution. I do put on a nontoxic tinted moisturizer that has SPF 30 and evens out my skin tone (it makes me feel like such a responsible grownup to wear sunscreen every day—like, you're welcome, 80-year-old me). I use my fingers to pop on some blush and quickly pencil in eyebrows. I don't do mascara most days—I have super-sensitive eyes—but a friend once told me that French women look so chic because they leave one thing undone, so I tell myself that my bare eyes are just giving me that certain je ne sais quoi.
My husband and I work in the same neighborhood, and we often walk in together. We used to live in a different part of New York and had a 40-minute multi-subway commute to work, but we moved intentionally to make our commute shorter. I heard a money expert say that the best way to use your money to become happier is to invest in making your commute a walking or biking one, and it's made a huge difference in my daily mood. The sunshine, the trees, the casual conversation with my husband—if there's a better way to start a day, I'm not aware of it.