Is this another article about self-care? And rituals? And how you need more of them in your life? Yep. Yep. And… yep.
Let’s just take a moment to think about why we hear these words so often. Many of us are tired. Exhausted even. We have so many demands placed on us, from others and from ourselves. We’re also faced with constant stimulation, by apps deliberately designed to keep us glued to them. We push ourselves further and further, and despite this we can often feel frustrated that we’re not getting anywhere, or frustrated that we’re not feeling the way we’d like to feel.
The thing is, you can rush and hustle to get somewhere, or you can pace yourself and move with calm and grace. Both will usually get you to your destination. The difference is one version gets you there feeling frazzled and the other one doesn’t. But how do we master the art of arriving the right way? (By right, we mean in the best way for you. And acknowledge that nothing is going to be 100% perfect 100% of the time.) So what’s the answer? Spoiler alert: I don’t know. We’re all human, and we’re all trying our best. No one has it all together all of the time. What I’m interested in talking about is finding ways to master it more often than not. I’ve spent some time trying to work out how to achieve this, and all signs (from the research to my own experiences and the shared experiences of others) point to the fact that if we can carve out some moments of peace and quiet, and if we can reduce screen time, we’re well on the way to living calmer, happier and more fulfilled lives.
There’s a lot to say about self-care and related rituals. But the focus here is what I’m going to call “micro-moments”. Those little unplanned or disregarded moments of time we all have throughout our day. They’re the moments when we often (mindlessly) reach for our phones without giving it another thought. Or they’re moments of frustration; someone has kept us waiting, or a long queue has delayed us. Or they’re moments when we’re just going along with our everyday routines, like washing our face. What if we looked at these moments differently? Not as time-wasters, inconveniences or frustrations, but rather the opposite; an amazing little gem of an opportunity where we say: what can I do in the next two/five/twenty minutes that will top up my cup, rather than deplete it?
Here are some of my ideas. This list isn’t by any means exhaustive, and the suggestions may or may not be right for you. They’re written with care and love and I hope you receive them that way.
Mornings, love them or hate them, are a clean slate and an opportunity to set yourself up for the day. But it’s so easy to slip into chaos before you’ve even gotten out of bed, and it helps if you make a concerted effort to start your day on your own agenda – not someone else’s. Mornings are really a time when you can benefit from the strategic use of micro-moments. Take the tips that work for you, on the days when they work. I’m not going to tell you not to rush and generally be a crazy person every single day, because, well, life happens.
Start by being realistic about how much time you can carve out (five or ten minutes is enough). This will help you decide how to spend it and also help you to focus while you’re doing it.
Don’t check your phone the moment you wake up. Just don’t do it, unless you really have to and ignoring it will cause you more stress. And if that’s the case, check only what you need to and then get back to setting up your day calmly.
A slow, steady and focused session of dry body brushing will wake up your whole body. Do it mindfully and watch your breathing. Focus on how it’s making your body feel. Do it just before your shower.
Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil onto the floor of the shower as you get in. The steam diffuses the essential oils beautifully. Close your eyes and breathe. Focus on how good the warm water and the essential oils make you feel. Favourites for the morning are peppermint, lemon, rosemary and orange.
Build a daily ritual around your morning coffee (or tea, or juice). Just sit with it for five minutes and watch the world go by - no phone, no distractions. It’s amazing how grounding this can be and what ideas pop up.
Throughout the day you’re probably juggling a millions things, dealing with interruptions threatening to derail your schedule, or having a hard time focusing on something important. Sometimes slowing down can be the most efficient thing you can do, as counter intuitive as it sounds. Taking a few minutes to stretch and breathe can do wonders. However, sometimes when you’re already wound up being told to breathe is the most unhelpful thing you could hear (ie don’t force it).
Make a cup of tea and drink it mindfully.
Unexpected moments and delays happen all the time. If you have a spare chunk of time, don’t default to the path of least resistance, which is usually doing something mindless and numbing. Keep some activities (like the ones mentioned here) up your sleeve so you can top up your cup (instead of draining it).
Start observing. On your commute. Waiting in line. Sitting in familiar places. Make a point of noticing things you haven’t seen before. Look with interest and curiosity and see how it makes you feel.
Take a break in nature. Go for a walk, smell the fresh air, feel the sunlight on your skin.
Diffuse essential oils. If you have a diffuser, that’s great. But it’s certainly not a deal-breaker if you don’t. Sniff from the bottle, sprinkle a few drops onto a tissue and place it next to your desk (or wherever you are), or add to a carrier oil and give yourself a self-massage.
Personally, I find the evenings to be the easiest time for me to attend to my own self-care needs. Using your evening time wisely is a perfect way to decompress from the day and set yourself up for a restorative sleep.
I love baths! It’s actually one of the reasons behind me creating The Second Salon. I’ve adored baths with Epsom Salt and essential oils for as long as I can remember. The hot water + peace and quiet + time away from the phone always makes me feel a million dollars. Of course I have The Second Salon’s bath soaks on tap, but if you don’t have a luxurious bath soak on hand, work with what you have. DIY bath soaks couldn’t be easier; the cheap boxes of Epsom Salt from the pharmacy are fine! Honestly. Now before you say “you can’t have a bath in a micro-moment!” I take your point. But just stop and think about it. You can be in and out in 15-20 minutes. Sure, it’s not five, but you could spend the same amount of time watching a crappy TV show or scrolling on your phone. If you genuinely don’t have the time (or don’t want to), that’s okay too.
Consider your evening grooming routine as an opportunity for some self-care. Be mindful when you’re applying your moisturizer or body oil. Use slow and steady motions and treat it as a mini massage. Do the same for your face (your complexion will also thank you). One of my favourite little routines is adding a drop of lavender essential oil to jojoba and giving myself a face massage before bed.
Speaking of bed, how amazing does it feel to settle into a calm room? It doesn’t take long to prepare your room for sleep. Just before bed diffuse some relaxing essential oils. Open a window and let the fresh air in. Light a candle, turn the lights and your phone off and just sit in the peace and quiet. Trading five minutes of scrolling time for this will do you the world of good