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The Ultimate Guide To Your Most Productive Morning Ever

The Ultimate Guide To Your Most Productive Morning Ever

There’s something magical about the morning hours. This quiet, calm time of the day is unrivaled. In fact, the morning time is so unrivaled that it’s the only time of day in which thousands of articles and hundreds of books are written about every year. Benjamin Franklin said one of the most quoted phrases in history about the morning time:

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

We’ve all heard that before. So, what’s so special about mornings? Why do so many successful people give the early morning so much credit? I’m going to tell you.

This guide is going to empower you with everything you need to wake up early, be unbelievably productive and even help you understand why you should wake up early. Let’s get started.

1. Why Be a Morning Person?

morning person productive

    “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” — Jim Rohn

    Your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. That’s great news, because you can control your mornings. You can use them to achieve your goals and accomplish some pretty amazing things. However, we all know that a bad start to your day can bring the rest of your day down with it.

    Being a morning person doesn’t mean you have to be disgustingly cheerful from the moment you pop out from under the covers. It simply means that you start your day on purpose, as opposed to only waking up because you have to be somewhere.

    Why are mornings so great? Here are a few reasons:

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    • Peace and quiet. If you live with someone, especially young children, you may have a hard time finding a quiet place to do anything. Waking up before everyone else will give you the peace and quiet you need.
    • Your time. You need time to yourself. For yourself. Waking up early is a great way to make that time happen. Many successful people spend the first hours of each day alone, to reflect, think, meditate and grow.
    • Your happiness. Morning people are generally happier than evening people. One study showed that morning people are less likely to be depressed than people who prefer evenings to do their work.
    • Accomplishing goals. Morning people are more likely to set and achieve goals. Waking up earlier allows you to plan for the day, which means you can plan to make progress towards all of your goals.

    It’s simple. If you wake up earlier, you’re more prepared. You’re not going to be rushed like you may be if you wake up just in time to be somewhere. If you’re used to over sleeping, you can add several hours to your day just by waking up earlier.

    That’s all great to hear and it sounds wonderful, but what if you have a hard time dragging yourself out of bed each morning? I thought you might ask that. Now you know the why, here’s the how…

    2. How to Actually Wake Up

    how to wake up early

      I used to sleep until noon everyday. It didn’t matter if I went to bed early or not. Eventually, I stopped being a complete loser (not that waking up late makes you a loser, but I was definitely a lazy loser) and got a job that required me to start waking up around 8:00 am.

      Once I decided to start controlling my mornings, I began waking up earlier. I started by waking up at 7:00 am, and over the years I have started waking up earlier and earlier. Now I wake up at 4:00 am. Yes, the world is in motion at 4:00 am.

      This wasn’t something that just happened. It was completely intentional. It had to be. It would have been impossible for me, a former noon-sleeper, to start waking up at 4:00 by some stroke of luck.  Here’s what I did and what you can do to actually get out of bed each morning:

