Don’t panic! The morning rush doesn’t have to be stressful

Andrea Sangster
stress getty creative 300x225 Dont panic! The morning rush doesnt have to be stressful


What were you doing at 8.13am this morning? Feeling pretty stressed, if the latest research is anything to go by. It’s the time of the morning when our stress levels are at their peak, according to a study by Nissan Micra Elle into the ‘Great British Rush’ and the stats throw back the duvet and reveal the truth on morning stress.

The study revealed that our number one pressure every day is remembering what we have to take with us and that 50 per cent of us report morning ‘blunders’ like leaving the house without our phones. While 54 per cent of us have lost our keys in the morning rush. Try looking in the fridge, your bed and the bin – strange places that keys are regularly found. Then there’s the journey to work, commuters also find cars stressful, nearly half of us wish they’d clear themselves of our clutter, park themselves or let us in without insisting on actual keys.

So why are the mornings such a pressure keg? Well in my house it’s all about deadlines. You’ve been awake 30 seconds and already you’ve got somewhere to be – whether that’s getting to work or dropping the kids to school. The clock is ticking. You’re still in your jim-jams.

You’ve got very little room for error at this stage, and yet errors are abound, around 42 per cent of parents, for example, say that getting the kids ready for school is the most stressful part of their morning. I must mention that to my kids – three-year-old Dylan and five-year-old Daisy. We have this exact conversation 365 days of the year: “Yes, you need to have breakfast. Yes, you need to get dressed. Yes, you do need to wear shoes.” Why all this is quite such a surprise to them every 24 hours is anyone’s guess.

But the good news is that stress isn’t inevitable. In fact there are tools all around you that you can use right now to help you manage your stress and skip off to your first appointment feeling very zen-like. This is the ‘Ruby Slippers Protocol’. You don’t need to travel to the Emerald City and seek out a mysterious gentleman in a long dress to find out the secret of how to get back to stress-free Kansas. Just as Dorothy discovered, the answers are already at your feet – you just need to understand how to click your heels together and access a stress-free way of life.

Of course it may be too late for today – 8.13am may already have come and gone. But in case you want tomorrow to be a little better, here’s how to do it:

1. Go to bed at a reasonable time tonight. Earlier than you did last night. Make sure you don’t have any light sources in your room. If your brain registers light, it thinks it’s not really night-time and won’t let you have the deepest and most relaxing type of sleep that your body craves. Also, leave your mobile phone outside to avoid its electromagnetic waves that interfere with your brain’s sleep patterns.

2. Wake up and breathe. Sit for 10 minutes with your eyes shut, back straight, feet on the floor and palms up on your knees. Breathe in through your nose. Feel the breath filling your abdomen. Concentrate on the breath in… and out… After 10 minutes of this you’ll feel fantastic. Get step by step guidance on this at with the free ‘10 minute holiday’ mp3 download.

3. Eat a slow-release breakfast. Porridge is good, as are bananas. Avoid sugary snacks – they lead your blood sugar levels on rollercoaster highs and lows that will leave you tired.

4. Use technology to tackle your personal stress points. Forgot your USB stick? Store work in applications like Dropbox which you can access remotely wherever you are in the world on any device. Clip recipes, web pages, phone numbers into a cloud-based memory bank like Evernote – all taggable and searchable for easy retrieval. Don’t like getting wet? Check your smart phone’s weather app to see if you have to take a brolly today.

5. Exercise. To shift stress, you’ve got to get moving. It’s a highly effective way to bust the stress hormones like cortisol out of your system. Exercise will also release your happy hormones – endorphins – that improve your sense of wellbeing. Even regular brisk walks will help.

Good luck for tomorrow 8.13am. Leave me a comment below at 8.14am to tell me how it went…

Andrea Sangster is a director at the Stress Management Society, the UK’s foremost advice agency on stress management at home and work. For more information visit

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  • Laars

    I sense stress…

    Yes, I know that’s a cheap shot. But then, I didn’t write that you should do nothing or do exercise as a means to counter stress (covering all bases there?) while looking at an app to work out whether it might rain or not (the sort of person who doesn’t already check the weather before going out probably isn’t stressed by it – those who do, probably are?). If anything, checking your weather app is probably contributing to the stress – what f the app is wrong? what if I misunderstood it? what does 85% chance mean? etc

  • Laars

    Funnily enough, the “study” came from Nissan MIcra which, with Elle magazine, concluded that women are more stressed than men. Solution couldn’t be to buy a Nissan Micra by any chance?

