My adolescent years were steeped in feelings of resentfulness towards 6 a.m. wakeup calls.
I can’t recall a single morning during high school where I didn’t wake up feeling like I just got hit by a bus. The nausea, fatigue and brain fog were crippling, to say the least. On several occasions, I would feel myself blacking out while waiting for the shower to heat up — once I even had to be taken to the emergency room and given an intravenous saline solution because my vitals were too low.
To this day, forcing myself out of bed at the crack of dawn is not an easy thing to do. Still, although I’m definitely not the earliest of risers, over the years I’ve become substantially better at making the most of my mornings — and improving my health in the process.
Becoming a morning person is not something one can achieve overnight (pun intended). After picking up tidbits of wisdom over several years, however, the difference has been pretty dramatic. While I spent my first year at the University regretting having signed up for 9 a.m. classes, my third and fourth years have been largely comprised of 8 a.m. classes. For someone who used to default to waking up at noon, the fact that I now consider my 9:30am class as a “late start” is quite the accomplishment.
I have to give my second year roommate credit for being the biggest influence in my transition. She would set her alarm for 7 a.m. every single day — even on weekends or on days when she didn’t have class until the afternoon. Whether she decided to study, bake or go jogging or swimming, she would never let a minute of her mornings go to waste.
Although I admired my roommate’s dedication, I was convinced that it would be impossible for me to follow in her footsteps. Most nights, I had trouble sleeping. I would make up for this grogginess by squeezing in naps between classes, which would further prevent me from getting a good night’s sleep. What’s worse, my poor diet and lack of consistent exercise only exacerbated the strain of sleeplessness on my body.
The summer before my third year, I had my first real, 8-week-long internship. The job itself was challenging, but the stress didn’t follow me home each day. Because there were no exams or homework assignments looming over my shoulder, I could fall asleep with my mind at ease. Not once during that period did I wake up feeling unrested, which made me realize school anxiety had always been a large factor in my inability to follow a normal sleep routine.
Equipped with this realization, I discovered a key part of what I had to do to change: go to bed with a clear head, without thinking about the infinite number of things I would have to do once I wake up. But there was still something missing — how could I motivate myself to wake up each morning? How could I push through those impossibly trying physical symptoms?
I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and emulate my roommate’s lifestyle. Although I had never been the slightest bit athletic, I signed up for an early morning weight training class. This gave me a reason to wake up each morning — to cultivate a better, stronger version of myself.
My regular exercise routine, paired with greater mindfulness about what kinds of foods I consume throughout the day, have left me feeling increasingly energized each morning. Even on mornings when I don’t go to the gym, I still find myself naturally waking up early to catch up on readings or just to revel in my thoughts with a cup of coffee.
There’s no guarantee that the transition into being a morning person will be a smooth and steady process. From my experience, though, a little self-care and willpower can go a long way. Who wouldn’t want the chance to embrace one of the most tranquil and fulfilling times of the day?
Vega’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com.