By Gary McClain, Ph.D.
Originally published on Advocate.com August 31 2011 4:00 AM ET
“The alarm goes off and I just can’t drag myself out of bed.”
I hear this a lot. Clients I’ll call Nate, Jen, and Carlos have told me this recently. Nate received his HIV diagnosis a couple of months ago and is still adjusting to it emotionally. Jen is in the process of rebuilding her life after breaking up with her partner. Carlos has been living with HIV for 20 years but is now on disability benefits and doesn’t know what to do with his time.
What about you? How often do you have trouble getting motivated in the morning? For better or worse, the day doesn’t really get under way until you are out of bed. So if you are stuck there, chances are you’re going to lose an important chunk of your day and spend what’s left of it in catch-up mode.
Here are a few techniques to help yourself make that first big move:
First, take a look at your self-talk. Each day can be a celebration of life. It starts with deciding to focus on what’s working in your life instead of what’s not working; being open to exploring what’s possible; embracing the people who matter the most and keeping them close; and giving yourself credit for doing the best you can in spite of life’s challenges. Toss all of this into your mental blender and give yourself a motivational boost before boosting yourself out of bed.
Create an incentive for getting up. Purchase a coffeepot with a timer so that you can set it like an alarm clock each night. If you aren’t into java, find something else to look forward to, even a favorite TV or radio show that might make the morning a little easier to face. Or what about that nice hot shower? Some quiet time to think and get yourself centered? Toast with strawberry jam?
Reframe “I have to” as “I chose to.” If you have a family or a job (or both), then I suspect that you have responsibilities that ultimately force you out from under the covers. But ask yourself, Is there a labor of love somewhere in the middle of all of those obligations—a greater choice that I made? Consider the quality time in the morning with your partner. The joy of getting the kids ready for the day. Taking your dog for a walk. Greeting a coworker you enjoy being with. Knowing that the job you are going to, even if you don’t love it, is financially providing what you need in life. Focus less on the tasks and more on the purpose that drives you to get them done. Also, consider adding more purpose to your life. Maybe it’s time to do some volunteering that requires you to be there early.
Enlist a support team. Is there someone you can make a deal with to call you in the morning? Maybe a sponsor or a relative? There’s nothing like a few words of encouragement or some tough love to help start the day.
Plan ahead. Before you go to bed at night, make a list of what you want to accomplish the next day. One of the advantages of making a list is to be able to decide what you want to get done and what you can postpone. Keep it simple. Don’t forget to add something you enjoy to the list.
Fake it till you make it. Sometimes getting up in the morning is a rational decision, something that you choose to do because you have to. If you wait until you feel like getting up, you might just decide you don’t feel like it. Using a little tough love with yourself might help. And keep in mind that positive actions can create positive energy, so look at your getting-up routine as an opportunity to build some forward momentum into your life.
Get help if you’re still not feeling it. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, getting up in the morning isn’t a matter of willpower. Not being able to get out of bed in the morning can literally be impossible due to a combination of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms that leave you feeling like you’re glued to the mattress. If this describes you, then it’s time to reach out to your health care team—let them know what’s going on.
This is your wake-up call. Don’t miss out on the opportunities that each day brings by hiding under the covers.