How to Keep your self-care rituals intact during and after the holidays

Holiday season is officially in full swing.

What does this mean?

It can mean you are cuddled up with your favorite cup of tea, hot cocoa, or spiced wine. 

It can mean you are traveling to see family and friends.

It can mean you are cooking up a storm or attending multiple holiday parties. 

It can mean you are hosting family and friends at your home. 

It can mean staying in your pajamas for days on end. 

It can be playing outside in the snow. 

It can mean going into the Netflix vortex on your couch or bed and losing track of the time (or day). 

While all of these are great and some of my favorite holiday pass times (or lazy times), it can also mean losing track of your self-care routines and your daily rituals. 

In Yoga and Ayurveda, rituals are important pillars in gaining health, longevity, and clarity of the mind. It is so important that there is even a word dedicated to it: dinacharya.

According to Dr Vasant Lad, Ayurveda physician and director of the Ayurvedic Institute, dinacharya is:

A daily routine [that] is absolutely necessary to bring radical change in body, mind, and consciousness. Routine helps to establish balance in one's constitution. It also regularizes a person's biological clock, aids digestion, absorption and assimilation, and generates self-esteem, discipline, peace, happiness, and longevity.

My morning rituals and routines (on top of the expected brush your teeth + shower rituals) comprise of drinking a tall glass of warm water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice or apple cider vinegar + honey to get my internal system going, followed by a home yoga practice OR a short workout video taken from YouTube, and ending with prayers and meditation. My evening rituals usually start with dinner, which I usually eat at least 2-3 hours before bed, some TV time with the hub, followed by reading in bed for 30-40 minutes (no screen!), a short prayer or breathing practice, then strict bedtime at 10-10:30pm. Having a big, home-cooked, nourishing lunch is also absolutely essential for me for better digestion and to keep my energy fueled for the rest of the day.

However, like most people, when I am traveling or hosting guests at my home, these rituals often become second thoughts rather than the pillars that bookend my days. 

Instead of criticizing myself for not staying on track, I allow myself to "let loose" a little, because I know that since these rituals are sacred to me (and I absolutely feel the effects of straying away from these routines), it will only take me a bit of time after the holidays to jump back on track.

Whether you are already starting to struggle to keep on top of your rituals or are completely new to the idea, here are some steps to help you prepare for post-holiday success.

Step 1: Make a list of your current rituals that you do throughout your day.

Rituals do not need to be big, elaborate ceremonies. As I mentioned above, my daily rituals are quite simple and take only minutes. Your current rituals may be your morning meditation practice, a cup of tea during the day to slow down, a workout, your yoga practice, your mid-day walk, or quality time with your family in the evening. Write down all of your current rituals that you do to keep you grounded and feeling your best. This will be your personal memo to return to post-holidays when you feel scattered and challenged to return to your day-to-day motions. Whatever your current rituals are, the more you are able to identify and place them at designated times during the day, the easier it will be for you to return to these rituals post-holidays. 

If you don't have designated rituals at this point, now is the perfect time to think of your intentions and resolutions for the new year. Write a list of routines and rituals that you would like to incorporate.

Step 2: Rank the importance of your rituals.

Now, while you may be very idealistic and enthusiastic about the exciting possibilities of your new rituals and how they may improve your health and well-being, one of the biggest mistakes a lot of people make when it comes to goal-setting and resolutions is that they embrace the all-or-nothing attitude. This already sets them up for failure. If you try to incorporate too many of your rituals at once, especially if you are new to setting some discipline for yourself, overtime you will end up feeling overwhelmed and give up altogether.

To embrace compassion towards myself after the holidays, I add my rituals back into my day one at a time post-holidays. Look at your list of routines and rituals that you did in Step 1. Identify 1 or 2 that are the most important, or are keystones in setting you up for success. For example, my first steps are almost always getting back to my usual sleep times. I find that when I can get my sleep routine in order, everything else falls into place a little easier. 

Step 3: Add these rituals into your calendar.

Yes, I know it sounds less romantic, but putting self-care routines in your calendar ensures that you block out specific times during your day to do them, and even if you forget, you will still continue to see them pop up on your calendar as gentle reminders. Put your top 1 or 2 most essential rituals that you identified in Step 2 into your calendar.

To continue with the example of setting discipline around my sleep schedule, I actually put PREP FOR BED on my Google calendar 45 minutes before the time I want to sleep, and SLEEP at the time that I want to sleep. This ensures me that, even if I slide off my schedule a bit during the holidays, I will keep seeing PREP FOR BED and SLEEP everyday on my calendar at the designated times, helping me slowly inch back towards that routine overtime.

Step 4: Be compassionate towards yourself

Note that these are also routines and habits I have developed over a decade, and now have become second nature to me, like showering and brushing my teeth. Be compassionate towards yourself and give yourself ample time to fully integrate your new (or old) routines into your daily life. If you miss a day, a week, or even a month, do not fret. Start from Step 1 to re-inspire yourself.

Life is full of practices, not perfection.