Do you ever want to end your emails with a sign off that reads something like, “I hope your Monday leaves you feeling well and, if it doesn’t, I hope we know each other well enough to share in that misery” That’s me today. I’ve turned the heat on in my house—yes, it’s August and no, I do not want to talk about it—my body keeps the score and if it reset on Monday mornings (rather than being a thirty year tug of war) it would currently, like the women’s world cup final core, be 1-nil.
It’s on days like today, as I sink back into a more regular work routine after three weeks of good chaos, that YouTube often decides to serve me up videos about morning routines. The genre is my favourite type of earnest: bordering on absurd. A quick search reveals that you can wake up like neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, you can wake up like The Rock you can even wake up like Elmo. A lot of the creators of these videos aren’t all or nothing, they don’t necessarily believe their way is the way but it can sure feel that way—especially with clickbait titles.
I try to treat them more like a buffet. I’ve been trying to incorporate Huberman’s concept of going outside and getting more sun first thing in the morning. I don’t really care if the science matches up, I don’t really care about the rest of his routine, I’m just trying something out to see if it has any benefit for my body. I do this for the same reason I take epsom salt baths. Do I know if they work in a physiological sense? No. Do they make me feel better? They sure do.
Now, I’m not suddenly going to fall headlong down the “take this magical vitamin and your brain damage will be cured" route. I’m the type of person who does electro-stim acupuncture—where the traditional eastern medicine is combined with charges to facilitate muscle movement—because it makes sense to my brain and body from a science perspective. I am the son of a nurse, the grandson of two doctors, I am predisposed to believe science over the latest internet fad.
So, let’s call that the health scepticism part of my brain. The other part, the hopeful part, is always looking for the next thing to make me feel better. I’m not a cure narrative connoisseur, I’m not trying to get rid of cerebral palsy, but a little less pain would be nice. In disability community I think we often think about the cure narrative of disability as this all or nothing—the type of thinking that makes some activists think that you have to be proud of your disability or you are somehow failing your peers. Well, not to sound too self righteous about all of this, but I have a phrase, cobbled together from god knows who, that applies to morning routines as much as any other part of self discipline:
I can love my body without loving my symptoms.
When I’m looking at morning routines and deciding whether I want to integrate something new, it’s important that I look through that lens. What will help my body is a much better question than what will help my symptoms. Sometimes the simple act of doing something, even if it doesn’t reduce pain or relieve any of my anxiety or panic symptoms is enough.
And so, here are three ways I’ve found it helpful to integrate to-do’s into what exists of my morning routine.
Find an Anchor Point
One of the failings of these morning routines when it comes to the disabled body and mind is that they are more of a written list than something that feels integrated—to use a somatic term. In other words, a lot of the steps feel as if they are just there as window dressing. My morning routine is most effective when it is grounded in one task. For me, that’s making coffee for my wife in the morning. When I wake up is never the same, the first task of the day is rarely the same, but that simple act of making coffee—and inevitably spasming and chucking coffee beans all over the counter—is what allows me to start my day.
Understand your Disability Seasonally
Another one of the ways morning routines tend to fail disabled people is that they presume that the starting point charts out a perfect course. That if we can just get action one done then actions two through twelve will just naturally slot into place. For me, when it’s cold outside like it is today, everything feels like it’s on tape delay, like I’ll only know the result of this game once the final whistle has blown and Monday has drawn to a close. It’s better to know that your morning routine is going to look different during summer than it will in winter, or during a high work period versus a low period. Start thinking about what those seasons are for you.
Look for Routines Outside of Your Own Disability
It’s natural for us to look for routines from those with the same or similar disability. Sometimes, like with any act of radical empathy for ourselves, it can be useful to look at what those with a vaguely similar lived experience are choosing to take part in. For me, I got great value from this Cassie Winter video for those with chronic fatigue. While I don’t have ME/CFS, or a related condition, I do have a highly variable relationship with energy. If you’re a quad, take a look at a routine from someone who is autistic, and vice-versa. If you have ADHD, why not watch a morning routine that involves transferring from a bed to a wheelchair? We can, and should, learn from each other rather than staying really stuck into our own little corners of the disability community. And, if you’re not disabled, my advice would be to focus more on the videos coming from disabled creators rather than non-disabled people talking about their kids. Those parents can post on the internet, and you might get to the point where those videos are also helpful, but don’t start there.
Time to go and make that coffee.
I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.