4 Steps for Starting Your Day the Right Way

July 19, 2011 | 39 comments

You know what should be against the law? Having to deal with insomnia while you have a newborn. Last night I woke to feed the baby around 3:30 AM, and she went right back to sleep. I, however, did not. I would describe what went through my head as I lay awake glaring at the ceiling, but Simcha Fisher did it for me. That’s what it was like — complete with distress about rhubarb.

Anyway, after a couple hours of the baby sleeping soundly while I engaged in the downward spiral of “I can’t sleep!” –> “I’m so mad that I can’t sleep!” –> “Now I really can’t sleep because I’m too mad to sleep!”, I finally drifted off. And ten minutes later my three-year-old appeared at my bedside demanding breakfast and a morning cartoon. I got up, shuffled behind her, taking note of everything I hated as we went through the house. I got her a stupid granola bar and some stupid milk, flopped down on the couch, and proceeded to systematically ponder everything that’s bad about my life, followed by some ruminations on all the ways that today would undoubtedly be a terrible day.

Let me just tell you, it’s not the most pleasant way to greet the morning. So I thought that for today’s post I’d do another installment of our year with St. Francis de Sales, this time where he offers four practical tips for how to not be a grouchy troll like me. I think I need to print this one out and tape it to my bathroom mirror, with a large note at the top that says “SHUT UP AND DO THIS:”

St. Francis de Sales’ Four Tips for
Starting Your Day the Right Way

1. Give thanks

Adore God profoundly and thank him for the grace of preserving you during the preceding night, and implore his pardon if you committed any sin during the course of it.

2. Recall the goal

Remember that the present day is given to you in order to gain the future day of eternity, and make a firm purpose to employ the day well for this intention.

3. Make a plan

Anticipate what tasks, transactions, and occasions for serving God you may meet on this day and to what temptations of offending him you will be exposed, whether by anger, vanity or some other irregularity. By a holy resolution prepare yourself to make the best use of the means that will be offered to you to serve God and advance in devotion. On the other hand, carefully prepare to avoid, resist and overcome whatever may be encountered that is opposed to your salvation and God’s glory.

It is not sufficient simply to make this resolution; you must also prepare means of putting it into practice. For example, if I foresee that I will have to discuss some matter with a man who is emotional and prone to anger, I will not only resolve to keep from giving him offense but I will think of pleasant words to prevent his anger or get the assistance of someone who can keep him in good humor. If I foresee an opportunity to visit a sick person I will arrange the time and the comforts and helps I can bring to him. So also for the rest of such things.

4. Ask God for help

This done, humble yourself in the presence of God and acknowledge that by yourself you can do none of the the things you have decided on, whether of avoiding evil or of doing good. As though holding your heart in your hands, offer it along with all your good purposes to his Divine Majesty, beseeching him to take it under his protection and strengthen it so that it may turn out successfully in his service. Do this by such unspoken words as the following or their like: “Lord, here is this wretched heart of mine, which through your goodness has conceived of many good affections. Alas, it is too weak and miserable to do the good that it desires to do unless you impart your heavenly blessing. For the purpose I humbly beg your blessing, O merciful Father, through the merits of the passion of your Son, in whose honor I consecrate this day and all the remaining days of my life.” Invoke our Lady, your guardian angel, and the saints that they may assist you in this effect.

All these spiritual acts must be made briefly and fervently and if possible before leaving your room, so that by means of this exercise, whatever you do throughout the day may be watered by God’s blessing. I beg you never to omit this exercise.

[Subtitles and emphasis mine.]

There you go! Four tips for getting the day off to the best start from a Doctor of the Church. Now, if anyone needs me, I’m going to go see if I can interest my children in the Watch Mommy Take a Nap game.


  1. Alishia Hanson

    Oh, how my flesh doth fail me in this exact same way! And the words of St. Francis doth spank me and put me to bed.

  2. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    I commend you for choosing to post something spiritually enriching when sleep deprivation has left you wanting an uninterrupted nap more than anything else. I think, sometimes, the Lord grants us a fuzzy, tired day when seeing things for what they are might otherwise flip us out completely. Fortunately, He’s certainly given you a sense of humor to get through the mommy-zombie days.

  3. Charlotte (Matilda)

    My kids are older so they are more willing to play the Mommy’s Napping Game especially if it means free time for them to go off and do whatever they want to do. Unfortunately, thanks to pregnancy induced nasal morphing, it is often followed up with a play by play of just how loud Mommy snored. The color commentary from the 7 year old is really great for the ego, let me tell ya!

