Episode 3: Cyclical Morning Routines for Success

Filed in All Episodes, Business Strategy, Emotional Intelligence — October 12, 2021

About the Episode:

Today on the Shamelessly Ambitious podcast in order to really round out this self care series that we have started with, it is vital that we talk about cyclical morning routines. I believe that when we are building our lives for success, it is fundamental that we’re looking through the lens of our biological blueprint, or what I like to call our cyclical blueprint. Morning routines are one of the really incredible assets that we can utilize to optimize our productivity, to maximize our energy, to ensure that we are really loving ourselves. So, today I’m sharing how your morning routines can shift to fit the phase of the cycle you’re in. Let’s dig in!

Topics Discussed:

  • What Ash is grateful for and how she’s honoring her current follicular phase
  • How morning routines optimize your productivity
  • The way your morning routine can and should change throughout your cycle
  • What living in alignment means to Ash (and how you can do it, too)
  • How finding your rhythms will help you ditch shame you may be feeling


Click here for a raw, unedited transcript of this episode

Ash McDonald (00:00):

Welcome back to the shamelessly ambitious podcast in order to really round out this self care series that we have started with it is vital, vital that we talk about cyclical morning routines. Yes, I am talking about developing morning routines that honor the phase that you’re in, which we will get into in a moment. It would literally make no sense for me not to talk about this. That being said, I want to start the way we always start with gratitude today. I am grateful for guest interviews. This is such a fun experience to start interviewing people. And I hope that what you gain from hearing these conversations is almost like a peek into a therapy office. That’s really what I want for you is for you to be able to almost be a fly on the wall. You ever have that feeling like I just really want to be a fly on the wall.

Ash McDonald (00:52):

I was telling Jake the other day, I just want to be a fly on the wall at our kids’ daycare. You know, your kids are like so different for other people than they are for you. I really want to see that without them knowing that I’m seeing that well, essentially what I want for you is to see what it looks like to have a really candid vulnerable, honest conversation about hard things, particularly when it comes to being ambitious, because we are here to become shamelessly ambitious. I E ridding ourselves to the shame that is acquired every dang day. So I’m so grateful for these conversations. I cried on all of them so far. I am crying all the time when I have these conversations. And I hope that if nothing else, what you experience is what I call the me too effect over and over and over again, which is essentially knowing that you, my friend are not alone.

Ash McDonald (01:42):

Okay. The other thing I think is really important to continue talking about is what phase I’m in. And right now I am sitting here steady in my fully clear phase, which means that my creative energy is on point. And this is exactly why I am batching some podcast. And I am doing content creation. I am a writing copy. I am doing new things that take a different level of energy and resources for me. I’m going harder in the gym. I am honoring the fact that my metabolism has shifted during this time. So I’m eating lighter, more refreshing foods, but also honoring the digestive support. My body really needs right now I’m eating things like Ken Bouchez and yogurts and sauerkrauts and things that have those natural probiotics and it am taking digestive enzymes. So I think it’s important to have these conversations, but even more so when we’re about to dig into your phases and cyclical morning routines.

Ash McDonald (02:38):

So I haven’t talked a lot about cycle thinking so far yet on this podcast, but you have got to know, particularly from the trailer that we are going to continue to dig deep into this framework, because at the end of the day, when we are building our lives out for set for success, it is fundamental that we’re looking through the lens of our biological blueprint or what I like to call our cyclical blueprint. And so morning routines are one of the really incredible assets that we can utilize to optimize our productivity, to maximize our energy, to ensure that we are really loving on ourselves. Well, however, what I have seen time and time again, is people utilizing these morning routines, particularly utilizing the ones that other people share. We’ve all heard it, right? Somebody who’s very successful that we really look up to saying this, this is the morning routine that is going to serve you.