      1. Make a gradual change. Like anything else, if you start this in full force tomorrow by waking up five hours earlier than you usually do, you’re going to fail. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Start by waking up 15 minutes earlier than normal. Then wake up 15 minutes earlier than that every few days. Slowly adopt this new habit.
      2. Find your reward. Think of something you would really look forward to. It could be a steaming cup of coffee or tea. It could be a large breakfast. It could even be an early morning walk. Find something that motivates you and look forward to it every morning.
      3. Start with your passion. What’s your passion? Reading? Writing? Working out? As humans, we are most disciplined in the things we are most passionate about. Start your day with something you’re passionate about and you’ll be much more likely to get up and do it.
      4. Move your alarm clock. Once you’re out of bed, you’re less likely to go back to sleep. Move your alarm clock to a shelf across the room. This is a great way to make sure you get out of bed. Once you’re up, stay up. And wake up to a pleasant sound, not an ear-shattering beep.
      5. Wake up at the same time. If you go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day, you’ll condition your body to naturally be tired and wake up at those times. If this doesn’t work with the hours at your job, try to stay on a schedule as much as possible.
      6. Use natural light. Since you’re reading this, you probably prefer waking up before the natural light of the sun is shinning through your window, but you can find a natural light alarm clock that will do the trick. Natural light helps your body to naturally feel awake.
      7. Understand sleep cycles. One sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, so plan to sleep for a number of hours that’s a multiple of 90. For most adults, 7.5 or 9 hours is a good goal to strive for. Worst case scenario, sleep for at least 6 hours. If you wake up just before your alarm, go ahead and get up; your sleep cycle is over. You can always try the Sleep Cycle alarm clock. It monitors your heart rate and attempts to wake you up once your sleep cycle is over.
      8. Get moving. You don’t have to head to your local CrossFit box or run a marathon, but get your blood pumping as soon as your get out of bed. A quick walk or a few minutes of jumping jacks will do the trick. Just do something that wakes your body up physically.
      9. Change your mindset. If you dread mornings, change your mindset. Start looking forward to them and all the productivity they bring. I know it’s possible to shift your mindset, because I am a self-made morning person. It wasn’t natural at first, but now it is.

      It’s important to figure out what works for you and do it. Whatever it takes to get out of bed, it’s worth it. Don’t go off how you feel. It’s likely that you’ll feel a little groggy at first, but once you get up, even just 10 minutes earlier, you’ll feel much better.

      Sometimes my morning self seems to think my night self is cruel for setting the alarm so early, but a few minutes after I’m out of bed, my morning self is thankful for my responsible night self.

      If you’re still having a hard time rolling out of bed, you may just need a little will power. When you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel like getting up, consider these 4 tips from Leo Babauta for what to do when you “don’t feel like it”:

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      1. It’s on my plan, I gotta do it.
      2. Past Me said to do it, and Future Me will thank me, so let’s do it.
      3. Once I start, I’ll be glad I did. I just have to take the first small step.
      4. I don’t need to decide on this, or think about it. It’s already decided.

      If all of that somehow fails you, you can always try acupuncture to wake yourself up. Or perhaps a cold shower?

      3. Your Productive Morning

      guide productive morning

        Start your morning on purpose, at a specific time. And for God’s sake stop hitting the snooze button. That extra nine minutes can be quite productive if you’re awake and it won’t help you feel better. If anything, it will make you even more tired and groggy than you were the first time the alarm went off.

        Just get up. Get out of your bed. If you really want to go back to bed, promise yourself a nap later in the day. Even better, try a coffee nap later on. They’re better than coffee or naps alone.

        One of the most important factors to waking up early is getting enough sleep. Let’s talk about sleep for a minute…

        4. How to Get Better Sleep

        how to get better sleep

          “When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, ‘Did you sleep good?’ I said ‘No, I made a few mistakes.'” -Steven Wright

          If you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, your not going to have a very productive morning. Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

          1. Avoid caffeine and alcohol within the last eight hours of your day.
          2. Get a high quality mattress and pillow. They make a difference.
          3. Make sure the temperature is at a comfortable setting for you.
          4. Avoid heavy meals at night. They decrease sleep quality.
          5. Avoid “blue light” during the last few hours before bed.
          6. Use visualizations when going to sleep. They are quite effective.
          7. Use sleep technologies, such as black out curtains and sleep monitors.
          8. Exercise regularly. Studies have shown that people who do, sleep better.

          Now that you know how to sleep, let’s move on to morning time. For many, a morning isn’t complete without a cup of coffee. Should caffeine be part of your morning routine? Perhaps, but you should use caffeine strategically.

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          5. How to Effectively Use Caffeine

          caffeine mornings

            Caffeine can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you have ever had a caffeine withdrawal headache, you know what I mean about the latter. There are highly effective, healthy ways to use caffeine, but first, I have a challenge for you.