  4. Tiffany in Topeka

    Thank you, thank you, Thank you!!! I’m printing this and taping it to the bathroom mirror right NOW!!! 🙂

    I guess I needed that! ~Tiffany

  5. Sara in D.C.

    I don’t know how you do it! Hats off to you, Jen! And thank you St. Francis.

  6. L. L. Kooyer

    As a veteran of many sleepless nights over the years, I learned the best way to beat insomnia is to pray. If I fall asleep praying it’s good. If I remain awake praying it’s still good. Either way is a small victory.

    • Carriede

      Yes! If I’m having trouble falling asleep, I start praying a rosary with my fingers. Often times I won’t make it passed the first decade, and I’ve never made it passed the third. Then I try to finish it up sometime during the next day.

  7. Erika Ahern

    Brrrr! Your opening salvo makes my skin crawwwllll. I, too, am copying this and sticking it to my bathroom mirror. Stupid bathroom mirror in the stupid, dirty bathroom. Gloria Patri…

  8. Christina

    I love that game!! We women should add a number 5: Ask your husband/mother/friend for help. When I finally realized I needed to do that, life got a little bit easier. Prayers on the way for the whole family!

  9. Javier (JCA)

    The fourth point is a very important one! It is a good antidote against Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, heresies widespread in the modern world.

  10. Christy from fountains of home

    Oh I’ve had insomnia after having my babies too and I think its the worst possible plague upon a mother! I remember weeping for the fact that I couldn’t fall asleep and yet my sweet 2 week old would go right back to sleep after nursing. I of course blamed all those ridiculous wacko nursing hormones.

    And because this and just having 3 babies has happened to me I’ve changed my prayers from-“Lord please let me get lots of sleep tonight”-to-“let whatever sleep I get tonight be enough for tomorrow.” And I think just changing the prayer has helped me mentally, plus it really does work, sometimes I don’t know how I’ll make it through the day and I somehow get through it not too badly.

    St. Francis tips are awesome! I need to follow them!

  11. jen

    does the “watch mommy take a nap” game work? i have a two year old and i could really use a nap.

  12. Nicole C

    I love this little reminder! I’m going to have to tape the same note on my mirror. Although I find that after a time, I end up just looking at my reflection around the note, instead of actually reading it daily. *sigh*

    • Eugenia

      Nicole, I spit my coffee out laughing after reading your post! 🙂

  13. VN

    Hi, just wondering whether you caught Drew Marianis show a couple of weeks ago where he was talking about a phenomenon of people both catholic and protestant, reporting that they wake up at 3 am and they either feel immense peace or agitation and that if we do wake up we should pray because that is the hour when satanists perform their rituals. It was a very interesting show and i suggest you hear it! God bless you, I LOVE your blog!

  14. priest's wife

    St Francis de Sales is a favorite of mine— I TRY (and usually don’t succeed…) to start each day by saying SERVIAM- The Latin makes it seem so much more serious!

  15. Jenna

    I needed this today. Thank you. I wish I could have it posted on my mirror! I’ll have to do that!

    Also, if your kids get sick of that game, you could always try playing “Who Can Stay Quiet the Longest?”


  16. Becky

    I found myself giggling while reading this. “Stupid granola bar, stupid milk.” I can so relate! And here I thought I was the only who got angry when I couldn’t fall asleep, thus making myself lose even more sleep. And yes, I can relate to the kid at the bed demanding their breakfast!

    At least you were able to put a positive spin on it!

    Great post!

  17. Maureen

    I simply adore you. I’m forwarding this to my husband. He and I both need your words. Thank you. Again.

  18. Mike G

    I will take these ideas to heart. There is also good commentary on Catholic teaching, news and issues at http://www.catholicurrent.com/#/.

  19. Lynn

    I laughed so hard when I read your post that people around me must have thought I was insane. I bet your kids are grateful to have such a cool Mommy (if not now, they will be when they are a little older)! Although I do not have kids, I have been suffering from a bit of insomnia myself. I was so cranky this morning that I bit off my sister’s head on my way out the door this morning. After calming down I realized that I was letting every day stress get to me and promised myself to mend my ways. This means eating better, exercising every day, going to bed earlier, and most importantly, praying more. I’m printing out the St. Francis de Sales’ four tips and will use them daily – your timing is perfect! BTW, do you have any suggestions for evening prayers?

