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Morning Anxiety, Procrastination & the Dawn of Presence

Morning Anxiety, Procrastination & the Dawn of Presence

Until recently, I cannot remember the last time I felt that I had experienced a manageable morning. From my experience, mornings have always brought about a great deal of stress in my life and for the longest time I was completely befuddled. Why did I always wake up with a head full of chaos and an impending sense of doom lurking over my shoulder? I always got up on the wrong side of the bed, and no matter what I felt like I was showing up late to life.

Just as many other facets of my existence, I conceded that this unwelcome thought pattern was simply another faulty circuit hardwired into my brain. Many people are burdened with anxiety in the morning, so in this fashion I was correct, but what I did not realize was that I self-inflicted this phenomenon to a greater extent than most. Instead of seeing the anxiety for what it was, a feeling, I treated it as an unwelcome guest of whom I desperately persuaded to leave By doing so I falsely validated this anxiety as a fact, and solidified its place in my thought cycle.

sad_dog

    Procrastination is fear.

    Usually, my morning anxiety populates as an ongoing list of things I have to get done by the time I rest my head to sleep at night. In the past, I built up a steady routine of worrying for the majority of the day, pondering different ways that I could fail at getting everything done. I call this procrastination.

    At its core, I believe procrastination is simply the fear of failure whose derivatives manifest themselves in countless varieties of absurd actions. Whether it was writing an essay, registering a car, studying for an exam, applying for a job, asking a girl out, grocery shopping, developing a website or making a phone call, I excelled at succumbing to this fear.

    I bring up procrastination because I believe it bleeds a lot further into our daily lives than most of us realize. In a sense, I feel that anxiety-ridden mornings are really just an exaggerated exercise in daily procrastination. When I abstractly analyzed my daily routine I found that most of my mornings were spent anxiously fearing the rest of the day.

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    And this fear knew no bounds in its imagination. Will I get everything done? Where do I have to be and when? How will I get there? Will the traffic be bad? What don’t I want to do today and how much time am I going to spend anticipating it? What person might not like me and can I think myself into them liking me? Am I happy with myself? Will I feel this stressed later? Is there something I’m forgetting to worry about?

    Ask yourself questions.

    I wasn’t cognizant of how my thought process “worked” for a long time. Mark Twain once said that, “my life has been filled with many tragedies, most of which never occurred.” I can relate to that. I never heard myself asking the questions listed above, but my nervous attitude and restless demeanor stood as evidence that something was going on under the hood.

    Every morning I was anxious about the day and every night I tossed and turned, replaying all the things I hadn’t accomplished and pre-gaming the next morning’s terrors. This cycle continued ad infinitum. I never understood why. It wasn’t until I finally asked myself one morning why I always felt nervous on awakening that I started to get answers.

    I’ve found that asking questions is crucial in getting answers, and thus arriving at some feasible solution to the problem at hand. I lived in this anxiety and took its baggage at face value without once questioning the reasoning behind it. It was only once I put my energy into asking why I was anxious rather than feeding the anxiety itself that I started getting answers.

    I began to start my morning routine with asking myself, “Okay David, what is actually going on up there?” As crazy as it sounds I started to write down these questions and glossed over them one by one. Putting pen to paper immediately trivialized most of these fears and stole fuel from their fire.

    I highly recommend doing this. I realized that the cornerstone of my anxiety’s foundation was based on the idea of time. Whether worrying about getting something done by noon or realizing that a quarter of my life was over, everything seemed to stem from this mysterious four letter word.

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    time

      So what is time?

      I believe that time is nothing more than a measurement of life, and we as humans have an innate necessity to measure everything.

      Echart Tolle in the Power of Now uses “psychological time” and “clock time” as two labels to set a distinction between the way we allow ourselves to perceive this phenomenon. Echart describes psychological time as an, “identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future,” and broadly encompasses clock time by suggesting its utilized “in the practical aspects of life.”

      I believe that I spent virtually all of my life trapped in psychological time; worrying about how I could have done better in the past and fearing that I wouldn’t succeed in the future. I harbored the notion that it was already too late to do what I wanted and lived with a sense of impending doom looming over me like a timer about to expire. From my personal experience I found that this ticking clock is self-imposed method with which I kept myself trapped by fear.

