Four top healthcare practitioners tell us how they begin their day

From breakfast to yoga to paddleboarding, Ciara McDonnell, an avid morning swimmer herself, asks four top healthcare practitioners how they begin their day.

Four top healthcare practitioners tell us how they begin their day

From breakfast to yoga to paddleboarding, Ciara McDonnell, an avid morning swimmer herself, asks four top healthcare practitioners how they begin their day.EVERY morning without fail, I meet my friend at 6am at our local beach and we swim. It started as a revolt against the seemingly constant sludge of fatigue that was plaguing us after a winter full of comfort food and cosy fires, but it quickly became an essential part of our day.

While we bob along, we chat and laugh and unburden our worries. It’s quiet, and the birds are chirping, and when we go home we are calm and collected and ready for the onslaught of the day.

I asked four healthcare practitioners how they like to start their day, and whether getting out of bed on the right side makes their day all the better.


Paula Mee is a consultant dietitian, past president of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, and is a bestselling author. Her latest book is called Mediterranean Mood Food, published by Gill Books.

I do yoga on a Wednesday and a Friday morning, and I won’t have breakfast beforehand, but on the other days I start with a similar breakfast each day. Most days of the week, I will eat porridge, or overnight oats with some type of berry and either some natural or Greek yoghurt.

If I know that I am going to be rushing, I’ll make a chia fruit pot, like the banana and passionfruit chia fruit pots in my book — they are so handy to bring in the car.

I find myself to be a lot more relaxed in terms of what I eat for breakfast these days. I used to be very regimented when I was younger, whereas now I listen to my body.

If I’m really hungry, I’ll have toast with my porridge, but generally speaking I find it to fill me up and set me up for the day.

I believe that a breakfast will set you up for the day. My breakfast allows me to focus and concentrate to the best of my ability.

In terms of your metabolism, your body will deal with those calories far better than if you had fasted all morning and had a large lunch.

It is better to have your calories earlier in the day if possible. Your metabolism is spiked in the morning and it’s a good time — if you’re able to, do have breakfast.


Dr Mary Ryan is a consultant endocrinologist at Bon Secours Hospital Limerick at Barringtons and Aut Even Hospital Kilkenny and a senior lecturer at the University of Limerick Medical School.

I get up at a quarter to seven every morning, put on the porridge, and then I call my three children, twin boys aged 15 and my daughter aged 12, to wake up.

While the porridge is cooking, I run for ten minutes on a mat in my kitchen; I’m a firm believer in doing some high intensity exercise in the morning. I go for a quick shower, get everyone out the door by quarter to eight for school drop-offs, and then I am in work for 9am.

I drink water and lemon with my porridge in the morning.

I turn off the radio and try to take ten minutes of quiet time to find where I am.

In my practice I am dealing constantly with issues of hormone imbalance and burnout and one of the things I tell my patients is to get organised the night before.

I tell them that when the children are old enough — that is, from seven and up — to leave out everything they need for the morning. In the evening, my little girl will leave out the porridge pot with the water, and the children will all organise their bags and their clothes the night before.

Women come into me completely burned out — they are doing everything for everyone in their family, so I always encourage them to rope the children into helping; it’s about empowering your children and taking some stress off your shoulders.


Dr Maeve O’Connell is a nurse, midwife and lecturer at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland —Bahrain. She recently finished her PhD at the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT Centre) at University College Cork, focusing on fear of childbirth in Irish women.

I have been living and working in Bahrain for the last number of months and the lifestyle is very tropical. I start my day with a session of Yoga With Adriene, a YouTube yoga teacher who I love.

It’s like pick-and-mix yoga; there is a class to suit all ailments and mood.

I started paddleboarding in the lagoon here when I moved, and I absolutely love it. The sea here is so much saltier than home and you float so well!

I paddleboard at ten every morning, and from there, it’s straight into work. Starting my day like this tends to make me focus on gratitude and starting the day in a positive way, and it gives me a boost for the day.

Nurses are very active by nature of their job and now that I’m not on the wards anymore I really miss racing around, so exercise fills the gap really well for me.

For me, mind and body are linked. My most productive times have been when my mind is as focused on my body as it is on my brain. The last two months of my PhD my days began with a yoga session every day and I have never been as focused in my life.

That said, it’s important to recognise that we go through different periods in our lives, and we are not all going to want or need to be doing this every day. I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation.

I think if you can fit in a few minutes of exercise in the morning, then try it — it will absolutely start you on the right track.


Dr Benjamin Martin is the founder of Optimal Chiropractic ( in Ballincollig and is one of seven chiropractors in Ireland rated at an advanced proficiency level in Activator Methods, a gentle, low-force approach to chiropractic care.

I turn my phone to airplane mode before I got to sleep each night, and I try to keep it that way for the first two hours of every morning. I get up at 6am, and start the day with some water, to rehydrate, and then go into some resistance training or some yoga or I go for a run.

The first half an hour of my day is always activity-based, then I’ll do 10 or 20 minutes of guided meditation.

I follow this with a gratitude journal, where I simply write down three things that I’m grateful for, and then I go into my affirmations, which is my brain trick to set my day up in a positive manner.

Affirmations could be business-related or they could be about personal stuff. For me, it’s about reinforcing to myself that I am a great communicator, that I’m good at what I do; I have about 20 different ones that I read every morning and it is really helpful.

I know that not everyone wants to put aside an hour each morning for this kind of stuff, but it’s about setting some time for yourself every day.

So, it could be going to bed half an hour earlier and getting up a little earlier to have some quiet time in the morning to focus. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you find time for yourself in the morning — that’s the key, I think.

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