  • Mike

    I have problems with sleeping and insomnia but recently I’ve started floating and it’s a godsend in regards to my sleep and my stress levels, I live in Essex but travel to London to use the tanks, definitely worth it though.

  • Peter Wright

    Good Advice to use Technology to help generally, but be very very careful with Dropbox, Google Drive and other Cloud Apps as they are not secure. Use them for general work by all means, but don’t store anything containing personal data like names, addresses, DOB, bank details, password information, photos etc (yours or anyone elses), confidential data or anything that you would not be happy if someone else where to see it. If your data is compromised, or most of all if you store client confidential data on one of these sites, you could breach professional or commercial confidence, and could even lose your job. Which would certainly add to stress overall in the morning…….

  • Guest

    Good point, Peter. Thanks for your valuable input.

    In fact let me ask you what you think about services like LastPass and Roboform for keeping password into and confidential snippets in The Cloud.

    Would you use them? And if not what would you recommend as an alternative?


  • Andrea

    Hey Laars, thanks for your points. Been off for a couple of days so only just seen this…

    Yes it’s true that exercise and meditation are opposites. But they do very different things to you biologically.

    - Exercise helps your body work out the cortisol and adrenaline that flood your system during stress.
    - Meditation helps you calm your mind and become mentally stronger for the stresses that life throws at you.

    So together they give you a balanced way of dealing with stress. Opposites, but both relevant.

    Granted, my choice of app in the article wasn’t the greatest. I’m kicking myself I didn’t talk about your phone giving you sat nav, helping you find your nearest taxi rank or police station, or finding you reviews for the restaurant you’re standing in front of.

    The general point was that apps can help you iron out life’s little inconveniences or save you time and bother.

    However thanks for the feedback.

  • Andrea

    Thanks Peter – great points. So here’s a question cos you clearly have a well-developed sense of security – what would you suggest people use for that sort of thing? Is there an IT solution that IS safe to store passwords and personal data? It’d be helpful to hear what you think… thanks, Andrea

  • Andrea

    Hi there, kawasakiman. Delighted that you were snoozing through. I admire such dedication to good stress management!

    Your point is a good one (although the article wasn’t about work stress). We do have the choice as to how we spend our days.

    Yet life is full of potentially stressful situations that you can’t just choose to walk away from easily.

    When I became a mother, for example, that was a joyful thing for me. Yet still I felt the walls closing in and my stress soaring as I adjusted to sleepness nights, medical complications, worrying about baby’s feeding, sleeping, development etc.

    Others may have other stress points. Experiencing road rage, getting an unwelcome medical diagnosis, dealing with an ageing parent, cyberbullying, mortgage rates, football results, your gas bill… everyone has different hot spots that can get them tense. The Stress Management Society just wants to get the info out there to help everyone get a bit more perspective on how to handle all these types of stresses too.

    Thanks for your comments, though. At the moment I can see that 17 people voted your comment up, so people clearly agree with this sentiment. Interesting. Maybe we’ll do something in the free factsheet area on The Stress Management Society’s website about this.


  • Laars

    I’m not sure that ‘apps’ do help out. The most tensed people I know are actually those who rely on their phones et al to ‘help’ them. As often as not they are transferring their angst to a device and looking for a crutch for their decision-making. I won’t even get into the confusion when they lose a signal or can’t get an internet stream (4G should help, but…) but it might be worth considering whether the need for such apps is a symptom of the stress rather than a cure. Could I have a better idea of a restaurant if I checked tripadvisor et al before entering? Possibly. But am I so stressed about the thought of entering a new environment that I have to use the app on the first place? Probably not. The multitude of apps may just be creating stress to begin with as people become desperate to optimise their life – let’s not do something which may not be perfect or which can be criticised by others who have the app (trust me, the number of times I book a restaurant which sounds/looks interesting but get the reply from others ‘what did site X say about it?’ – sometimes I get a real lemon, sometimes a gem but I don’t let it bother me and neither does my partner).

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