written November 2022
Have you ever quit doing something that was really good for you?
Maybe you used to exercise every morning, but at some point you had a busy week and you haven’t really exercised since. Maybe you used to get up a little early to read, or pray, or work on a project that matters to you, but then for some reason the routine faded away—perhaps because you went through an unusually busy season or a life change that upended your “normal” for a while.
Or maybe there’s no discernible reason at all, at least none that you can pick out, but you know that once upon a time you did this thing that was really good for you, but at some point you stopped.
I’m confident you’ve experienced something like this in some area of your life. I certainly have.
I used to have a morning routine. I had worked on building it over a period of several months, and while none of the things I did in it were particularly novel or exciting, it helped me start my days on the right foot; it pointed me in the right direction first thing. My days ran more smoothly, more purposefully, when I did that routine. It was undeniably good for me.
And then, I stopped.
There were a variety of reasons why, mostly having to do with my pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness, and it was hard to focus on anything other than the nausea. I had to eat as soon as I got up, which threw off the order in which I usually conducted my morning routine. I was sleeping later than usual due to pregnancy fatigue.
Whatever the reason, the result was that I used to have a morning routine, and now I didn’t.
The question, then, was, “How do I begin again?”
If you’ve gone through a similar experience, where you’ve stopped doing something that was once helpful, you might be carrying the same question. Here’s what’s been working for me:
It’s not all-or-nothing
One of the reasons I stopped doing my morning routine was because it was too big. It was long, and it had a lot of steps to it. That worked when I wasn’t pregnant, but as soon as the first trimester nausea and fatigue set in, there was no way I could accomplish a two- to three-hour morning routine.
So I stopped. And then, of course, the very idea of restarting a routine with so many different components to it was far too overwhelming to even consider. So I gave up completely.
That’s the problem with beginning again. We think the only two options are everything we were doing before, or nothing. The fact of the matter is, you stopped doing whatever it was for a reason. Something in your life shifted, and the habit or routine you had no longer fit with the new direction your life was taking. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon it completely! You might just have to shorten it or modify it a bit.
Right now, my morning routine takes half the time it used to, and I’m doing only a small fraction of the things I did before. But I’m showing up for it more days than not, and that’s the important part.
Know what matters most
The reason my simplified routine is working for me is because spending two or three hours doing specific activities wasn’t what mattered. What mattered was starting my day focused on the right things. What mattered was taking care of my own heart, soul, and body before the work of the day began.
That doesn’t need to take several hours. It doesn’t even need to take a full hour, really. Five minutes with prayer and Scripture reading and a five-minute stretch before breakfast would accomplish a very similar goal: I would be starting my day focused on the right things, filling myself up before beginning my daily work.
Routines change; they have to. Our lives don’t remain static, and neither should our habits. My morning routine has had to adapt to the circumstances of my pregnancy and to the person I’m becoming through this season of transition. It will have to adapt again once my baby is born, and through all the stages of her development. By focusing on what matters about the routine, I was able to come up with a new routine that fit this season of life better than the one I had before.
I haven’t actually “finished” building my morning routine.
Oh, I’m starting my day on the right foot. I’m focusing on nourishing my body, soul, and spirit before I begin my day. But the routine isn’t yet what I would like it to be. There are a few more activities I would like to be doing regularly to really feel like my routine is accomplishing what I want it to.
But I haven’t started those habits yet.
Here’s the thing about habits: it actually takes a fair amount of energy to make them truly automatic. If you try to build five or six new habits at once, the amount of energy you have to expend to remember the things and then to do them isn’t really sustainable, especially if you’re in a season where you have less energy to begin with (like pregnancy).
I began my morning routine with one simple step: I would not look at social media until after I’d read my Bible. After a little over a week practicing just that one step—imperfectly, I might add—I started writing a to-do list for my day before scrolling as well. A few days later, I started getting up a little earlier. Then I added 10 minutes of prenatal yoga.
And that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
In my ideal morning, I would also read, journal, and play the piano every morning. I would make my bed as soon as I got up and start a load of laundry right away. I’m not doing any of those things consistently right now.
But because I’m starting small—because I’m focusing only on the most important habits, the ones that will have the greatest impact on my day and on my overall wellbeing—I have a morning routine, and a relatively consistent one at that.
This short routine is much better than no routine at all. And I’m more likely to stick with it because I haven’t made it big and complicated right from the start.
My morning routine isn’t the only thing I’m beginning again.
It’s been months since I’ve posted to this blog. Writing gives me great joy. It’s good for me; I’m a better person when I write regularly. Yet I stopped, as I’ve done so often during seasons of transition or stress.
I stopped writing for a variety of reasons. There was a miscarriage in September, and another in February. There was postpartum depression after both of them. There were happy things as well, a trip to my home in Nicaragua earlier this year and now this current pregnancy—a very happy change despite the aforementioned nausea and fatigue.
The reasons don’t really matter, when it comes down to it. The point is that writing is good for me, and I stopped.
And now, I’m beginning again.
It’s not all-or-nothing. Beginning again doesn’t mean I have to post weekly, or that I have to write the same things I did before. It just means I need to write something. Something is more than nothing, and for now, that’s enough.
I know what matters. What matters is that I work through topics and ideas and questions that matter, and that I invite others to work through them with me, to join in conversation around things that matter, whether they be big things or small—like habits we’ve laid aside.
I’m starting small. I’m writing one blog post; one. I don’t have an elaborate content calendar. I haven’t planned out the next month of blog posts. At this point, I’m not committing to any sort of frequency with my posts. I’m just writing one blog post. And then, I’ll write another. And another.
Beginning again doesn’t have to be a grand dramatic event. It can be simple, small, an almost imperceptible shift back in the right direction. It can be a five-minute stretch and a two-minute prayer, or a blog post that isn’t all that deep or earth-shattering.
Resist the all-or-nothing mindset. Know what matters. Start small.
And just begin.