Ash McDonald (03:31):

And you heard this on our podcast about the four major components of CEO self care about how we have to personalize this. It is not a one-stop shop, but to take it a step further, even outside of those four major components of self care that you heard on that podcast, it is important to recognize that our body, our biological blueprint plays a massive, massive role and, and how, excuse me, how we personalize things. Okay. So little quick recap here. When we’re talking about those four major components, I am referring to the inhale, which is the energy in things like breath, work, stillness, grounding, meditation, the exhale. This is energy out things like movement and physically shifting our energy within the inward, which is connectedness, journaling, mindset, work, prayer, really connecting to ourselves in the inside. And then the outward, which is that creativity, whether that’s dancing, singing, writing, reading, painting, cooking, whatever that can look like for you.

Ash McDonald (04:31):

Now, what I love to do the inhale and the inward I E the energy and the breath work, the grounding, the meditation, and the connectedness with myself, the journey, journaling mindset, work, prayer, those kinds of things. Those are pretty stagnant, no matter what I’m doing within my face. Okay. What changes based on my cycle or based on the phase that I’m in is specifically the exhale. I E the physical shifting of energy, the kind of movement that I’m going to employ as well as the outward, which is that creativity, the kind of creativity that I’m gonna utilize in addition, and this isn’t often what’s talked about when it comes to morning routines, but because we’re talking about the morning, another thing that really shifts for me is whether or not I’m doing this early in the morning, I’m doing it later in the morning. So the timeframe, because there are certain phases where we actually need more sleep, or we need more slowness, or we’re just not really going to thrive at that point.

Ash McDonald (05:24):

And what I’ve seen time and time again, is somebody will take that makeshift. You know, that that morning routine that somebody said, this is the one, this is the one that’s going to change your life. And it feels really good for a couple of days and that it really doesn’t feel good. And I don’t want that for you. I want you to feel good, right? Alignment to me, the true blue definition of alignment is having both strategy and flow in your days, knowing what you as a woman need and how you show up best while also trusting your intuition to do what feels good and giving yourself permission for what doesn’t. Okay. So let’s break this down. That menstrual phase. This is when we were bleeding, obviously, because energy is so low and because our body is actually doing a ton of work on the inside, it is imperative that we honor the fact that maybe that early morning alarm clock isn’t ideal, right?

Ash McDonald (06:21):

So maybe we do part of our morning routine in the morning. Maybe we do the other part later in the afternoon. Maybe it doesn’t have to be this perfect, concise schedule. Okay. In addition to this, during our menstrual phase, we must capitalize on greater brain connectivity. Okay. We have increase of about 25% between the right and left brain hemispheres. That allows for a little bit more of that reflectiveness, that ability to come up with ideas. There’s some really cool stuff that’s happening within your brain. So when I am in menstrual, I am loving the inhale that grounding, that stillness, that breathwork is so incredibly powerful for me. You can choose whichever makes sense for you ultimately, and I think I’ve shared this. You want to have a list, right? So I want you to write a list. I want you to write a list for inhale.

Ash McDonald (07:11):

I want you to write a list for exhale. I want you to write a list for inward and a list for outward. And then I want you to identify which ones go really well with which phases, right? Which ones go really well with which phases, as I mentioned with inhaling with the breath work, the stillness, the grounding, the meditation, that energy in component, there’s really no wrong answer when it comes to menstrual. But when we get over to exhale that energy out, we have to remember that during this time, our energy is really low. And the more exertion you put, dang it. What was that sound? The more exertion that you put on your body, the harder it is for your body to recover and to continue on with what it’s doing inside. Okay. And so you have to think of it like this. You’re already letting out a bunch of cortisol, which is our stress hormone during menstrual.

Ash McDonald (08:04):

So it just raises naturally during this time, well, working out like very intense physical activity also releases a ton of cortisol. And when we have cortisol in our body, I E that stress hormone, what happens on the inside is that affects our hormones. It’s, it’s kind of like the big, bad hormone, and not in a bad, I don’t even want to say it’s bad hormone, but it is like the big boss. Okay. And so when cortisol is released, every other hormone basically puts us up, puts a stop on things and doesn’t do what it’s meant to do, what it should be doing. This in fact impacts everything about your cycle. Okay. So remembering that your energy being low, it’s a really good time for long stretches or a walk as a part of your physical shift of energy. Okay. When it comes to creativity for me, I love just a good old fashioned brain dump.

