In a less “treat yourself”and flashy way, morning routines can be more critical than the fun types of self-care.
Between having anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, waking up on the first day of my period is almost unbearable. Both conditions exacerbate my symptoms from stabbing constipation pains to picking at my cuticles more often to terrible migraines. I’ve been late to work and school before because of them, which of course, makes me even more nervous and preoccupied about being late.
Additionally, April is IBS Awareness Month, so it’s an opportune time to discuss how forms of self-care can help improve bowel health. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, up to 15 percent of the general population struggles with IBS. Often, many aren’t diagnosed and their symptoms aren’t treated as valid medical problems.
Over time, I’ve personally learned the importance of morning routines. While being less “treat yourself” and flashy than other self-care routines, a morning schedule can be critical if you have IBS.
Routines can help form healthy, positive habits if practiced consistently for weeks at a time. They also have the potential to give you a boost of positive energy, especially for those who plan on fitting in a morning workout.
If you want to develop a routine, but don’t have a solid one yet, take out a piece of paper and start jotting down everything you’d want to do in the morning. Ask yourself what you’d like to conquer once you wake up, if you had all the time in the world. Stop once you reach 10 or 15. From there, narrow down the list to what is most important, and of that new list, choose the three with the highest priority. Finally, grab a sticky note, jot down the three items, and stick it in a visible place near you bed for when you wake up. Here are my three:
I drink a glass of water immediately when I wake up, even before coffee.
I set it aside by my bedside the night before, so I don’t reach far when the sun comes up. It’s so easy and expected to rush to the coffeemaker, but a glass of water will wake you up faster and hydrate you. In fact, TIME reports the best time to consume caffeine is between 10 a.m. and noon, and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. This hydrates me best, especially since caffeine triggers IBS symptoms.
I stretch my body using IBS-specific positions.
Using stretches for healthy digestion from Steffy White’s IBS yoga, I curated my own morning sequence that can be done in bed. For instance, I flex my back by bringing my left leg over the other in an upright position. Another pose involves lying on my back and stretching one leg up at a time, point my ankles to the sky. These stretches also help with period-related cramps.
I eat a nourishing meal.
Even if my stomach isn’t growling, I understand the importance of a nutritious breakfast. Until lunchtime comes around, a full belly will help you focus on your work. Lately, I’ve been into a protein-packed rice crisp cereal mixed with hazelnuts, peanuts, raisins, and non-dairy milk. This helps kickstart my digestive system, which is important for both IBS and menstruation.