The rituals we practise can ultimately affect how we set ourselves up for the day or for the night ahead. Rituals, habits, practises, whatever you want to call them, they are the little things that we do that make us feel good. More relaxed, more energised and a lot less stressed. Sometimes I find myself racing around, grabbing a late lunch, trying to fit everything into one working day, coming home feeling exhausted, cooking dinner and then flopping into bed, my head still racing.
Over the years, I’ve collected a few daily rituals that really make a difference to my energy levels and help me to feel more grounded. Giving myself some quality time in the morning and evening, whether it’s taking the time to shower mindfully, or putting on a face mask before bed really helps me to sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed.
When I wake up, I spend 5 minutes in bed, stretching out the stiffness. Nothing fancy, just some simple moves like hugging my knees to my chest and a few gentle twists. I tune into my breath as I stretch, trying not to rush and noticing how my body and mind is feeling, as each day is different. I prefer to practise my yoga in the evenings on weekdays, when my body feels more open and ready for movement. On the weekend, I’m generally up a little later and usually teaching, so I’ll practise yoga late morning to afternoon. Occasionally on weekdays though I will get up at 6.30am and practise yoga for 30 minutes, but I’ve found that I feel even more tired throughout the day, and the stiffness is real at this early hour. I much prefer to practise yoga when I’m feeling a bit more awake and have walked around, but that’s just me and might not be your preference.
I then get up, put the kettle on and make myself a hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon, which really gets my system going and rehydrates me. I’m a sucker for coffee so I’ll also make a cup, which I drink after I’ve showered. I find that dry brushing my body for 5 minutes before showering really helps to wake me up, improve circulation and lymphatic drainage, but sometimes I barely have time to do my makeup let alone dry body brush, so this is mostly a weekend ritual. I then use a really lovely, natural moisturiser like this one by Sukin all over my body. There’s something calming and nourishing about moisturising and taking these little moments to practise self-care. Try and be mindful as you do these things, taking your time rather than rushing.
Only when I’ve done these things do I check my phone, answer any emails or check my social feed, just before I leave for work or on my way in. If the first thing you do when you wake up is to check your phone, if you’re anything like me you will quickly get overwhelmed with all the things on your to-do list or unanswered emails. The phone can wait.
During work, I find it easy to get really distracted and overwhelmed by all the things I have to do for the day. Writing lists is a life saver, I genuinely don’t know what I would do without this. If my mind is racing, I’ll go make a cup of Green Tea or Rooibos Tea, and write a list of things in priority that I want to get done today. I love to take myself away to a quiet space to work and put on some music. I’m someone that needs my alone time as much as I love my friends and colleagues.
Post-work, something that helps me wind-down and relax is - ironically - exercising. Being a writer as well as a yoga teacher, I can find myself sat down for hours on end, and though I always get up and move every hour, exercising helps me to release the tension that’s build up during the day. Nowadays, I tend to gravitate towards steady-state running, power-walking, yoga and bodyweight exercises when I workout, but everyone’s different, so what works for me might not work for you. The most important thing is that whatever exercise you choose, it has to feel right and leave you feeling great. If you’re an evening exerciser, always finish up a more energetic workout such as HIIT with some yoga or gentle stretching, preferably lying down. Otherwise, you could find it hard to sleep, since high intensity exercise creates more of the stress hormone cortisol, which is counter-productive to a good night’s sleep.
Unwinding at night time tends to be slow-paced for me and I love nothing more than a relaxing bath with essential oils and to practise some meditation. I’ll usually sit and meditate before my evening yoga practise for up to 20 minutes, just observing my breath without forcing it, inviting in any sounds I can hear. Meditation has become like a good friend over the years, and since practising it more I crave it more and more to feel more grounded.
For my bath, which essential oils I use depends on my mood but I have a little collection of oils that I love. I pop a few drops of Lavender and Eucalyptus into my bath if I’m really tired, achey and just want to feel utterly relaxed, or Ylang Ylang, Sweet Orange and Jasmine which are quite sweet and fresh and can help you feel more uplifted. I’ll dim the lights and close my eyes and relax for about 20 minutes, with my feet up to help them feel less achey. I love to use a clay face mask and let it sit while the steam from the bath helps open my pores, as working in London can leave me feeling all grimy.
If I don’t have time for a bath, I’ll take a shower and then dim the lights and get into bed, maybe read a book. Chamomile tea or rooibos are lovely teas to drink before bed, as they're caffeine-free and chamomile is sleep-inducing. I always sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oil on to my pillow at night, as lavender has been proven to help you sleep more soundly, and I personally love the smell. Of course, you can use another essential oil if lavender is too strong for you - there are hundreds to choose from, each with their own therapeutic benefits.
Other nights, I’ll use a Neal’s Yard Remedies naturally scented oil to massage my neck, scalp and face, which feels really relaxing and makes me go into a trance-like state. Massaging the soles of the feet and all the way up the ankles, calves and shins along the Chinese meridian lines also feels amazing and is really, really relaxing. Better yet, have your partner do it for you.
I hope these little rituals help you to make some space in your lives to find more grounding and calm. Feel free to experiment with what works best for you, there is so much out there to help us, from meditation to essential oils to sleep-inducing foods and drinks. Here’s to better sleep, more energy and a little more grounding in our lives.