      In a paper published in 1997 Sudendorf and Corballis argued that,

      “We as humans are unique among the animal kingdom in being able to mentally dissociate ourselves from the present. To do so, we travel backwards and forwards in the mind’s eye to remember and reexperience specify events that happened in the past (episodic memory) and to anticipate and pre experience future scenarios (future planning).”

      This resonated strongly with me. We as humans may be the only damn animal on the planet blessed with the ability to bend time within our minds, yet we primarily use that ability to perpetuate anxiety and fear.

      N.S. Clayton and A. Dickinson of the University of Cambridge released another publication in 2010 extrapolating on this idea and hypothesized that this isn’t a trait unique to humans. They cited birds ability to cache certain memories that would allow them to plan ahead for future food gathering. Assuming their hypothesis is correct, it remains that if other animals have the ability for future planning, than they experience as Echart’s clock time.

      They are certainly not concerned about another bird finding them unattractive in their pursuit of food; they just use their past memories to plan where they should find food for their survival.

      As humans we stand alone in our capacity to worry about meaningless things. I used to ponder why this was the case. Perhaps, upon reaching the top of the food chain, the diminished threats to our survival caused us to invent our own demons to battle.

      I certainly don’t see dogs strolling about on 5th avenue with their tails between their legs because they can’t afford Gucci or devastated that another dog doesn’t give them attention. They move on with their life and don’t harbor on the past. In reality, I don’t know why we are uniquely qualified to create our own issues, but regardless, the fact that we do is readily apparent in everyday societal life.

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      meditation

        Be in the present.

        So how do we reach a point where we can comfortably live with ourselves and feel that everything is okay? I believe a large part of the answer derives from our unnatural, learned trait of constantly comparing ourselves with each other and building expectations based on these comparisons. Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While I agree with this statement, I feel that one must go a step further.

        Comparison can only be done between distinct entities, which implies that we are all separate. We all have an urge to build our own identity separate and better than everyone else. And building something separate implies that we are isolating from one another. Have you ever felt alone in a room full of people? That is what I am talking about. Realizing we are one living, breathing energy labeled life allows us to be grateful for others instead of steadfastly insistent that we can be better.

        When I am in the present moment I don’t feel separate, alone or unloved; there is simply no room for it in the now. Everyone may have different gateways in entering the present moment. In the morning, I be by sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on my breath. I allow my thoughts to pass through me, with an absence of judgement and feel my presence in this space. This how I usually meditate.

        At other times throughout the day, when feelings of anxiety or stress creep up, I take a minute and bring my attention back to the breath. Sometimes just realizing that I am not in the present brings me to the point where I can feel alive. I realize that within this life I am never alone. We are all one living, breathing machine. Even trees breathe through photosynthesis. We are just the only organism that allows our mind to get in the way of life.

        On awakening, we as humans should have the urge to burst onto the day, grateful and eager for whatever life has in store for us. We should leave behind our unconscious dream world and welcome the conscious breath. Today we have an opportunity to live each and every moment, casting aside all doubt and trepidation and be in the presence. Fear cannot coexist with the fully conscious moment. Be in life as life is in you, and know that the mechanics of our universe will align itself as it will, regardless of whether you fear it.

        Featured Images: Meditating at the sky Sad dog Girl with clock

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        Featured photo credit: Jean Henrique Wichinoski via flickr.com

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        Last Updated on May 22, 2019

        10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

        10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

        There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

        One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

        In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

        Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

        1. Cat Camel Stretch

        Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

        Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

        Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

        Here’s a video to guide you through:

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        2. Go for a Walk or a Run

        This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

        Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

        The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

        Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

        Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

        3. Jumping Jacks

        Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

        Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

        4. Abductor Side Lifts

        Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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        Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

        5. Balancing Table Pose

        This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

        Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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          6. Leg Squats

          Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

          Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

          The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

          7. Push Ups

          You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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          An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

          Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

          This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

          8. Bicycle Crunches

          There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

          Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

          9. Lunges

          Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

          Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

          This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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          10. Bicep Curls

          You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

          Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

          Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

          Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

          Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

          These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

          You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

          Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

          More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

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