Ash McDonald (08:53):

I also love scripting. My brain has that intensive connectivity. And so scripting for me is the act of writing as though something already took place. I do this for quarterly planning, business planning, but I also do it for like vacations. I do it for when my kiddos started school for the first time I sat down and I scripted as though it had already happened that already started school. Everything had already happened. What this allows you to do is you’re writing from your subconscious and you’re writing it out. I always do this like pen to paper, modality of five minute timer, pen to paper cannot lift it because sometimes it takes a minute for your brain to catch up with what you’re trying to do. Not as much in menstrual, I will add that it feels really organic. It feels really organic and menstrual to journal.

Ash McDonald (09:37):

And again, this is the piece of cyclical alignment that I love so much is that it sets us free. There are times when journaling doesn’t feel good. I feel like I cannot figure it out. Right. Have you ever had that? Where you just, you just can’t do it and it doesn’t feel right. And if you don’t know what I’m teaching you right now, you’re likely thinking, gosh, why does this work for everybody else? Why does it seem so easy for everybody else to journal? Well, it’s easy for them at times. Just like it’s easy for you at times. So I love journaling during menstrual phase. Okay. Then we come to fully clear, fully clear. We have a greater ability to learn and retain new things. This is a great time for early morning routines because we have a lot of that beautiful energy. It’s also a great time for creative work.

Ash McDonald (10:25):

I love using this time to get creative, whether it is, and again, we’re using that outward piece, the outward component of self-care. So I love dancing during this time. I also love actually giving myself permission to do some creative work within my business, because that is a, that’s a high point for me. It’s a high point for me to get creative with content. It’s a high point for me to get creative with a program that I’m putting together, right? So again, setting yourself free. It is also a really great time within that exhale within the exhale component of self-care to allow movement, to be a little bit more intensive, right? To allow yourself to really go after it, whether that’s a bootcamp boot camp class, or it’s, you know, I love working with my personal trainer in an intensive ways during this time, this is also a good time to go for a run.

Ash McDonald (11:14):

You have more of that energy. Okay. Then we move into oscillation when energy is still very, very high, but also you’ve got this testosterone spike that allows for you to have those early morning, morning intensive. So my morning routine during our population is a little bit more structured than the other ones. I’m not feeling like I need to flow as much. In fact, both [inaudible] and operation, you are organically and more naturally in what’s called the masculine energy, which we’ve talked about before, right? This mask and energy, which is having more structure going from one thing to the next, being a little bit more kind of in touch with exactly what you want to do, as opposed to the menstrual and luteal phases. When you want to be a little bit more flow, a little bit more, ease, a little bit more of allowing what feels good to feel good.

Ash McDonald (12:02):

So flick there and oblation for me, they both have a pretty strict, I’m going to spend 45 minutes from five to 5 45. Yes. I have to get up that early. My kids get up super duper early. I’m going to spend time from five to 5 45 doing these specific things. I like have it mapped out. I’m very, very clear cut on it. Right. Whereas menstrual and moody all it’s, I’m going to do this around 9:00 AM and I’m going to kind of feel what feels good. I’m going to pull from my lists as opposed to deciding in advance what it should look like. Quote, unquote, should look like. I literally allow it to be a flow. Right, right. So important. So again, ovulation is a good time for lots of energy exertion. It’s a good time to allow yourself to be creative in the sense of singing and dancing and writing.

Ash McDonald (12:52):

And whatever’s going to make the most sense reading for me doesn’t feel as good during ovulation and Flint. Claire it’s simply does not feel as good. And if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, but how do I know these things? My friend, let me just pause and say the most important thing. The greatest gift that you can ever give to yourself is to get to know yourself. Yes. Get to know yourself. Literally take some time every day, starting now, if you haven’t already to track yourself and not the stereotypical tracking when you bleed and when you don’t bleed, but literally looking at your energy dynamics. When do you feel really extroverted? When do you feel really introverted? When do you feel sexual with your partner? When do you feel, what are the things that you feel? And when, right, this is how I got to know my menstrual phase, my full clear phase, my ovulation phase, my luteal phase, right.

