Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a balanced life — mainly, wondering if such a thing is even possible to achieve in today’s world (without moving to a remote cabin in the woods and living off my organic garden…which, some days, sounds quite lovely), or are we all destined to live out our days feeling pulled in a thousand directions (between family life, work overload, our ringing/dinging/vibrating cell phones, nurturing friendships, filling our fitness quota, volunteering, and generally just racing around in a state of constant busyness.) Since I’m realizing I don’t actually want to give up any of those things, I’m increasingly realizing the importance of finding a way to balance, to step outside the endless list of to-do’s and find a place of serenity that will help bring focus, joy and calm as I bounce from one to another of life’s demands. I’ve also discovered that a lot of it depends on the way I start my day.

I’m realizing (or perhaps, remembering) the necessity of carving out my own space for calm first thing in the morning, before I get swept away on the fast-moving tide of the day’s demands. When I look back at times in my own life when I’ve felt the most balanced and at peace, it’s when I’ve scheduled early morning time to quiet my mind, consider what’s going on in my life, and instead of trying to strategize or problem-solve, learn to release any anxieties to God’s control. No matter what your spiritual beliefs are, taking time to meditate, pray and be still is a practice that reaps exponential benefits relative to the time it takes. There’s no doubt that it requires discipline, especially when it may mean setting the alarm for a bit earlier than usual, but I’ve found that there really is something magical about the morning — that hour when it’s just you and God, or the universe, or even just yourself — that creates a space for uninterrupted calm and deeper reflection.

Do you guys ever feel like you have a mental tape running in your head about everything that you think you should  be doing? Brigid Schulte writes in her new book Overwhelmed that time-use researchers call this phenomenon “contaminated time…it’s mental pollution.” I’ve long felt this nagging sense that, even when I’m having fun with friends or taking a moment to relax in the evening, I’m not fully enjoying the moment as I should because my mind is preoccupied. (Am I the only one guilty of instagramming mid-convo or tweeting at the dinner table?) So, how can we change our “modern” schedules so that we can reclaim our time, live in the present and enjoy a state of serenity without completely giving up things that are really important to us? 

image sources (top to bottom): gabrielle assafanoluck, pinterest

Here are a few simple tips I’ve found for letting my morning quiet time set the tone for the rest of my day:

1. Prioritize. By this, I don’t mean reorganizing our to-do lists so that the “most important” things appear first. I mean actually giving ourselves permission to put reflection and joy at the top of our priority list — make it happen in the morning before anything else gets accomplished. Because if you can make that happen on a regular basis, you’ve accomplished a lot. 

2. Make it a ritual. When I was in college (before husband, kids, house and job), it was relatively easy to start the day in the same disciplined way every day. I discovered how much I actually looked forward to jumping out of bed so I could brew the coffee, pour it into my favorite mug, settle into a quiet spot on the couch with my Bible and journal before any of my roommates woke up. Even though it might be a little more challenging today, I can still make the choice to get up a little earlier than everyone else and savor the moments in a quiet house before the day begins. Find the little touches that make you excited to jump out of bed, whether it’s the coffee/tea/green juice you love or a spot in your home that makes you feel relaxed.

3. Create structure. For me, my quiet time works best when I have some sort of sequence of actions I go through every day. Maybe it’s a chapter of a book, a series of words to meditate on, an order of prayers, a certain way of journaling, even a sequence of yoga poses or stretches. Maybe you’re a meditation master and can sit in disciplined silence without becoming distracted, but I’m not quite there.

4. Do it when you travel. Although it’s sometimes nice to break with routine when traveling, I’d encourage you to try having your quiet time for at least one morning when you’re on your next vacation or work trip. There’s something about waking up with the sunrise in an unfamiliar place that awakens you to the beauty of the present moment like nothing else.

I truly believe that creating a habit of starting the day this way has life-changing benefits. Even in the midst of our schedule-packed life, carving time for prayer, meditation or reflection each day helps us to feel fully alive, to cultivate our passions and really think about what’s happening in our lives. It reminds me of my priorities and helps me decide what I should actually be paying attention to each day, instead of just being swept along by my calendar — and most often, those truer priorities are the ones that lead to a greater sense of fulfillment. It reminds me of all the blessings in my life, fills me with a sense of gratitude and increases my capacity to love those around me.

I’d love to hear how all of you approach this topic. Do you carve out regular times for prayer or reflection each day? If so, do you always do it at the same time in the same place, or do you mix it up? Share your experience in the comments!