  20. klh57

    I could “so” relate to your morning! My days with “little ones” are long gone but I used to be that tired mommy and I am such a grouch before my first cup of coffee! Thank you so much for this post – I am going to print it off also – and, you might have a little one like I did: she was enchanted with Fantasia! I could take a nap and she would watch the entire movie (joy!).

  21. Debbie

    Your article is very good. I try to look on the “bright” “God” side of things. I helps us not take out things on our familiesl.

  22. Kimberly

    Thank you for this! My babies are two and one now, but neither of them are great sleepers. They go to bed on their own fairly easily, but they don’t require a lot of sleep. And I have terrible insomnia, so my sleep routine is usually limited to 4-6 hours a night or less.

    I’ll keep St. Francis’ words in mind tomorrow when I have to wake up early for a meeting! Praying that you get a better night’s sleep tonight!

  23. Penny

    I have been searching for this for a few weeks now – something basic to prop up my easily-overwhelmed faith in those first few moments on waking, bleary-eyed and grouchy, to another episode of groundhog day.

    Thank you.

  24. elizabeth

    I particularly like the “stupid granola bar and stupid milk” part. I promise you I was moping around this morning in the exact same frame of mind, all the while knowing I was acting like a spoiled brat, but unable (or unwilling) to stop. Thank you dear Jen and dear St. Francis for these words to live by!

    And I do believe there is something sacred about sleep. Flannery O’Connor (my bff in the communion of saints) said something about associating sleep (its peace and sweetness) with the Blessed Mother–I totally feel that when I’ve had a good night of sleep. I recently heard that in some parts of the world the fourth Glorious Mystery is known as the “Dormition of the Blessed Virgin”–I like to think she was assumed during a peaceful nap:)

  25. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I have sooooo been there! It’s a vicious cycle and was hard for me to break out of (although laying off the postpartum ice cream and adding a stroll around the block did seem to help; or at least were contemporaneous if not causal). Praying for a good night’s sleep soon.

  26. Jocelyne

    Thank you, Jen, I really needed this today. After a looooong night and far too little sleep, I dragged myself out of bed for the first diaper change of the day. He peed on me. I burst into tears. Daddy (also sleep deprived), had to change his sleeper while mommy struggled to regain her equanimity. I love my baby and I love being a mom, but there are occasional moments when I feel like I just can’t cope with one more thing, no matter how minor.

  27. rose

    Keep in mind that Jesus died at 3:00- and should you be awakened at that time (a.m.), pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or your favorite prayers..
    Every day, 3:00 is Jesus’ greatest hour of mercy, and we need to pray and thank Him for loving us so very much that He gave up his life for us..

  28. Margo

    My mother has seven kids and I remember how well she handled everything from changing diapers to cleaning and cooking and bedtime stories. This St. Francis de Sales advice is invaluable for mothers with large families or really anyone who simply needs a boost to start their day off in the right direction!

  29. Beth

    You know what’s crazy? This list works for atheists too. Minus the God part in #4, its all extremely practical advise. Be thankful for what you have. Remember what your goals are. Plan out how to achieve them. Seek help from those you love.

  30. Marco


    Thanks for writing such an excellent post! I so needed that. I was so inspired by your post that I posted it on my blog.

    In Christ,


  31. Kate J

    Printing this out too. I remember living thru years of this. I still suffer insomnia, lately because of the 27 y/o moving out (again) and not living according to how she was raised. When I am awake against my will in the middle of the night, a Rosary or Chaplet is always a good idea.

  32. Liesl

    I can’t even imagine how exhausting that would be… thanks for the tips though!

    This past month, I’ve tried to have one of my first thoughts be of God in the morning when I wake up – just a “Please help me to live this day for you.” The days that I remember to pray that when I wake are usually much better than those I forget!

  33. Eugenia

    “…taking note of everything I hated as we went through the house. I got her a stupid granola bar and some stupid milk, flopped down on the couch, and proceeded to systematically ponder everything that’s bad about my life, followed by some ruminations on all the ways that today would undoubtedly be a terrible day.” LOL!!

    Thank you for finding enough time and energy to make others laugh. 🙂

  34. Jess

    Oh this is SO good! I am printing this to keep in front of my face in the mornings! Oh and I have had so many nights like the one you described! My babies always woke up at 3:30- and left me awake and thinking about every negative thing in my life!

  35. Ilda Kinkelaar

    Great article with great information. I agree with the first tip that you have stated here, thank God for the preceding night that you have and for the another that he gave. Asking God for help, the knowledge and wisdom is the best tool ever. God Bless you more!

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