Morning Routine for Anxiety and Productivity: My Hot Mess of a Work in Progress

Morning Routine for Anxiety and Productivity: My Hot Mess of a Work in Progress

I intercept the cat on his urgent mission across the diagonal of the bed, a path that ensures optimal contact with sleeping human bodies. I carry him to the food that’s been there all night on my grandmother’s china saucer that I feel simultaneously good and guilty about using this way. The cat devours the food, proving it was, indeed, food he wanted from me but he (a) forgot to check the dish he eats from six times a day or (b) knew it was there but prefers to be served to his food because he is a terrible person.

I crawl back into bed and reach for my phone (that I’ve stopped moving into the other room at night because I’m better about not checking it) and check the news for the next horrible thing while trying not to wake up too much.

I wake up too much.

I brush my teeth and study the same two pimples I’ve had going on four months – one under my left eye, the other on the right side of my mouth and made more contemptable by its position on, and emphasis of, my right jowl.

I take 250 mg of theanine for anxiety that I cancel out with a cup of black tea – not as caffeinated (i.e., anxiety-inducing) as coffee, but caffeinated nonetheless – with a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered, local honey that I estimate with a fork because it’s the only clean utensil.

I take my tea and half a paper towel to the living room so I have something to set the teabag on after not letting it steep for more than five-to-ten minutes (because caffeine) which I gauge by nothing.

I check trending topics on Twitter, Instagram stories, and read the news for real this time, not only on my iPhone’s news app but also at because it tends to turn up stories that my news app does not, particularly in the entertainment section. I consider and decide against re-downloading the Google News app that I deleted from my phone because having two news apps seems excessive and makes obsessive news checking too easy.

I zone out for five-to-thirty seconds, all the while regretting I cannot bring myself to do this before the news robs me of the morning brain fog I need to push me into five-minute meditation territory.

My eyes rest on the potted angel vine on the bookcase. I don’t remember the last time I watered it, so I check its leaves. Only if they’re withering do I water it because I’d rather kill a plant with too little water than too much since I could kill it either way but at least underwatering won’t breed bugs.

I get on my desktop that’s really a laptop stacked on both volumes of The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Anna Karenina and The Complete Novels of Charlotte and Emily Bronte. I adjust the height of my chair, a refurbished Steelcase that needs readjusting every time I sit in it, a task required of my tendonitis-plagued right arm that the chair (and desktop situation) is supposed to improve.

I check the news, trending topics, and Instagram stories again, just in case.

I check my email and delete without opening eighty percent of what’s in it, including two newsletters I feel guilty about never reading, but guiltier about unsubscribing from.

I work, ignoring my hunger as I’m still drinking my tea and have to wait a full hour after it’s gone before eating because black tea has tannins in it. Tannins attach to iron and can interfere with its absorption and I don’t want to waste it. Or I eat a banana because of its low iron content; I’m okay with losing .3 mg.

I check the news, trending topics, and Instagram stories again, just in case.

I make two scrambled, pasture-raised eggs with an English muffin, or a bagel, or hash browns, but always eggs even though my cholesterol is slightly elevated because my doctor says cheese is the worst offender and a 2016 study found no connection between egg consumption and coronary heart disease. Still, I pledge to search for an equally-satisfying breakfast alternative to have every other day as I remember NPR says that study was partially funded by the Egg Nutrition Center.

I eat and watch an episode of a new season of a show that’s not as good as it used to be.

I take two Aleve for the tendonitis and 1000 i.u. of vitamin D3 for the deficiency my primary care doctor told me I had without testing me for it because most of the people she sees have a vitamin D deficiency even though we live in Southern California. I curse myself for not believing her and waiting until an urgent care doctor tested my vitamin levels a few months later discovering that, indeed, vitamin D was my only deficiency. I’ve been taking supplements for it, coinciding with fewer bouts of depression that could have started months earlier had I listened to my primary care doctor’s educated guess.

I ignore my craving for another cup of tea that I can’t have for an hour after eating (because tannins). I keep my craving at bay with a square of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate truffle, or a brownie, or eight-to-ten peanut M&Ms.

I check the news, trending topics, and Instagram stories again, just in case.

I do my tendonitis stretches, holding each for forty seconds because I’m supposed to hold for thirty and I count seconds faster than they last.

I sit back down at my computer.

I check the news, trending topics, and Instagram stories again, just in case.

I note the time that’s well after noon, regretting that four wakeful hours have only resulted in one hour of work, proving the inefficiency of my anxiety-plagued morning routine.

I beat myself up.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be more self-aware? Disciplined? Evolved? Why can’t I design a morning a routine not so bogged down with worry and distraction? A morning routine that gets shit done because not getting it done makes my anxiety so much worse. Clearly, I don’t want it bad enough. I’m falling short. Doomed to fail. Sabotaging myself.

Then I work two-to-three hours straight.

I take a break, and work some more. Anxiety subsides. I take a break and work some more. Anxiety subsides. I get said shit done. Not as much as I’d like, or in the order I’d like, or before five o’clock, but this and that gets squeezed in before midnight, and a lot of it feels good.

It is in this context of a full day that I can’t help but wonder…

What if I am misunderstanding the value of my imperfect morning routine for anxiety and productivity?

What if it is supposed to be a hot mess of a work in progress?

What if it is, in fact, the perfect way for me to get my crazymaking activities, anxious thoughts, and unproductive hours out of the way?

What if my imperfect morning routine is exactly what I need?

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Graduate student at Antioch Los Angeles working on an M.A. in Clinical Psychology. Writing background covering mental health, financial literacy, and social issues. Creative writing, too--plays, screenplays, and currently chipping away at a short story collection.

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