What's the first thing you do when you get out of bed in the morning? A well-rounded morning routine sets the tone for the day and gets you prepped—both mentally and physically—before diving into a packed schedule filled with emails, chores, happy hours, workouts, and more. Our series Morning Person profiles those who have mastered the art of the morning routine. Tune in every Monday morning here and on our Instagram to learn exactly how the pros get it all done before the sun comes up, from their go-to breakfasts to their a.m. workouts.
How many times have you woken up with a sense of dread for the day to come or felt intense stress about work/life/etc. the first moment you open your eyes? I think it's safe to say that's happened to a lot of us, and it can really set a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Tara Schuster, vice president of talent and development at Comedy Central, has advice for chasing away those bad morning feelings: Get ready like a goddess or empress. (She prefers Cleopatra, but any powerful female will work.) "I don't need a palace to greet the day like the sovereign ruler I am," explains Schuster, whose first book, Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, comes out on February 18. "I take the time to act as if I am a powerful empress: confident, expansive, and enthusiastic about the work of the upcoming day."
You might find that a little bit of indulgence and being kind to yourself first thing in the morning can help you face any problem. That has us sold.
But Schuster's morning routine doesn't just stop at that moment of self-love; there are also journaling, creative writing, and a "witchy" potion involved. Take a look at what she does to start the day below.
I was not born an early riser. Ask my roomies from college, and they will tell you they often referred to me as "gremlin-like" in the mornings and would steer clear of me until I had at least two cups of coffee. But by my late 20s, I knew that if I sincerely wanted to have a creative side hustle, then I would have to figure out how in the holy hell I, a gremlin, could become an early riser (gross). I knew it was the only time in the day when my mind would be fresh, or at least not burned out, and when I wouldn't be getting calls from the office.
At 6:40, from under my pink duvet, before I've had time to go on IG and see how many likes last night's soba noodle feast received, I reach for my journal, which is always on my nightstand table. From between the sheets, I write three pages of word vomit. I took this practice from my bible, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. She calls it "the morning pages"; I call it "DMs from my soul." It's so early in the morning that what I write down is what I think my most interior self wants me to know about. My journaling ranges from inane to revelatory. Sometimes it's something as simple as, "You really need toilet paper; paper towels are not an acceptable substitute." Sometimes it's "I'm sorry but the dude you are dating fits into the same relationship pattern you always fall into—get out now!" I conclude my journaling with a list of 10 things I am grateful for.
I used to think gratitude lists were utter BS and too woo-woo for me. I only ever tried them to prove that someone else, who had told me about gratitude lists, was wrong about the power of being thankful. But after doing this for nine years and after writing 32,760 things I am grateful for, I can tell you I am a happy, healthier person. A strong gratitude game forces you, on paper, to reframe your life as wonderful gifts that have been given to you rather than problems that have been done to you. I know, cheesy. But try it, and then come tell me it doesn't work.
I'm not so good at meditating. My Headspace app tells me that I'm supposed to let the clouds of thought pass by in order to see the endless blue skies of a truly open mind. It sounds heavenly, but I find meditation very difficult. Every time I try to do it, my mind immediately wanders to such high-level thoughts as, "What am I going to eat next?" and "Ugh, when will I do the laundry?" But for the past few months, I have committed to 10 minutes of meditation. Habits take time to build, so I forgive myself for not "nailing it" and keep showing up. That's what I'm supposed to do, right Headspace's Andy?
I make myself a witchy brew. Sure, coffee is great. But what about a damn potion? I use my Nespresso machine to brew espresso and simultaneously froth oat milk for a cappuccino. Then, I mix in a blend of olive oil, turmeric, and ginger that I bought at the most adorable coffee shop in Ojai, California. I mix the elixir with wooden chopsticks my best friend bought me in Japan. I usually use a mug another one of my best friends gave me as a birthday present. This is such a ritual to me that when traveling, I try to make sure my hotel room has a coffee maker. (Note: This is not a joke, but I think my Nespresso machine is the thing I would take with me in case of fire. I'm wildly attached to this machine.)
This is the only time of day I can write. For the rest of the day, I work for the man and after work, oh boy, my brain is fried. So, if I want to do anything creative, it must happen now. I light a delicious candle, open my Google Doc where I keep all of my thoughts, put my phone on Do Not Disturb, and set a timer for one hour. I don't check Facebook; I don't online shop; I don't do anything but type. Usually, this time is generative. I don't edit myself. Editing is for the weekends when I have more leisure time. When the alarm goes off one hour later, I am free and won't feel guilty for the rest of the day for not having written.
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It's time to brush my teeth and then scramble to the gym! Working out for me is nonnegotiable. It is my preventive measure against the anxiety that lurks in my mind. I must make it to the gym because I will always, always feel better for it. I pack my gym bag the night before and lay out my on-point exercise ensemble (my way to make exercise as appealing as possible) so that there is not a second wasted. I also always make sure to schedule trips with enough time to work out pre- or post-flight, be it vacation or business. I must get real sweaty once a day or I don't feel like myself. And why wouldn't I want to feel like myself?
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I chose to live very close to both my gym and my office to make my morning ritual easier to accomplish. At the gym, I mix up my routine! I take a nearly impossible jump rope class once a week, I lift weights, I take Pilates, and I do a whole lot of cardio (rowing, running, stairs). I try to do something different every day so I won't get bored and so that my body won't get too comfortable. I'm all for being comfortable at home in my favorite camo sweats, but when I'm at the gym, I like to take on a physical challenge.
Even though I am in the locker room of my gym, I get ready like Cleopatra. I don't need a palace to greet the day like the sovereign ruler I am. I take the time to act as if I am a powerful empress: confident, expansive, and enthusiastic about the work of the upcoming day. I listen to Frank Ocean on my ear pods. I anoint my skin with SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. I slather my face in Osea Atmosphere Protection Cream. I paint my face with BareMinerals tinted moisturizer with mineral-based SPF. I coat my eyelashes in Armani's Black Ecstasy mascara because I'm pretty sure that is what Cleopatra would have favored.
What I have learned is that you are stronger when you give yourself incredible kindness. There is no better time to do this than in the morning. This day is yours. Sure, you might have to strategize around a boss who is undermining you. You might have to finally break up with someone you are dating or be broken up with. You might get the worst news of your life today. You never know. But! While you are alone in your kingdom, while you have a moment of quiet, you can honor and respect yourself. It's a potent base level to start your day. And when you begin your morning recognizing that you are a goddess, you'll notice that the whole world will start to treat you that way. I'm not talking about vanity. I'm not talking about narcissism. I'm talking about acknowledging, first thing in the morning, that you are powerful and worth taking care of. I'm telling you, if it worked to just rush around and be mean to yourself in the morning, I would do that. It takes less time and comes quite naturally to me, but I tried that for so long, and it just never worked.
So I get ready like Cleopatra in the morning, and I think you should try it too. Although, I'm pretty sure Cleopatra didn't end her morning routine by throwing her wet hair into a low bun before hightailing it to the office.
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