December is an interesting month. There are so many highs (social events, cheesy movies, holiday traditions) but it tends to throw our systems out of whack as well. The weather outside is getting colder and darker; and stress certainly seems at an all time high with work or school.
Stop for a second. Are you taking care of yourself in the way that you and the ones around you deserve? I am a firm believer of the principle that if you take good care of yourself, you are able to take better care of others. If you realize (like me) that the answer is no, maybe you need to look at rest and rituals.
Numerous studies have shown that implementing restorative rituals, when practiced consistently, have proven to have positive effects on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Reducing stress and anxiety and in some cases even depression.
But could slowing down, doing less, and taking time to rest actually result in higher productivity and a more sustainable work lifestyle? As it turns out—absolutely.
You may be thinking, “Wait, isn’t ‘rest’ the opposite of ‘work’? How can doing less result in being more productive?”
Researcher and Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang wrote an entire book on the importance of balancing work with rest, and how the two actually form an important union.
In it, he explains that in order for work to work, there also must be rest. “Rest is not this optional leftover activity. Work and rest are actually partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.”, he states.
So, you want to add in some daily rest; where do we begin?
Identify the need.
There might be a need to slow down, to be more present, to disengage to the thinking mind and connect to the heart. Maybe you often feel like your day is going too fast, or you feel stressed most of the time.
Identify the reward.
Visualize how you would like to feel during and after your daily ritual? Would you feel calm or energized? What effects might it have on the rest of your day or night?
What would you like to do?
There are different things you can do, depending on what you love to do and what you would like to do. Here are a few examples:
Putting pen to paper (or keys to... screen?). A daily or nightly journaling practice can allow us to look at our own web of thoughts with a certain distance. Organizing them, making sense of them. It allows you to self-reflect on the spot while you relieve stress.
Pay attention to your body. What does it need? Where does it hurt? Dance, walk mindfully, stretch, move and breathe towards areas that need it.
Breathe consciously. Use your breath as an anchor to remain in the present moment. Observe whatever arises, without judgement. It can take as little as 5 minutes.
Consciously give some time into being grateful. Think about what it is you already have in your life to be grateful for. They don’t always have to be ‘great’ things. It can also be being grateful for a fresh brewed cup of coffee, the way the lights hits your living room wall at sunset, the scent of a flower. The moment you train your mind to notice details, is the moment you will start to notice them more and more. Opening up to little magic is eventually opening up to big magic!
Write down the things you want to implement in your new sacred ritual and now here’s the thing; make it special.
Make it an act of devotion! Find a space where you can retreat to, whether that means a favourite armchair or at the kitchen table. But set the mood! Lights a candle, brew some tea — or go full witchy and bring out the crystals and sage.
Put the time and effort into creating your new resting ritual. This will hopefully bring some calm to your evenings, and wind down the year rested.