Ash McDonald (13:46):

It was important for me to really develop an understanding of my personal cyclical blueprint. Okay. And so then we move into luteal phase. Now luteal phase is moving back into that feminine energy back into more flow, being mindful of needing more alone time. This my luteal phase is like chock full of routines, because I know that my cup runs empty very easy during luteal phase. Okay. So my morning, quote, unquote morning routines, they typically happen a little bit later again, and they’re slow. Right. And what it looks like for me usually is sleeping in because we need, we actually scientifically need more sleep during our luteal phase is I’m sleeping in a little bit more. I’m not having that early alarm clock. While again, hear me, my kids wake up so early sleeping in for me is like five 30, but still I’m sleeping in.

Ash McDonald (14:35):

I’m actually going to bed earlier the night before in order to ensure that I’m getting that extra sleep, we need about 30 to 45 minutes more sleep every night when you’re in your luteal phase, this is important to know, okay. So I’m sleeping in and I’m getting my kids off to school. And then I come home and that’s when I do my morning routine, I actually have an hour blocked off and it’s something very slow. Again. I’m still following the major components. Now this is the actual routine I wanted to give you a peek into to see exactly what it would look like for me, as I mentioned, it’s slow and flow and I do have my lists. Okay. I’ve got my inhale list. I’ve got my exhale list. I’ve got my inward list and my outward list. So imagine I’m coming home. I’ve just dropped off my kids.

Ash McDonald (15:19):

I am recognizing that it is my one hour self-care block. This is, this is my quote unquote morning routine time. And I’m gonna start on the inhale for me. What feels good during luteal is typically just stillness. It’s not anything extra. It’s not trying to do breath work or trying to do meditation, or even the effort of grounding. My energy is low. I’m just going to sit. I’m just going to say kind of just sit and have complete silence. This is so valuable for me. Okay. A lot of people don’t chalk this up to an actual piece of their routine, but it is, that is energy in, okay. Then for my energy out, it is typically mobility and stretching. So I’ve sat still for a little bit. I really just sat in the moment. I’ll typically grab like a warm drink as I’m just sitting there and then I’ll start to stretch my body, move the way it feels good.

Ash McDonald (16:16):

Have a little bit of that mobility work again. I probably spent 15 to 20 minutes here. Very slow movement. I love my chirp roller. I love my vibrating foam roller. I love having these little tools, my little yoga ball that I can rub on and kind of give myself a massage. I’m really just loving on myself. That’s the physical shifting of energy through my body. Okay. Then I move into the inward component of self care and this is connectedness. Journaling. Doesn’t feel really good to me during Lydia because I kind of go down some real yucky streamlines of beliefs and narratives. That don’t feel really good. However, if that is really, really where I’m at, where I’m just in it in believing some false yucky stuff, whether that’s, I’m not good enough or I, I don’t have enough. I don’t have enough done today. I haven’t gotten enough done today or whatever the case may be.

Ash McDonald (17:05):

I might rewrite those, right. I might really sit with what’s true and what’s not true. But most of the time for me, it is just quiet, silent conversation with myself. This is the inward connectedness. So I’m actually just affirming myself. You’re smart. You’ve got this. You’re not alone. You’re where you’re supposed to be. Life doesn’t happen to you. It happens for you. You can imagine this space. Like I usually have music playing at the candle. It just quiet newness. Okay. And then I move into the outward. And for me outward during Ludo is almost always reading. My creativity is reading during this time. And some people might not necessarily chalk that up to creativity, but for me, it, because it’s getting the juices flowing in my brain. But allowing me to also step into an alternative reality, if you will. I love reading for fun during ludial ironically, I’m not sitting there reading for personal development.