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Comments (42)
  1. 1
    Little Observationist May 13, 2014 at 6:25 am

    What a great post – and an important one as well. I think when you say it’s important to give ourselves permission to reflect, that’s key. I love weekend mornings. I start them with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea and I don’t allow myself to open my laptop till a slow breakfast is finished. I read a travel magazine or a book while I eat and that’s my relaxation time. During the week, I never do this even though I know I should. If I’m up earlier than I usually am, I just go to work earlier – terrible, right? Thanks for this post. It’s a good reminder!

    • Camille Styles May 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Totally agree — for some reason, I often only give myself permission to “enjoy” on the weekends, and the funny part is, I usually end up being so much more refreshed and productive as a result! Your weekend ritual sounds absolutely perfect.

  2. 2
    Kelly Jo May 13, 2014 at 8:05 am

    This is just what I needed to hear this week. I have been feeling so over-whelmed lately with all of lifes demands and sometimes I feel like a robot just living day to day, especially during the week. My favorite weekend ritual is to sleep in a little, make some coffee or tea and eat eggs and toast. Now that the weather is finally warming up I’m looking forward to going on an early walk or spending time in the garden. I am not really a morning person but I’m sure that trying to incorporate a small ritual during the week would do wonders!

    • Camille Styles May 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      What you said about “feeling like a robot” is so true! It’s amazing how easy it is to just go through the motions without any real feeling behind it, isn’t it? Love your ideas on getting outside and soaking up the sunshine first thing in the morning!

  3. 3
    Meg Sylvia May 13, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Amazing post. I do believe that complete balance is essentially impossible, especially for those who have a family to take care of – however, I completely agree with you on the sense of balance that can come from a peaceful morning routine. I have to say, on mornings where I’m running late and in a rush, it tends to set up the rest of the morning for sense of overwhelm! Nothing is better than making the time to meditate / pray to release anxiety, as you said 🙂

  4. 4
    Karlin May 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I absolutely love how you approached spending time with God/yourself in this post. God is the biggest part of my quiet time, but for those who are less religious taking time to think and find stillness is just as important. The second most important start to every day is, of course, coffee.

  5. 5
    rlopez2503 May 13, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I so enjoyed reading today’s post! It’s so true how our minds are filled with so much stuff…what to do next or constant ideas flowing when I’m trying to sleep at night. I so enjoy early mornings on the weekends with the quietness in the house as I sit on my chair with my first morning cup of coffee, looking out the window and listening to the pleasant morning music of birds chirping. My favorite thing to do when I travel to the beach is to watch the sunrise and you can’t help but have a clear mind because of all the calmness surrounding you as you await for the sun to greet you. I’ll have to try your tip on waking up a little earlier, as it may help during the weekdays, as I can use a little quite time before starting the crazy work day! Thanks Camille!!

    • Camille Styles May 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      “My favorite thing to do when I travel to the beach is to watch the sunrise and you can’t help but have a clear mind because of all the calmness surrounding you as you await for the sun to greet you.” <---- That just made me SO excited for my beach trip next month! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  6. 6
    paraparasailing May 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Once or twice a month, I meet up with close friends in the morning at a coffeeshop around town and we talk about what God’s doing in our lives. I’ve found that time to be incredibly rewarding. It takes investment to plan such an early meeting and to prepare and sacrifice to carve out that time in the morning, and I love that it just puts me in a grateful mood for the day and more patient with those I encounter throughout. Plus, the coffee helps a bit too 🙂 So encouraged by this post! Thanks for sharing a bit about your personal spiritual life on the blog!

  7. 7
    sophieccollins May 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Hi Camille,

    I really love this post. I love the quiet time in the morning too, but often fill it with emails and to-dos. I’m going to take your advice and set my alarm a little bit earlier tomorrow to sit out on my patio and listen to the birds chirp over my morning coffee. How beautiful!

  8. 8
    Mia May 13, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Camille, I really enjoyed reading this personal post. On one hand it is amazing how much we can accomplish when we set our mind to it but on the other hand it seems there is that tendency to fill our lives with “stuff” (and by that I mean both activities and things) that don’t really add meaningful value to our lives. For me that is mindless Internet surfing – which I justify in my head as “entertainment” or “unwinding” after a long day – ha! But what if I can replace that with something better for me and/or others important to me? Like, as you said, sitting in stillness… or calling a friend. I’ve also been thinking about how I use technology – it’s interesting how technology is supposed to make things more efficient so we can use that freed up time to do more important things, and yet I feel busier than ever. I’ve been thinking about how to subtract little things (e.g. checking my instagram feed before bed – yikes!) – small, do-able steps! Instead I silently say a prayer/mantra – and I drift off to sleep faster. Then I wake up and take a few moments to meditate on it again. I’m amazed at how these little things make a difference!
    Balance is so elusive… but I’ve also come to realize that balance is a moving target, because we are never static – our lives and circumstances change. One of the things that has helped me think about my choices and my time (that all-important commodity!) is Covey’s Urgent/Important matrix – have you read about it?

