As the light begins to wane and temperatures signal their seasonal changes, we prepare for the fall succession of holidays. For may of us, the impending busyness starts a flutter of feels in our chest and stomach and eventually finds its way into our minds. I don’t know about you, but this is where I just pretend that nothing is happening and then have a freak-out when I haven’t gift shopped or made travel plans. Maybe you pretend, too. Not ideal, but totally normal within the fight, flight, or freeze scenarios we use to compensate for stress.
A handful of years ago I enrolled in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course at Duke Integrated Health to help me build a toolkit of go-to skills for effectively dealing with lifelong anxiety. Of the many valuable skills I learned, the biggest takeaway is that ritual is a lifeline. Rituals can look different each day and fit wherever you are in the moment. For example, some days it’s yoga movement, which is what helps my husband get ready each morning. For me its a nightly bath to clear my head and literally wash away the accumulated energies from my work day. And then there are the quick moments like skincare rituals with products that delight your senses. Or spending time with houseplants, checking on their health and growth. There are endless mindfulness moments available to you, but I want to narrow it down to a digestible few in this blog. Sometimes the volume of possibilities can be a stressor in itself.
Here are the rituals I’m engaging with for the next couple of months to get me through the holidays. I’d love to know what three or four rituals you’re planning explore for inner calm this season.
Mindful eating, water, and coffee. No phone cruising or work devices. No news. I’m enjoying flavors and being curious about where the blueberries I’m chewing were grown. How did the soil nourish these ingredients? How do these ingredients nourish my body?
Throughout the workday:
I learned some great techniques while taking Krav Maga from Jaimie Lee at The Coalition in Chapel Hill. She teaches Original Strength sequences designed to take us back to our earliest movements when we were babies. Many of the techniques involve the body’s cross-connections — think of the body movements along X-axes. And this movement is so simple and doable between my clients! My daily ritual here is to raise a knee while standing, tap that knee with the opposite hand, and then the other side. Repeat at least 30 times. Breathe into the diaphragm and out of the mouth with these. A powerful and simple ritual that resets the central nervous system.
After my Kniepp mineral infused bath, my nightly skincare ritual involves a mindful application of Quench on my face, neck, and chest. When I say mindful, I mean that I take my time to notice the beads of product on my fingertips, feel the serum glide across my skin. And when I press Shield into my temples and nasolabial shiatsu points, I inhale the lavender and chamomile aroma and exhale for an extended moment before moving on. This doesn’t have to be a seven step, 10 minute process if you don’t have time. Just take the moment, even if only 30 seconds FOR YOURSELF.
These are quick and easy rituals. Sometimes we need more — daily gratitude journal writing, formal meditation time, or self massage/gua sha. No matter how small your ritual is, know that it is making a difference. Your mind and body are paying attention to any self care you gift to yourself. It’s all going in the health bank!
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season. Take time to be kind to yourself and your loved ones.
Cult of Reason founder