Ash McDonald (18:01):

I’m escaping a little bit in a space. That’s going to allow me to fill my cup. So I wanted to give you a tiny little demonstration of what it would look like in each phase. But ultimately I want to invite you to create your morning routines based on your phases, right? So whether you’re like me and you want to just have these lists to pull from which I’m telling you is so valuable, or you actually want to write out, this is my menstrual phase routine. This is my full clear phase routine. Whatever’s going to be feel aligned. But I want to remind you, there is both strategy and understanding what’s happening in your body. What’s happening in your mind, what’s happening within you, but there’s also flow, right? Knowing that the menstrual and the luteal is more feminine and it calls for you to just be inquisitive with yourself, to ask questions, what’s going to feel good right now.

Ash McDonald (18:52):

What’s going to truly refill my cup because the thing is, if I was trying to do this morning routine that somebody else said worked for them, and let’s say it was like, you know, do a 20 minute bootcamp class it’s super, super intensive and then take a cold shower and then drink this specific drink. And then whatever the case may be read 10 pages of personal development. If I threw that in during luteal, it probably wouldn’t made me feel very good about myself. And I was telling my clients like picture, you’ve got this cup, this giant cup, and you’re walking around and yes, it’s the cliche. Your cup is full, right? But during luteal you kind of have to really be conscious of that. There’s basically a little hole in the bottom and it is draining out because you have lower energy and you need to take radical responsibility for your life by either plugging the hole or refilling the cup, which means not doing whatever anybody else has worked for them.

Ash McDonald (19:50):

And consciously looking inward to know what works well for you. Cyclical morning routines have changed the game. Cyclical, blueprinting in general has changed the game for me because I’m no longer living a life of sheds of what other people think I ought to do or saying works for them and living a life that’s based on what works for me. My calendar reflects what works for me. What feels good for me? Right? I know that I’m more masculine during flicker and ovulation. I know that I’m going to need a plan. I need to know exactly what I’m going to do, and I’m going to set forth to do it. But I know that during menstrual and luteal, I, I want to go with the flow. I want to pull from what feels good. And I want to feel my best, right? I think fundamentally the most powerful thing about learning about your phases, learning about your own personal feminine flow and building out your own cyclical blueprint is that you ditch the shame.

Ash McDonald (20:46):

The shame that comes with constantly believing something is wrong with you, and that you are alone in that. And my friend, I want you to hear me loud and clear today. There is no perfect morning routine that lives in, exists out in that world. I don’t care what anybody says, but there is perfect rhythms for you. They must be created by you though. You have to go inward and really figure out what those are going to look like, right? And understanding how your body works is truly step one. You deserve to ditch the shame you don’t have to have every day look the same. In fact, nothing should ever look the same day after day, you are a beautiful, feminine being. And that means that you’ve got ebbs and flows. My sister, you’ve got ebbs and flows and that’s a beautiful, wonderful thing to be grateful for. And I’m so grateful for you here. I’m grateful for my phases. I’m grateful to know that sometimes going crazy and dancing and loud music and workouts and all the things feel really good. And I’m really glad to know that sometimes sitting quietly doing nothing, saying nothing, expecting nothing is going to fill my cup best. So go out there, create your own cyclical morning routines, your own healing lists that come from those four major components of the inhale, the exhale inward and outward. You, my friend deserve this. You deserve to live shamelessly ambitious.


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I am the definition of duality—I swear like a sailor and break rules like it’s my job, but I also hold incredible space for my clients and work my ass off to help them achieve the success they’re after (but faster).

My background in counseling and my experience founding three multi-6-figure businesses gives me a unique perspective on what it means to show up and serve as an ethical and successful CEO. Leaning on my experiences, along with the experiences of the hundreds of women I’ve been honored to work with, I offer founders a psych-backed and human-first approach to scaling their legacies—both in and out of the office. 

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to anything, but especially business. Because at the foundation of any profitable, sustainable, ethically sound business is one thing: humans being humans. And to do anything without first considering the human behind the action (i.e., with intention and vulnerability) is to remove our most powerful predictor of success—ourselves.

Around here, you’ll find a personalized and multidimensional client experience paired with a few tastefully dropped fucks. You’ll also find a new way of being in business that’s sustainable, ethical, and built around your life (not the other way around).

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