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Dealing with the Morning Doldrums

Morning Doldrums

How do we help people motivate themselves on a cold dark winter morning?

by Christine Lyon, LPC, BHTG co-owner and clinical manager

This stage in winter can be particularly challenging for Michiganders. January and February are the most overcast months of the year, with skies historically covered with heavy gloomy clouds  63-66% of the time. While our days continue to lengthen, the night still falls early. Sunrise takes place after most alarms go off, making it very difficult to rise and shine!

The BHTG therapist team meets together weekly on Fridays to share knowledge, expertise, and strategies to better serve our individual clients. This morning, I asked our team to share with me some of their go-to’s for morning motivation. I captured some valuable ideas from our conversation.

Nicole Ide, LPC: I am very person-centered in my approach. In working with college students and young adults, I normalize their experience of having a hard time in the morning. I let them know that we’re all human, and not everyone wakes up ready to go every morning. I focus them on what makes them feel good: certain music. I let them know that gentle wakeups are very helpful, with a light or music-based alarm easing the process. And snoozing is ok!

Aaron Fillmore, LLMSW: I’ll chime in – I for one am not the most motivated in the morning!  I take a behavioral approach with myself and use this strategy to help my clients. I let my young clients and their families know that bribery is ok!  I’m not above bribing myself by pairing a difficult thing that I’m not looking forward to with a reward. I just make sure both are things that bring me closer to the person that I want to be that day. 

Laurea Marshall, LPC: Because I base my work on a holistic approach, I use mindfulness to help my clients with motivation. I ask them to start the day with a moment of gratitude, focusing on what they are thankful for in that waking moment. If nothing comes to mind, I ask them to focus on their sound mind, able body, and good health. I also think having a schedule for your day allows you to relax into being mindful of each task as it comes, without worrying about the next thing, because you have already scheduled a time later for that next thing. This frees you up to stay present.

Carin Goodrich, LPC, clinical supervisor: I agree with Laurea, and I love the behavioral activation aspect of a list or schedule. Seeing the list is often the spark to initial action in the moment. This can be very helpful in parenting children who are having difficulty starting their day.

Christine Lyon, LPC, clinical manager:  And that initial move may be just what someone needs to make the next small move. I like to “chunk” things with my clients. Instead of thinking about the long, task filled day ahead of you, just focus on the one small thing you can start with. It may be as simple as drinking a glass of water, or doing a few gentle stretches. “A body in motion likes to stay in motion”… so start moving!

Claudia Schwenzer, LMSW: I am big on working with intentions with my clients. This has helped with clients who struggle with depression. I ask them to try setting an intention for the next day before they go to bed, writing it down and keeping it nearby, something they are looking forward to engaging in or accomplishing, and then to use that reminder in the morning. In working with clients with chronic illnesses that require daily management, I try to help them step away from fear or shame-based motivation that often follow their daily illness maintenance, because that is not a long-lasting solution. For example, many of my clients are told if they don’t do this/take this medication, something bad will happen. That can paralyze people. I try to help them approach their health tasks with the idea that each thing they do will help them have a better few hours, or a better half a day, and that makes the task easier to start for them.  

Marcia Kluznik, LPC, RN:  And sometimes, when all else fails, I like to give people this sentence if they are waking up with difficulty.  “This is the worst I’m going to feel today!” Looking forward to feeling better can jumpstart the day for those who struggle. I provide my clients with affirmation resources, so that they have a place to go daily to focus on something positive. 

If you are interested in working with someone from Beverly Hills Therapy Group please contact us at 248-480-0115 or visit our website and request an appointment Beverly Hills Therapy Group (


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