Morning Routine Tips for Managing Autoimmune Disease
First things first, please understand I am not sharing my autoimmune morning routine in an effort to tell you to adopt it!
Rather, I am sharing simply to show you what I do, to give you ideas, and hopefully inspire you to create your own unique morning routine that helps you live with joy each day - no matter how well or unwell your body feels.
Depending on where you are in your autoimmune journey, if you are working full time, if you are a mom of young children, and so on, you may have very little time in the morning and I totally get that!
It may be more important for your wellness to sleep as much as you can in the morning, and instead develop a midday or evening routine.
Or, you can break your wellness habits up throughout the day as time allows. For example, walk outside during your lunch break, meditate while your baby is napping, write in your gratitude journal before bed, and so on. You do not have to get all of your wellness habits done first thing in the morning.
Developing my AIP Morning Routine
I developed my morning routine during a time when I felt my absolute worst. I wanted better life for me and my family. I was tired of being tired and not getting things done, to be honest. Losing the life I once had, I felt weak, afraid, frustrated, angry, and distraught - feel the same my friend?
I was struggling to do the bare minimum, my focus at the time revolved around studying about autoimmune diseases (the things the doctors couldn't help me with), and doing anything I could to feel better. I felt like a train wreck most days....and to top it off, I did all I could to hide that from my family and the rest of the world.
I was desperate, and adopted what I call a “1% better” approach to my wellness. What that means is, if I could develop enough healthy habits that each help me feel just a little bit better, then maybe combined, I would feel a whole lot better! With that in mind, I went to work developing healthy habits, and setting up my morning routine.
PLEASE keep in mind that I work part-time from home and can create my own schedule, so I can work more one day and less another day. Therefore, depending on how you feel, and what your responsibilities are, you may need to prioritize habits and get creative with your day! (That's what our brains were designed to do anyways, right?)
All About, Yet More than Nutrition
Too many of us dive into the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet (nothing wrong with it, but I find it quite restricting) and yes, our autoimmune diseases have so much to do with the discipline of nutrition, yet it's sop much more than JUST nutrition. As life changing as the nutrition side of AIP is, the lifestyle side of AIP can be just as life changing!
You can't out-train, out-eat a poor lifestyle, ya'll! Over the years, I have found that improving sleep, managing stress, physical movement, meaningful connection, reducing toxins, and enjoying nature is incredibly important to my autoimmune wellness journey. My morning routine helps me with many of the lifestyle aspects.
Riding the Autoimmune Disease Roller Coaster
Now before we dive into my morning tips and tricks, I want to express that I feel your pain and frustration of the autoimmune disease roller coaster. Many "normal" people don't, right? They TRY to understand, but frankly never will.
One of the hardest parts of living with autoimmune disease is the ups and downs, as well as the twists and turns. It can be hard to stay consistent with any kind of routine when you do not know how you will feel from one day to the next (I relate it to my kids and their toddler years - "I LOVE chicken nuggets" one day and the next day "Chicken nuggets are gross and give me a tummy ache").
As you experiment with your morning routine, I encourage you to offer yourself lots of grace.
If you have a goal to wake up at a certain time to start your routine, but are feeling more unwell than usual and need extra sleep, it is okay. I repeat, it is okay.
The whole point of a morning routine is not to be a drill sergeant with yourself!
I know this is hard because you long to do the things the way the rest of the "successful" world does things. But sometimes, that may include starting your morning routine later than usual so you can get the extra sleep you need. Or, it may include prioritizing and forgoing a part of your routine so you can get to work on time after resting in bed for longer than expected. Be kind to yourself, and make adjustments as needed.
Progress, Not Perfection
Anyone else out there a perfectionist? I can't be the only one! I love to create daily checklists. Actually, I loved it before hitting my rock bottom.
Living with autoimmune disease can make checklists frustrating at times! It felt frustrating on days when I felt too unwell to check off the items on my endless to do list! In time, I learned to care more about how my body feels, and self-care, than checking items off a list. I will admit though, that I still struggle with this one.
While creating a check list for your morning routine can be beneficial, (and I do recommend it), I encourage you to focus on progress, not perfection. Think about where you are, as well as how you are feeling, and design your morning routine checklist from there. Perhaps focus on adding just one item to your morning routine at a time each week, or each month, to avoid feelings of overwhelm.
This is not a race. I repeat....this is NOT a race! Give yourself permission to take as much time as you need. Remember, the goal is to reduce stress and improve wellness, not increase stress and worsen wellness. When I have all of my ducks in a row, this is my morning routine. Please keep in mind, I am human, and I am not perfect at it day in and day out. Also, I change up my morning routine as I feel inspired to, as should you!
FYI - each day I spend a different amount of time on each habit, depending on how I feel, what I need, and my schedule for the day. So think about that as you are planning your OWN morning routine.
While most days I keep my routine on the shorter side of things, during a flare or when I feel off, I spend more time on my morning routine.
1. WAKE UP TO NATURAL LIGHT - NO CELL PHONES!
I know many of us use our cell phones to check time, read before bed and as an alarm in the morning. We need to begin our days with the natural sunlight to get our circadian system rockin' and rollin'! So what I do is lie in bed for 5-10 minutes after I turn off my alarm and try to keep my eyes open for 30 second increments, until I can keep them open for good. Then I go over to my window and take a peek out through the blinds (as my husband is still sleeping) and let that natural light penetrate my eyes.
