“What nine months of attention does for an embryo forty early mornings alone will do for your gradually growing wholeness.” ~Rumi
We would likely all agree that manicures, baths, and cozy movie nights on the couch all fall under the umbrella of self-care. But I believe that it’s time—actually, beyond time—to go deeper and re-claim what self-care truly means. It’s also time to see self-care as imperative, and to move it from the lonely bottom of our to-do list and plant it firmly at the very top.
For me, self-care has become my fuel and my fire. When I claim time on my calendar on a regular basis for things like play, sister time, and self-reflection, I stay in connection with myself and the things I actually want to say yes and no to.
Self-care is about clearing out the cobwebs in my mind with daily journaling and going to the gym. It’s about telling my husband, “I can’t make dinner for us tonight, my love; I need to go and have some time alone and take a bath after a long day.” And doing so without guilt.
And the miraculous thing is, the more I claim time for myself, the more I overflow with generosity and patience for the people I love most. See how that works? The more I give to myself, the more I can give to others from a place of fullness.
We would never dream of driving cross-country without stopping for fuel, snacks, and water—or trying to make the drive on an empty tank. Yet we seem to think that we can keep pushing through our own exhaustion without consequences.
When I look back at my own journey from physically, emotionally, and spiritually falling apart, to reclaiming myself on all levels, I see it all began with a decision to stop caring so much about what others thought, and to make my own wellness, happiness, and voice priorities again.
I began to notice that when I gave myself permission to speak up for myself in the moment, even as my voice was shaking, I left the conversation with a sense of wholeness, without any lingering emotions that were not honored.
When I didn’t speak my mind, and held in my opinions and needs, I ended up at Best Buy yelling at the customer service manager because I had so much pent up sadness and anger from stuffing things down and being “nice.”
The more I was honest with myself about my self-care needs, the more I could be myself with those around me.
It all started over a decade ago. I had just dropped my son off at pre-school. As I sat in my car in front of the coffee shop where I had intended to work for a few hours, I found myself unable to get out of the car.
I felt the tears start bubbling up, but they weren’t quite ready to flow yet. After all, I didn’t really have anything to cry about, did I? My son was healthy, my husband loved me, we had a steady income from his job, and I had the freedom to create a business.
Our home was warm and furnished. We had friends and family to call on. Admittedly, my sister and mother were both thousands of miles away. And my best friends were on opposite coasts. But I’d thankfully found a few new friends to share the early motherhood journey with, and they were truly lifesavers for me. I’m sure I was that for them as well.
Yet, there I sat in my car, stuck in a fog of confusion, unable to step inside the coffee shop. All I could think was, “Who the hell am I now? Where did the me that I knew so well go? And who the hell am I about to become?”
That’s when the phone rang. It was my sister (i.e. divine intervention). She asked me how I was, and that’s all I needed to hear. The floodgates broke wide open and the waterfall of tears began.
“What’s wrong??? Are you okay???” she asked.
“Yes, no, yes… well, everyone is fine, I’m fine, it’s just…I don’t know what the hell I’m feeling… I’m just… sad.” There was some kind of relief in letting myself cry and saying it out loud. It felt like a valve that had been screwed on too tightly had suddenly been released.
I realized during our conversation that part of me had been hiding for a while. This was the part of me that had been letting go of who I was little by little. As I became a wife, a mother, a resident of a new state, and a homeowner, the parts of me that were used to more freedom, more expression, and less constraint in speaking my truth, began to emerge. And this part of me was pissed, hurt, sad, and ready to run.
But I knew that I couldn’t run back to who I was before I got married and became a mama. And I couldn’t run forward either because the ground in front of me had become uncertain; I didn’t know how I was going to step into all of these new roles while still maintaining a sense of myself. All of my attention was now focused on keeping another human alive, and being the wife of this man who was now my only family in this new place.
Instead of running, I just imploded, but it happened slowly, over time, so that I hadn’t noticed.
Over the last several years of hustling to build a business, raise a baby, and build a home, my body had taken a backseat to my brain and my to-do list. And now, at this very moment, after years of pain in my belly, and sheer exhaustion, my body was ready to be honored again.
Back in the car, my sister asked me the one thing that would shift the trajectory of my life: She asked me if I felt like going to a yoga class. She said she remembered a time in our lives when I was shouting my enthusiasm for yoga from the rooftops. And admittedly, it had been years since I stood at the top of my mat and held my hands in front of my heart.
