Can getting up early help to reduce work-related stress?
Successful CEOs of multinational companies do it, so should you follow their lifestyle choice? Getting up early has been hailed as the common factor shared by successful people in achieving greater fulfilment, career progression and overcoming work-related stress.
The idea behind getting up early is that adding those extra hours to the day when few others are up, allows you to get a head-start and to be super productive. It can also offer a window to achieve rigorous physical exercise as well as possibly providing a space for clearer thinking. Those that advocate this lifestyle choice maintain that it is possible to acquire a more robust sense of control and strengthened willpower that comes from uninterrupted dedication to the achievement of tasks on personal to-do lists. With less distraction early in the morning, so goes the argument, there is greater personal productivity and reduced work-related stress.
Getting up super early has become something to write about on social media and hashtags such as 'getting up at 5 am' have trended across social media. However, if you are a “night owl” rather than a “morning lark” then getting up at 5 am might confuse your circadian rhythm. Sleep scientists point to the importance of understanding a person's chronotype (strongly determined by genetics), which is the time of the day when they function the best. Owls function better at night whilst larks can prefer morning activities. However, night owls are not owls by choice. They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hardwiring. Their non-functioning in the morning is not their conscious choice but their genetic fate.
Reducing work-related stress might mean getting on top of the avalanche of communications (such as dealing with colleague emails or demanding requests from clients/customers) and this will only prove effective in the long run if you feel rested and energetic in the mornings. Getting up at 5 am would, therefore, require even morning larks to go asleep between 8 pm and 9 pm the night before to ensure that sufficient amounts of sleep are achieved. According to the World Health Organisation and the National Sleep Foundation in America, two-thirds of people in developed nations fail to obtain the recommended 8 hours of sleep per night.
Getting up at 5 am may help you to become more productive in your day and provide for more clarity in assessing what needs to be prioritised in your work schedule. However, this should be balanced by ensuring that you achieve adequate amounts of sleep (somewhere between 7 and 9 hours depending on personal circumstances) and that your circadian rhythm is maintained. There is no such thing as burning the candles at both ends and getting away with it. Getting up at 5 am in the morning to concentrate on the day’s tasks might be beneficial provided you go to bed earlier the night before and provided you are not genetically at odds with morning time.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to assess your decision making within a private and confidential space. Reducing work-related stress starts with making sure you are properly prepared for a demanding day. What helps improve sleep quality is setting an anchor time each day, building in a buffer zone of calm before sleep and boosting so-called sleep hygiene. Sometimes there might be environmental factors impacting on your mood within a given day. Setting boundaries with demanding bosses or family could help to boost your sense of well-being so that you are less stressed at sleep time.
Sleep is the pre-eminent force in the holy trinity of a balanced diet, rigorous physical exercise and restorative sleep in maintaining positive brain health. It might, therefore, be worthwhile to carefully consider the health implications of starting a new regime of waking at 5 am. Famous CEOs might have a super early routine that works for them but they will also benefit from having a massive support structure throughout their day.
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About Noel Bell
Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.