7 Morning Habits to Start Your NP Day Off Right

Do you start your day by hitting the snooze, reluctantly rolling out of bed at the last minute, rushing to get ready, and dashing out of the door feeling frazzled and unkempt? Chances are that if this is your NP life, the rest of your day seeing patients probably goes pretty similarly. How you start your morning sets the precedence for your day ahead. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a morning person in order to start your day working as a nurse practitioner off right. Here are seven morning habits for a successful day ahead.

1. Don’t hit the snooze button

I'm the absolute worst at this, but a recent change in my habit has proven to have benefits. While you may think that hitting the snooze and allowing yourself to drift back to sleep for an extra twenty minutes will help you to feel more rested, it can actually cause you feel worse than you would had woken up the first time your alarm went off. Snoozing confuses your brain and body because as you doze off again, you begin to enter into a new sleep cycle. When the alarm goes off again, you’ll feel even more groggy and fuzzy. This feeling (also known as sleep inertia) can persist up to two to four hours from your wake time.

To start your day off feeling well and refreshed, wake up when your alarm goes off. Sleep inertia generally only lasts fifteen minutes so if you still find yourself exhausted thereafter (provided you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep), it may be that you’re waking up during the wrong part of your sleep cycle. To fix this, try setting your alarm for a little later or earlier by about fifteen minutes.

2. Wake up earlier

When I started working as a nurse practitioner, I implemented the early wake up and haven't looked back since. Its the only way I feel energized and recharged by the time I get to the hospital in the morning.

As much of a drag as it may seem at first, waking up earlier has several benefits that make for a peaceful way to start your day. Avoiding a chaos filled morning because you had enough (if not extra time) to get ready will help you to be in the right frame of mind when you arrive to work. The quiet morning hours are also a great time to get things done without rushing or interruption like exercising, getting the kids’ lunches ready, or simply enjoying a peaceful cup of coffee and watching the news. Just be sure not to allow the extra time in the morning to cause you to get sidetracked and lose focus; this can be counterproductive to what you’re trying to achieve.

3. Avoid negative news stories

My husband and I recently ditched cable and as such don't watch TV (or rather leave it on for background noise) in the mornings. I have to say, I don't miss it and feel much more settled by the time I reach the emergency department and have my first patient's chart clanked on my desk.

While it is important to know what is going on in the world, checking the headlines at the start of your day may lead to hours of grumpiness when the news is not positive. In a recent study, researchers were surprised to find that individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning where 27% more likely to report that their day was unhappy six to eight hours later. The researchers in the study also speculate that negative moods as result of even a few minutes of exposure is enough to impact work performance. Since the majority of news is negative by default, turn off news alerts so you’re not tempted to read them on your phone when you first wake up. If you’re a news junky, try reading empowering stories or solutions-focused news outlets in the morning instead.  

4. Make your bed

Okay, admittedly, my helpful husband is the one responsible for making the bed in our household, but regardless... Making your bed may seem like such a hassle in your already busy morning routine but for a task that only takes a few minutes, it has a mountain of benefits that set the tone for a successful day ahead.

Making your bed every morning may be correlated with better productivity and happiness. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, during her research for the book, she found that one of the most common simple changes that led to happiness was learning to make the bed each morning. If something as simple and easy as making your bed can have such an impact on the rest of your day, why not give it a try? At least you’ll have accomplished one task successfully if everything else goes awry. Not to mention, this extra step in the morning makes you feel more settled after a busy shift at work as you come home to a clean and (more) orderly house. 

5. Drink a glass of water

Before I sip my am Cup-a-Joe, I chug a glass of water. I've noticed the routine helps get me going before caffeine even has a chance to kick in. Staying hydrated is not only important for your physical health but your mood and mental performance as well. Studies have found when that when you increase your water intake, you’ll experience significantly less confusion, bewilderment, fatigue, and sleepiness. On the other hand, reduced water intake can lead to negative effects on mood, including decreased contentedness, calmness, and positive emotions. Several studies have also shown that drinking more water can improve your cognitive performance.  

For additional benefits, try adding lemon to a warm glass of water. This technique can help remove toxins that have built up overnight in your digestive tract, provides a good source of vitamin C and stimulates your metabolism and digestion.

6. Avoid technology

I've noticed that my mood slides when I open my laptop STAT after waking up. Even if I'm behind on a mountain of incomplete charts, I take a few minutes to regroup, cuddle the baby etc. before I start my day. According to social psychologist Dr. Ron Friedman, spending the first ten minutes of your day checking and answering emails on your phone primes your mind to be in a reactive and defensive state. Avoiding technology for at least the first hour of your day will help you cultivate a more proactive and positive mindset. Instead of reaching for you phone to check your notifications first thing, try other stimulating activities such as turning on the lights, cranking up music, and splashing cold water on your face.

7. Think positively

Getting up in the morning without grumbling with negativity is hard, especially if you had a bad shift the day before. Before you get out of bed to tackle the day, take a minute to reflect on positive thoughts like what you’re grateful for; be it people in your life or opportunities. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can reduce your stress hormones and improve your mood.  

8. Start the night before

I've become a planner and a meal prepper since starting my nurse practitioner career which has significantly affected my morning routine for the better. I wake up with most of my things packed and prepared for my daily schedule which keeps the morning from being such a whirlwind.

Setting yourself up for a great day ahead also starts the night before with a well rested body and mind. If you find that you’re always waking up feeling groggy and irritable, you may not be getting enough sleep (I'm also the worst at this...). Sleep is vital for mental clarity and lack of it can affect how you think, work, learn and get along with others. For optimal benefits, aim to get 7 - 9 hours per night. Cutting out sleep for a few extra hours of getting things done always ends up being counterproductive. 

What morning routines have you implemented to help your day as a nurse practitioner go more smoothly?


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