  9. 9
    Cristina Cleveland May 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Beautifully written Camille, I absolutely agree that the benefits are exponential. Meditating can take as little as 5 minutes and still have a big impact on my day, but I have to admit it can sometimes fall off my list of priorities. This is a lovely reminder to make it an everyday habit.

  10. 10
    Madeline [madelinemade] May 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

    this is exactly what i needed to hear today. thank you camille.
    the importance of disconnecting, prioritizing, accepting, and connecting to our higher power are the best reminders.

  11. 11
    Stimuli Magazine (@StimuliMag) May 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

    A couple of weeks ago I Instagrammed a photo of how I start the day (well, most days) with a large takeout tea and my new fave book call Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. So makes a difference in how you go through the day.

  12. 12
    Nicole Mlakar May 13, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Wonderful post! Been thinking about this a lot these days as well. For the last few months I’ve been starting every day with a workout followed by meditation and reflection. It’s been amazingly helpful at quieting my mind and calming my nervous energy.

    • Camille Styles May 13, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      That is such an awesome ritual, Nicole! There is something about the combo of physical exercise + mental reflection that sets the tone for the rest of the day, isn’t there? It is so easy for anxiety to take control when we don’t take time to do these things! Thanks for sharing – xo

  13. 13
    Sadye May 13, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I just had a perfect start to the morning today … one cat curled up on my lap, the other sleeping in his bed nearby, while I savored my coffee and egg muffins during a leisurely reading session.

  14. 14
    Anna Lou May 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Camille, words cannot express how much I love reading this post! I’ve been struggling recently about finding the time to calm my mind and be at peace. I’ve prayed for the longest time for God to speak to me, either through people, situations…anything! Turns out that I found the answer of my prayers through this blog post. Thank you for being authentic and truthful. Also, thank you for being an inspiration. I pray that God continues to use you to inspire millions of other women. God bless you and your beautiful family.

    From a great fan of yours, Anna Lou.

    • Camille Styles May 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks Anna Lou, that comment just brought tears to my eyes! I am so glad that you were encouraged and inspired by this post… words can’t express how much that means to hear. xoxo C

  15. 15
    Lovely Letters May 13, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    This is so on point and so in line with a post I did on Balancek not too long ago! Thank you for such honest and heartfelt words.

    xx Katie

  16. 16
    Katie Meyers / Meyers Styles May 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Camille, this post is so on point for me! As a new mom, it’s been really hard for me to balance family, baby, friends, work, community service… oh & also time for new hobbies! My husband has a high-stress job so we recently implemented a “no electronics” for 1 hr each night to truly unwind & focus on family. It made such a positive impact that I started doing it alone each morning too – just 10 mins w/ coffee of course 🙂 to look out the window & reflect on the things I’m most grateful for. Starting out the day this way puts the “unimportant” into perspective. Thanks for the other tips that I’ll have to try too!

  17. 17
    Anne Campbell May 13, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    LOVE this post, Camille!

  18. 18
    natashamlawler May 13, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    A lovely and inspiring post Camille! Thanks for reminding us to make a little time in our day for God and ourselves. And you are so right – the morning really is the only time it will actually happen!

  19. 19
    Annie May 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Waking up early has become such a vice of mine…my friends always ask how I do it, but the morning is the best part of the day to be quite honest!

  20. 20
    Jackie @ Hostess to Hostess May 13, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Umm, YES! This weekend my mom and grandmother came in town and it was so refreshing but when I got to thinking about how many emails I was missing it got me stressed out and then it got me thinking WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?! The same happened when I forgot my phone at home today. I need to take a big ol’ chill pill and take sometime for myself.

  21. 21
    Gail May 14, 2014 at 6:01 am

    What a wonderful post. I start my day with a cup of coffee. I’m not a busy person but still have to reflect on my day. Prayer is my meditation for the day.If I miss it in the morning my day just isn’t the same. I have to have my quiet times with God.Thank you for your wonderful words. <3

  22. 22
    Phuong May 14, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Love this post, Camille.

    I am a morning person. I can even get slightly depressed when it’s dark :’)

    I love how it feels in the morning, fresh and calm, and I know how the rest of my day goes depends very much on how I start the day so I’ve always raised at 5 or 6. I take some time in the bathroom, then warm up before going swimming/walking/cycling, and then breakfast at home before work. There was a period of time when I had a terribly stressful job, I would stick to bed in the morning for as long as I could, dreading the idea of going into the office, but that only made things worse.

