I don’t know about you, but even though we do it in a pretty laid-back way, I still feel like dealing with the upcoming holidays is like a full-time job in itself. Between attending various holiday concerts and programs, picking up gifts for the classroom exchange, decorating and nailing down travel plans, I feel like I’ve been in constant motion since December 1.
It’s times like this that I find myself really needing those calming, grounding rituals that I use to give my days shape and also carve out time for myself. They’re nothing elaborate or fancy or mystical, and they don’t require special equipment or training. They’re just things I try to do every day because when I do them, I feel better.
My five most essential daily rituals are:
- Tea and toast. Every morning, and I mean EVERY morning, I get up and have a slice or two of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, plus a cup of black tea with a splash of milk and sugar. No matter what else is going on, no matter how early I have to get up or if last night’s dishes are still sitting in the sink, I toast my bread and brew my tea. Are you a breakfast-skipper–or are you starting your day with something really jolting or unhealthy like that morning doughnut or a Monster drink? I promise you’ll feel better (once you get past the withdrawls) if you replace it with something balanced, healthy and nurturing. I know: I battled a serious Mountain Dew addiction for several years, sucking down “liquid candy” as soon as I woke up and then requiring more and more sugar to get me through the day. I felt like crud, so I replaced the habit (which was as much mental as physical) with tea and toast. After I got over the shakes, I was amazed at how much better, clearer, and more focused I felt with the right morning fuel. Plus you can’t beat the feeling of wrapping your hand around a warm mug first thing in the morning.
- Getting dressed. I know. It’s the right of a work-at-home-mom to stay in her pajamas if she feels like it. But nothing makes me feel lazier and less motivated than hanging around in a bathrobe past about 10 AM. The benefit to getting dressed (in real street clothes) most of the time is that when I do have the occasional lazy, not-gonna-go-anywhere-or-do-anything-and-you-can’t-make-me day, I mentally “mark” it by staying in my PJs…and then it feels that much more decadent.
- Making the bed. I’ve talked about this before. It doesn’t matter to everyone, but to me, the sight of a rumpled, crumpled bed just makes me want to crawl back under the covers. Mind you, I don’t spend much time on this task. I don’t bother tucking in sheets or lining up the pillows perfectly. But I do put the comforter back where it belongs and smooth it all down–takes about 90 seconds and makes such a huge difference.Maybe you don’t care about your bed, but hate the sight of a sink with coffee grounds in the bottom or want to cry when you see toothbrushes scattered all over the bathroom counter. We all have different cleaning rituals that make us feel better about our homes and ready to face the day. What’s yours?
- Wash, Brush, Jammies On: Okay, so some nights I’m too tired to do much more than splash my face with water or show the brush to my teeth. And some of my “pajamas” consist of yoga pants and a castoff t-shirt that have been specifically designated for the purpose. But I’ve found that marking the line between daytime and nighttime with these three actions, even when they’re just symbolic, helps me feel prepared for bed and get a better night’s sleep.
- Reading Myself To Sleep: I used to watch TV in bed, but after months of getting too-little sleep because I was staying up until 2 AM to watch “just one more” episode of The Golden Girls, I banished the bedroom screen. Reading instead–with all the lights off and a book light (lately I’ve been using my Kindle with the cover and built-in booklight)–is so much more calming for me, and there’s no way I can stay up later than I should to keep reading when the bedroom lights are off. In fact, usually by the time I get through a chapter, my eyes are so heavy I can’t possibly go on. And since the lights are already off, all I have to do is switch off the book light and zonk out.
What are your essential daily rituals–those things that help keep your day on track? Have you been thinking about adding any new, healthy & happy rituals to your life?