A ritual, according to Wikipedia, is ‘a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, or objects, performed in a sequestered place, and according to a set sequence’. This definition refers mainly to religious rituals, but I’ve noticed I use self-care rituals to help me feel happy and well.
I recently got irrationally annoyed when my husband mentioned he planned to take a day’s TOIL (time off in lieu) that happened to fall on one of my monthly post-teacher training days off. That’s when I realised that these days off have become a bit of a ritual for me, and one that I want to protect.
In itself, this is a self-care ritual: giving myself the space and time I know I need on these set days to recuperate, ponder, process, and rest. As an introvert this is especially important for me, because the training weekends are a sensory overload at times, long days filled with activity, information, voices, and a wonderfully energetic and fiery teacher! And for this reason, I often avoid contact with people on these days off too (hence the irritation with my husband’s news – much as I love him, I sometimes need to prioritise me-time for both our sakes).
But what I do with this time is equally important. So I also incorporate rituals within these days off. I start the day with a cup of coffee and some time on the sofa with the cat, reading one of my growing collection of yoga-related books. I do some yoga, putting some of what we learnt into practice or doing whatever feels good that day. I have a hot bath with Epsom salts to soothe my muscles and calm my mind. I’ll have an easy but healthy lunch – usually my favourite – eggs and avocado on seeded toast with coconut oil. And then I might spend the afternoon doing some homework or some lesson planning so that I’m ready for the week ahead and have caught up with my yoga course deadlines.
The balance of activities changes from month to month depending on how I’m feeling after my training. Such intense yoga practice can bring up a lot of emotion as well as being physically and mentally tiring, and I never know what reaction I will have. So my rituals have built-in flexibility so I can truly take care of myself in whatever way I need to.
This has turned out to be such a valuable approach to making sure I have the energy I need to be at my best. If you fancy building some self-care rituals into your own life, here are some things to think about:
- What makes you feel good?
For me it’s all that stuff I mentioned above: alone-time, reading, having a hot bath, yoga. It could be completely different things for you but see if you can think of a handful of little things that you can keep in mind to take care of yourself. Things that make you feel well, healthy, happy, present, and calm.
- Don’t copy anyone else’s routine
Once you have your list of self-care treats, think about how you can incorporate them into your life regularly and consistently at the times you need them most. Design a routine that works for you at this time in your life. For me it’s currently a whole day once a month but it could equally be one evening a week, or 10 minutes every morning, depending on what else is going on in your life at the moment.
- Set an intention
Set an intention that helps you prioritise your self-care rituals so that your to-do list doesn’t take over. Instead of thinking about your self-care ritual as another thing you have to fit in to your busy schedule, think of it as a regular treat, something to look forward to. Make a commitment to yourself to take the time you need, and know that you will be able to give more to the people around you if you have the energy you need for yourself.
- Get people on board
If you live with other people, let them know that you need to prioritise this time for yourself and ask them to help you (rather than get irritated by them as I did with my husband!). Ask them not to disturb you for that time you have allocated, or to remind you to take the time you committed to if you get distracted by other things. Remind them that needing time by yourself isn’t because you don’t want to be with them. It’s so you can be well enough to truly be with them when you are together.
- Let things evolve
My current self-care rituals won’t work for me forever. I’ve had different ones in the past. I’ll need different ones in the future. Check in with yourself and see if your rituals are still giving you what you need and are still working with the rest of your life. Keep adapting them to meet you where you are. Just don’t allow them to drop off your list of priorities – remember you are always a priority.
Let me know if you try this – share your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments below.