After I stopped crying, I promised her I would get me to a class.
The very next morning I was in this gorgeous azure blue and gold studio that would become my anchor over the next two years.
I cried at some point during almost every yoga class for the next six months. And I slowly began to feel my body arrive in the moment again. I could feel the parts of myself that had been hiding begin to show up and talk to me on that mat. Each pose was slowly coaxing me back to myself, and molding me into the new self that I was becoming.
About six months into my new yoga habit, Deborah, my powerhouse yoga teacher, offered a six-month yoga teacher training intensive. Even though I had no desire to teach yoga, I felt an instant yes in my heart and body.
We met every other Saturday and every other Wednesday evening. This was the first time I committed to being away from my son on a regular basis. The guilt I spread on myself was thick, but I knew I had to do this. I knew it would be what I needed so that I could actually be present when I was home and give to my family in the way that they deserved.
One of the aspects of the yoga teacher training was to commit to doing yoga every day. More specifically, every morning. As the mama of a young kiddo who was still not committing to a regular sleep schedule, my morning sleep time was not something I was willing to give up.
But I trusted Deborah as my guide and mentor. She had taught me to connect with my body and emotions on a deeper level than I had ever considered before. Through movement, writing, and meditations, she showed me how to recognize my emotional triggers and to release my tension so that I did not hold it in my body for years to come (as I had been doing all of my life). So I begrudgingly decided that I was willing to try this morning yoga thing.
I thought, “I could give up five minutes of sleep and start there.” And that is exactly how it all started. The magic was born in those first five minutes.
I noticed something shifting for me during those first few days of my new morning commitment to be someone who wakes up a little earlier to move my body, meditate, and breathe.
I noticed that my patience level with my son was expanding. I noticed that the things I had normally found frustrating became amusing. I was more peaceful during transitions, and my son began to notice as well. Even at three to four years old, he told me I looked happy. That was all the motivation I needed.
Next, I committed to ten to fifteen minutes of this morning routine. And on days when my son woke up earlier, I began leaving out a little basket of toys and books that would occupy him while I finished. There were definitely mornings when he just needed me to hold him or cuddle. And that was just fine.
I realized that this was truly an evolving practice and that he wouldn’t be four years old forever. There was no use in getting rigid about something that was meant to help me find more peace and joy.
Over the next decade, my morning yoga turned into the Magic Morning Mindset because the more I practiced, the more I found that synchronicity, laughter, abundance, and much more began to arrive with ease and grace.
I believe this is true for everyone. If you’re looking to take better care of yourself, mind, body, and spirit, the morning is where it starts.
Whether your morning mindset practice is short or long, includes yoga or dance, includes writing for an hour or for just five minutes, there’s always a benefit beyond the morning hours.
The way you start your day sets the tone for your day. Starting with the Magic Morning Mindset prepares you to be calmer, more joyful, more connected to yourself, and better able to voice your needs. By prioritizing self-care and putting it at the top of your to-do list, you’re telling yourself that your needs matter.
M – Movement
A – Alignment
G – Gratitude
I – Intuition (or Intention)
C – Connection
1. First, set the intention that you want to create a three-step Magic Morning Mindset.
2. If you have a hard time waking up, commit to going to bed a bit earlier (even fifteen to twenty minutes will make a difference)
3. Decide what you want to do for your mind, body, and soul (you can find some ideas below).
4. Set yourself up for success—lay out a yoga mat the night before, or have your journal and a few pens ready. (I can’t tell you how many pens I’ve gone through over the years.)
5. Stay gentle by starting with five minutes.
6. Notice how you feel throughout the day after doing the Magic Morning Mindset practice.
As with all new things in life, you may feel excited about starting your morning with some magic at first, but then find you have less time on some days than others. Over the last decade of practicing this Magic Morning Mindset, I’ve had long stretches where I’ve felt fired up and have woken up early enough to enjoy a luxurious sixty to ninety-minute morning practice. But on some days, I’ve only been able to squeeze in five to ten minutes.
I can feel the difference in my day when I choose to invest more time in my morning. But I don’t give myself a hard time when it has to be shorter. The secret sauce is to stay open and flexible, and to take it one day at a time.
As long as you are showing up for yourself in some meaningful way each morning, you are saying yes to your wellness and your joy, and staying connected with yourself.
Make this practice your own and notice the changes in your day and in your life as you prioritize your own needs and get you back on the top of your to-do list.