2. DRINK LEMON AND SALT WATER I know what you are already thinking...that's a weird combination, but hear me out.
Lemon helps dissolve the uric acid in joints and can help decrease inflammation. The alkalizing effects of lemon and sea salt help balance your body’s delicate ph. It aids in the proper absorption of both food and water throughout the day and helps improve the uptake of essential nutrients. Lemon also helps boost immune function with a quick dose of vitamin c. In addition, both lemon and sea salt have benefits for the skin. I like better looking skin, don't you?!
3. READ SOMETHING POSITIVE/MEDITATE
Yes, this sounds fancy but who cares! It works! Personally, taking time for a spiritual practice in the morning helps to ground me, overcome fear, find peace, and remember what is truly important to me. and if I'm not doing it, how can I expect anyone else to lead my family who isn't? Exactly. Starts with you!
Also, my kids and I do family scripture (the kids are little at the time of writing this, so I read verses, they rep[eat and then we briefly talk about what the verse means) and prayer together during breakfast around the table.
I love to hear my kids’ thoughts on various scriptures, and although we try to keep it spiritual, it usually leads to one of us saying something funny towards the end, and we end up laughing…and laughter is great for wellness too!
4. MOVE YOUR BODY Getting my body moving is vital to me feeling my best, and my at-home low impact workouts still feel best to me. Benefits of these lower-impact workouts include boosting your energy, improving your mood, and basically you are a kinder-human-being after getting those juices flowing!
I typically do not aim for a specific amount of time, I simply listen to my body depending on the day, and do what feels best. But I tend to follow a program that's already been created for me - one less thing for me to waste my energy on, right!? (here are some of my favorites)
5. EAT A NUTRIENT DENSE BREAKFAST
Ok, so I know on your autoimmune journey, breakfast can be the HARDEST meal to adapt to. We are accustomed to eggs, oatmeal, pancakes stacked high with syrup and fruit, waffles, bagels with cream cheese and our much-needed coffee with all the flavored creamers.
But here's the thing. All of those items are inflammatory. Our bodies do not NEED ANYTHING more that produces inflammation - we can do enough of that in our superhuman bodies, am I right? My all-time favorite (well maybe not, but definitely the easiest and most nutrient-packed!) is my morning smoothie. I DO tend to change it up here and there, but most days, I keep it simple. During the fall, it's usually vanilla with sweet potato, sunflower butter or coconut butter, cinnamon and ginger. Summer and spring is full of berries and leafy greens and spices like mint and basil. Winter is more of the chocolate flavors and root veggies added in (think beets, cauliflower) with warm fruits like dark cherries. If you want my FREE smoothie eBook, email me or DM me on social media "SMOOTHIE". If you aren't into smoothies, our family does a favorite called Bone Broth Breakfast soup filled with sweet potato, squash, canned coconut milk and fresh sage topped with bacon (Who doesn't love bacon?!) Sometimes I get in the mood to make a large batch of AIP-friendly cassava waffles and freeze them too. Other times, I bake up an acorn squash and stuff it with my secret sausage recipe! Remember, breakfast doesn't have to be complicated or like anyone else - because YOU aren't like anyone else! *BONUS* 6. SAUNA TIME Now I realize not everyone has access to an infrared indoor sauna. But if you have the funds, I HIGHLY recommend one - I fought my naturopath doctor for 2 years before getting one and after using it daily for 15-20 minutes, my toxin levels have decreased, my stress levels have come down, and my detox/methylation pathways have opened up, giving me more energy, allowing me to sleep better, and reduce the number and/or dosage of supplements I'm taking. So, if you are able to get even the fold-away ones like I have, DO IT. Your body will thank you in more ways than you know!
My Morning Routine Challenges
I feel the need to say it one more time…I am human. I am SO not perfect. Sometimes I fall off the wagon. Sometimes I feel like a change. Sometimes I get tired of it all.
Inevitably, my body starts reminding me when I fall short. Little symptoms start popping up. I lose some of my positivity. I get “feedback” from my body reminding me to get back with the program. And of course, I change up my morning routine as I need to.
But please note and know none of this came easy to me. It felt SO hard. Change is hard (going from a crazy go-getter to slowing down was SO hard. Developing healthy habits is tough stuff. However, living with autoimmune symptoms is harder - and I know you know that! My morning routine helps me feel MY best, and so many of my clients have adopted this too.
And after reading all this, you may think I am cray-cray for doing everything I do in the morning (which is by the way, all before school starts and we are out the door by 7:45am). You know what? I agree with you. Well, the old me agrees with you. But I think if you are where I was at my rock bottom, you get it.
If you are struggling every single day to live, please know you are not alone! I feel you. My heart is with you. Please know I am not saying do ALL the things I am doing. I am simply saying, “Hey, I’ve been there too. This is what’s helped me. Maybe some of these things will help you.”
I know it seems hard. It is. But we can do hard things. And there’s a secret…what seems so hard today will grow easier with time.
While it might be frustrating at first to find what works best for you- especially when it comes to managing symptoms, I'm here to help guide you in learning how to live healthy, fulfilling lives, and perhaps we can reverse your conditions!
I’m an expert at the autoimmune protocol (AIP), love to geek out over all things autoimmune and chronic disease wellness, and my obsession is teaching others how to find joy and live well with autoimmunity. I love creating and sharing resources that help you live your best life! Let's work together and keep on designing the best YOU!
I am sending you SO much love and support! I believe in you, and I love you!
(If you want to schedule a FREE call with me, please do so <here> because YOU matter!)