    Your post reminded me of a wonderful feeling I had when a friend and I traveled to Bangkok. We stayed in a guesthouse room with no window. She’s one who loved sleeping so I would quietly get up and sneak out with my book. There was a plastic armchair outside and I was sitting there, knees against chest, reading and reflecting.

    Thank you for this great post.

    Love. Phuong

  23. 23
    Sara Palacios May 14, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I love this post and definitely feel myself tugged in several directions every single day. A few weeks back I actually did some soul searching and pondered ways to start my day off on a better track, and here is what I came up with:
    -Stay off my phone. I was never one to spend too much time on my phone first thing in the morning, but now I refuse to check any social media until later in the day. Not only is it a time suck, but I feel like sometimes, depending on what may be happening on social media, it can also really bring down my spirit, make me feel rushed, or send me into a panic. All of those things are no bueno first thing in the morning.
    -Be grateful and start my day with a simple thank you. I am grateful for so much these days but I think sometimes we forget how simple something like waking up can be taken for granted. So, that is usually the first thing I do now.
    -Use the previous evening to prep all snacks/lunch for the next day. As a mom to an almost 2 year old (eek, where has the time gone), mornings can be quite hectic. I find that planning and executing this small (yet time consuming task) can be quite the stress reliever.

    So far, the three items listed above have really helped me. I find that my day runs smoother and because I start my day off on a grateful, calm track, I tend to stay positive and not sweat the small stuff.

    Thanks for the great post Camille!


  24. 24
    Gi May 14, 2014 at 11:19 am

    What a lovely post!
    I’m in the process of creating an hearly morning schedule with God (Bible study and prayer). It’s not easy but it brings me a full day of blessings.
    Thank you from Portugal,

  25. 25
    Lily May 14, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I sure as hell never start mine early enough! but I totally think that when I get up with time to spare, the whole day is more relaxed. It might be a little more painful at the start, but it probably does good in the long run. Gotta get the snooze button further from my pillow 🙂

    x Lily

  26. 26
    Lauren Enriquez (@LNEnriquez) May 23, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Love this post! The consistent point that all of my spiritual directors (I’m Catholic) have stressed to me over the years is that I need to stop every day and spend time reflecting. I have never gotten good about it for more than a few months at a time — I always sabotage myself. And then you hit the nail on the head when you explained “contaminated time.” All of my time is contaminated now. I have a baby and a toddler, I’m a SAHM and I also work many hours per day as a freelancer. Between keeping the house in order, taking care of my kids and husband, and working, it’s not that I don’t have TIME for personal reflection, but I can never seem to quiet the contaminated thoughts. I sit down to pray and end up writing a to-do list. I’m inspired to get up and try again, though, after reading this.

  27. 27
    Desiree {CHIC COASTAL LIVING} May 26, 2014 at 9:15 am

    I love this post and it’s something I think about on a daily basis since my life has really been busy especially this last year with the growth of my blog. I also work full-time teaching third grade and that in itself has many stresses for me to contend with. Working hard trying to get my students to understand Math, Science and SS is at many times a difficult task and I even do stretching exercises with them between subjects. Now when it comes to my blog, it’s something I live and breath sometimes because I’m constantly thinking about what I can create next and I realized that I really need to make sure that God comes first in everything I do. When my thoughts and heart turn to Him I feel more relaxed and still. Be Still… That is a scripture that God gave me years ago when I lost a son when I was 6 months pregnant. I think it’s important what you said Camille to continue to make sure that we have our thoughts in check on what’s really important and make sure that we take time to Be Still and refresh ourselves with faith. God has been so good to me and I love spending quite moments thanking Him for His gifts in my life. I do this when I run a few times a week and every morning when I get up early. I have three boys and when everyone gets up all I can hear is sports center on TV. So waking up early (before my hubby and boys wake up) and drinking my freshly brewed cup of coffee is so relaxing to me. Hope you have a great weekend and it was so nice meeting you recently in Dallas. XOXO

    • Camille Styles May 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing Desiree — that is a really encouraging and heartfelt message. Loved meeting you too and hope to see you again soon! xoxo

  28. 28
    Jen August 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Very helpful tips! I’m happy to add those to mine! I actually posted something similar to this. Feel free to check it out here:
    Let me know your thoughts!


  29. 29
    Catherine August 12, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I love what you said about sticking to it even when you’re traveling!

    I used to have my morning routine down stat: drink lemon water, meditate, read, write a little, and workout. Now, I find myself never having enough time to squeeze it all in. I think ritual becomes boring to me after a while, and now I just need to switch it up somehow!