• Vennessa McConkey

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.


morning habits for autoimmune disease
morning habits for autoimmune disease

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.