How This 34-Year-Old Entrepreneur and Cancer Survivor Built Her Morning Routine for ‘Everyday Nourishment'

Courtesy Liya Shuster-Bier

For Liya Shuster-Bier the year she turned 30 was harrowing.

In January of that year, she got diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After six rounds of chemotherapy, she discovered in October that it had come back. The following year she had both radiation and a stem cell transplant, an aggressive treatment that left her unable to take on simple activities like walking and reading.

Now 34, Shuster-Bier's three years in remission. Though she hopes to be rid of the cancer for good, one thing those days of recovery left her with was an attitude shift toward life. A longtime workaholic in the field of finance, she realized that "we are literally spending the vast majority of our awake hours and the vast majority of our time at work," she says. "For what?"

"Can we do less of that and still accomplish the thing?" she said she thought.

In 2019, soon after she went into remission, Shuster-Bier founded Alula, a marketplace of products helping cancer patients manage symptoms of their treatment like nausea and headaches. Though the life of an entrepreneur is traditionally hectic and nonstop, Shuster-Bier has stuck to the attitude she developed after her treatment. For her, life is about "everyday nourishment" first.

Here's how the entrepreneur structures her morning routine for success.

She wakes up 'whenever the sun wakes up my body'

Shuster-Bier wakes up naturally every morning, sometime between 5:30 and 7:45 a.m., depending on the season. "I honestly wake up whenever the sun wakes up my body," she says.

Shuster-Bier had long used an alarm but found she was having trouble sleeping during the pandemic. "I was waking up. I was constantly tired," she says. A sleep coach ultimately suggested she try waking up without one.

The transition was scary, says Shuster-Bier. But she's adopted several tactics that help, like going to bed early, around 10 p.m., every night. And she's found she's far more awake during the day as a result.

'I try to walk 50% of my daily step count in the morning'

Shuster-Bier then goes outside to take her dog on a long walk. Her goals are twofold.

First, "it supports your circadian rhythm to get up into sunlight the minute you wake up," she says. Studies support this theory, and the practice helps her wake up naturally every morning.

And second, it ensures she's getting exercise and movement in her day. "I try to walk 50% of my daily step count in the morning," she says.

"There's some research that suggests that rhythm can help to center people and calm them down," Chanel Dokun, a life planner and relationship expert based in New York City, previously told CNBC Make It. "So, when you walk and you get a rhythm and fresh air, it has a really good effect."

'I try to call a friend every single morning'

Shuster-Bier also takes advantage of the long morning walk to connect with someone she loves. "I try to call a friend every single morning," she says, "usually between 8:30 and 9:15." Sometimes she texts her parents and sister as well.

"Building in time for that intimacy and that feeling of belonging and that feeling of love" has become a priority since her bouts with cancer, says Shuster-Bier. Taking five minutes to text a loved one has been proven to increase your happiness.

Shuster-Bier then cooks her breakfast, drinks her coffee, catches up on the news and logs on for a day of back-to-back meetings at 10 a.m.

All those done, "I can come into work very resourced to be there for my team," she says.

This story has been updated to reflect more accurate information about a circadian rhythm study. An earlier version misstated its origin.

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