4 Habits To Nix Morning Stress

by Dr. Darria Long Gillespie

Do your mornings suck? If mornings at your house resemble Filene’s Running of the Brides or Black Friday morning, then it’s time to get a handle on it. The best news is that you can. No matter how crazy our mornings, we can all instill a little sanity — and create a positive feedback loop for the entire day.

Try these tips to make them less madcap:

  • Smooth the transition. It’s 5:59 a.m. and you’re asleep, your brain bathed in relaxing melatonin, lost in a dream about Adam Levine. Suddenly it’s 6:00 a.m. and GAH! It’s an air raid! It’s your toddler! It’s an air raid of toddlers! Nope, it’s your blaring alarm clock, triggering cortisol to be released and shooting up your heart rate and blood pressure. Try a calmer transition with a lighted wake-up clock (that slowly brightens until it’s time to wake up), an app that awakens you at your lightest sleep, within your set wake-up window, or even a less “alarming” alarm tone. Sadly, none of those bring back Adam Levine.
  • Decrease the amount you have to think. Make a morning routine that you and your family (with a little luck?) use every day. The brain loves routines. They make mundane daily activities less stressful and free us to focus on more important things. Put items you use every morning in the same spot. Make lists for children’s daily “must-do’s.” Prep lunch and gym bags the night before so they’re grab-and-go. The fewer spontaneous decisions you have to make to get out the door, the better.
  • Get up 10 minutes early for a morning ritual.This is one of the best ways to control the tone of your own day. Go for a quick walk/run. Do yoga. Take five minutes for some self-affirmations such as “When xxx (something concerning you that day) happens, I will be able to handle it with yyy (a successful response).”
  • Stay out of cell-phone response spiral.You get up. You check email on your phone, see five requests and spend the next 15 minutes responding. Now you’re both late and worried. Try to avoid checking before you get to the office. If you must, respond only to “emergencies.” You’ll save yourself time in the morning and have a better response anyway, once your brain is awake.


Darria Long Gillespie, MD MBA, FACEP, is Sharecare’s Senior Vice President of Clinical Strategy, an Emergency Department physician at Northside Hospital, and national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians. As a board certified emergency physician, Dr. Long Gillespie is a frequent health expert on national TV and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, FoxNews Network, and The Dr. Oz show. In addition, she is a featured blogger on The Huffington Post for “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Health…and Sanity”, DoctorOz.com, and hosts Sharecare Radio on iHeart Radio’s RadioMD, an hourly live radio show and podcast. She also oversees the development of content for Sharecare’s award-winning app, AskMD, and leads Sharecare’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Council. Dr. Long Gillespie earned her medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, her residency in emergency medicine from Yale University School of Medicine, and her MBA from Harvard Business School. After residency she joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where she worked in the ER at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. Dr. Long Gillespie has authored a chapter in the preeminent text of Emergency Medicine, and published and presented research in disciplines including plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery and hospital strategic/financial business development.