Mental health is becoming an increasingly important aspect in people’s everyday lives. The number of people receiving help for mental health related issues is increasing yearly, showing that people are aware that they are struggling mentally and are trying to gain help in order to improve it. The Mental Health foundation reported in 2022 that every week 1 in 6 people in the UK will experience a common mental health problem, this highlights how unfortunately common it is for people to be struggling mentally. There are lots of different aspects of mental health that people may be struggling with, such as anxiety or depression, however one overlooked problem is stress.
How many times have you heard about stress in a good way? Like a colleague who says they work best when stressed for example. The use of stress as a motivator has led us to overlook stress as a major contributor to bad mental health. Stress is defined by the charity Mind as ‘how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened. It usually happens when we are in a situation that we don't feel we can manage or control’. While not classed as a mental health problem itself, increased stress can cause, and in cases where people are already struggling mentally it can worsen, anxiety and depression, and a long period of stress can even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From your job to family to just the general every day, stress can be found everywhere therefore to work on reducing stress in order to see the positive effects on your mental health, managing and reducing stress needs to become part of your daily routine.
A 5 to 9 before your 9 to 5
A current TikTok trend has seen people make videos about what they get done in the morning before work (or school/university) calling this their 5-9 before their 9-5. The 5-9 meaning the four hours between 5am to 9am before their 9am to 5pm job. But what does this have to do with managing stress?
Think of your routine before work. What time do you wake up? How do you use your time before work? If, like the average Brit, you wake up around 7:35 am you have a total of 1 hour 25 minutes to get up, shower, have breakfast, get dressed, get ready and get to work. This leaves little to no time to do anything else in the morning apart from getting ready and getting to work on time. This may be enough time but what if something goes wrong? If there’s traffic or delays getting to work, or your roommate has got to the shower before you. Now you’re rushing to get to work on time which causes stress. Even if you get to work on time, you have spent all your time before work solely getting ready for and getting to work and will not have any time for yourself until after 5pm.
Now imagine the people getting up at 5am. They have 4 hours between waking up and having to go to work. Immediately this takes away the stress of being late to work as this gives enough time to get ready even if everything in the morning does not go as planned. As well as this, it allows them to do things before work that aren’t just getting ready. An example of this kind of morning is Vero Simones morning routine. Vero Simone took part in the trend by posting a TikTok video of her 5-9 morning routine. After waking up she first walks to the gym where she goes to a gym class. After that she walks back to her apartment where she makes breakfast while listening to a podcast, followed by some time reading before she has to get ready and leave for work. This morning routine demonstrates how changing the time you get up allows you to change entirely the way your mornings look.
Will waking up earlier actually help your mental health?
But will waking up earlier actually reduce daily stress? The answer depends on what you choose to do with your time once you get up. The charity Mind released a list of their top 6 ways to improve your mental health.
1. Relax and reduce stress
2. Find ways to learn and be creative
3. Spend time in nature
4. Connect with others
5. Look after your physical health
6. Try to get enough sleep
Finding time in your day to fit all 6 tips in would be a struggle for most, especially if you're trying to fit them in after work when you're already tired and want to relax. However you could easily incorporate almost all of the tips in your 5 to 9 routine. By waking up with no rush to get to work you are working on the first tip of reducing stress, then the second tip can be achieved by reading or colouring, and the third and fifth tip by having a daily morning walk. Breakfast spent with your partner or friends will achieve the fourth tip leaving just the sixth for the evening. Not only will this enable you to achieve all the tips in order to improve your mental wellbeing, it also allows for free time between work and when you go to bed in which you can do whatever you want!
While incorporating a 5 to 9 morning routine into your daily life won't immediately any mental health issues, it does allow for you to achieve more throughout the day and build on aspects affecting your mental health and stress levels, making them easier to manage.