            If you consume caffeine on a daily basis, try completely cutting it out for a couple weeks. At least one week. This will allow your body to reset your tolerance to caffeine, thus making it more effective when you start using it again. It is a drug after all.

            Once you have cut the caffeine and are ready to add it back to your life (oh caffeine, how sweet thou art), try some of the following ideas:

            1. Drink coffee or tea over a longer period of time. This will release the caffeine more steadily, over a longer period, which will help sustain your energy levels instead of spiking and crashing.
            2. Drink water first, before the coffee. Hydrating your body can increase your energy and you may not even need the coffee. Or you can instead use caffeine later in the day when you start to lose energy.
            3. Don’t go back to drinking coffee daily (switch to decaf if you must). Use caffeine when you need it. It will be much more effective to only use caffeine when you have a big job to do or when you need an extra boost.
            4. Don’t be so quick to grab a second cup of coffee or tea. You may not need it, or it may be more effective to save it for later. Give the caffeine time to start working. Wait before you make the quick decision to grab another cup.
            5. Eat before your coffee. Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach can be a bad thing. I admit that I like taking caffeine on an empty stomach when I really want to get a boost and it is very effective for that, but don’t make it a habit. Here’s why:

            “Drinking coffee on an empty stomach, such as first thing in the morning, stimulates hydrochloric acid production. This can be a problem because HCl should only be produced to digest meals. If your body has to make HCl more often in response to regular cups of coffee, it may have difficulty producing enough to deal with a large meal.” Source.

            6. Create Your Perfect Morning

            morning rituals

              “Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” -Lemony Snicket, The Blank Book

              You will wake up about 25,000 mornings in your adult life. Make them count. There are many ways to start your day each morning. You will be most productive if you have a ritual.

              I use the word ritual, because “routine” usually creates a negative, boring, mundane picture. I define a ritual as “an activity or group of activities, practiced daily, that leads you toward your goals.” Doesn’t that sound a lot better than some boring routine?

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              To maximize your productivity, you need a plan. Here’s how to create your plan that creates your perfect morning:

              Plan the night before.  It only takes 10 minutes to plan your morning if you do it the night before. If you wait until morning, you may still be a little groggy. Not having a plan for your morning can be enough to motivate you right back to sleep. When you wake up, you should know exactly what you need to do.

              7. Creating Your Morning Ritual

              productive morning ritual

                “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” -Steve Jobs

                What should be included in your morning ritual? Steve Jobs started his day with a question and then preceded to spend time with his kids and help them finish up any homework they had left. That was part of his morning ritual. Here are 12 ideas of what to include in your morning ritual:

                1. Affirmations. Affirmations are a highly common way to start the day. The process is simple: remind yourself of everything you have and everything you have done and can do. Write these down and read them to yourself each day. There is power in writing these down and even more power in speaking them out loud.
                2. Breakfast. Unless you’re an intermittent faster, you probably eat breakfast most mornings. You’ve just went many hours without eating (break-fast). Eating a healthy breakfast can not only calm your appetite, it can give you plenty of energy, if you do it right.  Stick to high-energy foods like vegetables, fruit and smoothies. Protein foods are good too. Stay away from heavy grains that will make you feel tired and sluggish.
                3. Exercise. Exercise gives you energy. Often we have a false sense that, when we are tired, we need more sleep. That may not be the issue. You need exercise to increase your energy levels. This goes together with eating a healthy diet. Both are important to increase your energy.
                4. Family. As I mentioned above, Steve Jobs spent the mornings with his kids. Wake them up a little earlier for some early morning family time or spend some quiet time with your spouse before the kids get out of bed.
                5. Gratitude. Start your day by being thankful. We all have many things to be thankful for. Even if you’re an extreme pessimist, you can find something. The things we have, the things we’ve accomplished. Even the ability to breathe and wake up each day is something to be thankful for.
                6. Meditation.  Many people swear by meditation, while others still think it’s some form of voodoo.  This doesn’t have to be spiritual (though it can be).  Meditation can be as simple as sitting in silence and focusing on one thing, such as your breathe, for a certain amount of time.
                7. Prayer. If you’re not spiritual or religious at all, this could just be a time of silence, like I mentioned above. But if you do have someone or something to pray to, it’s a great way to start the day. Connecting with your spiritual senses first thing in the morning will set a positive course for your day.
                8. Reading. Read something positive. A good book, non-fiction or fiction. A spiritual book. Whatever you like. But positive books are going to lead to a more positive day.  There’s no better way to begin your day than growing and learning.
                9. Silence. Starting your day with complete silence is a great way to set a relaxed mood for your entire day. It could be just a few minutes, but early morning silence has a huge positive impact on your entire day.
                10. Visualizations. This is becoming more popular everyday. You can use visualizations in different ways. The traditional way is to visualize yourself having already achieved the goal your striving for. The more modern way has you visualize yourself doing the action it takes to reach your goals, such as writing like a madman or running as fast as you can. I prefer the modern form, but it’s your ritual. Your call.
                11. Water. If you don’t include any of the other ideas, include this one. Drinking a liter of water, or at least a full glass, will boost energy levels and hydrate your dehydrated body. You probably don’t drink water in your sleep, so you just went several hours without the most important thing your body needs. Drink water, first thing.
                12. Writing. If you’re a writer, this is a no-brainer for you. If you’re not a writer, you may think this doesn’t apply to you. It does. Even if you’re not writing a book, article or blog post, simply buy a journal and start scribing. You can write about yesterday or just record your thoughts. You will grow to love this habit.

                There are many ways to start your day and create your ritual. You can find an entire plan, like the Miracle Morning, or you can create your own. Either way, create a ritual so you’ll know exactly what you plan to do each day. It’s also important to do what you do best. You may be highly creative in the mornings. If that’s the case, create something!  If you’re mind doesn’t work too well before 10:00, you may want to stick with more trivial tasks. Either way can be productive as long as you do what you do best, at the right time.

                You’re responsible for creating your morning and waking up on purpose. You’ve got to find your “why.”  Figure out why you want to wake up early and what you want to accomplish.

                “Every morning I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” -Robert Orben

                Your goal may be to earn more money. It could be to become filthy rich. Or you may want a closer relationship with your family or your God. You may simply want to grow as a person by becoming more fit or learning something new each day.

                There are thousands of reasons to get up each morning. You’ve got to find your reason. Once you find it, do everything in your power to make it happen. You’ve got thousands of mornings left. Make them count.

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                Kalen Bruce

                Military, Writer

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                Published on January 16, 2019

                How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                • Are you a great strategist?
                • Are you an effective planner?
                • Is Project Management your strength?
                • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                • Are you the ideas person?
                • Is Implementation your strength?

                Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                4. Take Time for Planning

                “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                You can take the time to think about:

                • What’s the purpose of the project?
                • How Important is it?
                • When does it need to be delivered by?
                • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                • What are the KPIs?
                • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                • Who is working on this project?
                • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                • What tolerances can I add in?
                • What are the review stages?
                • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                5. Focus on Priorities

                Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                  The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                  If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                  If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                  6. Take Time Out

                  To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                  If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                  Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                  In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                  Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                  7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                  Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                  I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                  Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                  If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                  8. Stop Multitasking

                  Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                  So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                  When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                  If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                  9. Work in Blocks of Time

                  To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                  I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                  Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                  Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                  Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                  Then take another 10-minute break.

                  Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                  By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                  10. Get Rid of Distractions

                  Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                  “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                  Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                  If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                  11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                  You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                  Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                  Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                  12. Take a Time Audit

                  Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                  Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                  You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                  Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                  Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                  At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                  If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                  13. Protect Your Confidence

                  It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                  When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                  Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                  When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                  Final Words

                  A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                  The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                  If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                  Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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