Do you wake up and immediately feel overwhelmed, eyes open and the to-do list running through your mind before your feet even hit the floor? Would you love to wake up feeling calm and ready to start the day without the panic or that familiar knot in your stomach?
I get it. I struggled on and off with anxiety and depression for decades, longing to wake up and look forward to whatever the day had in store for me. To be grateful for another day and all the magic it promised. To just be able to be present in my day, for myself and for my family, without the constant feeling of being distracted with all the expectations I put on myself.
If you can relate, then implementing some simple, daily rituals can be life-changing.
Recognising where the pressure comes from
One of the most important revelations for me was that the overwhelming pressure we feel to achieve perfection, to go above and beyond, is a hugely unrealistic expectation that we put on ourselves! We may feel pressure from outside sources such as society, or family, but when you truly think about it, most of the pressure we feel starts from within.
At this point, you’re either shaking your head in agreement or thinking that I don’t know what I’m talking about. If it’s the first, great. You recognise that you are probably making things harder on yourself, and from here we can start to implement some simple changes to allow you to begin to feel calmer, more centered, and more aligned in your daily life.
If you are having trouble believing what I am saying, that’s okay. It took me a long time to acknowledge that I was part of the problem. Recognising that you yourself are contributing to much of the stress bogging you down is hard to comprehend, and can be a bitter pill to swallow. Having that level of self-awareness requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.
Daily rituals, start small
Two of my most transformative daily rituals have been journaling and meditation. Journaling alone has transformed my life and both it and meditation could help you conquer your days, too, improving your mindset and mental health while you’re at it.
First, make a list of all the daily tasks that you feel are an absolute must to accomplish. Once you have the list, look at each one individually. Beside the task, write down why you feel that is a non-negotiable in your day. Why is it an absolute must for you to accomplish it every single day. After you write down the why, now it’s time for the most important part. Who is requiring you to complete this task? Is it you, society, your boss, your family, you get the idea.
Now that you have completed this list, you can see more clearly where your daily pressures are originating and be in a better position to start to plan to make some positive changes. Once you have a level of self-awareness of even your daily To Do list, and you truly pay attention to it, you can begin to shift perspectives that will free you from stress and allow you to find more joy in your days.
Be the change you want to see in yourself
I have done this in my own life. I recognised that I put so much pressure on myself to be a perfect mother and wife that I was not actually enjoying my family. I couldn’t find joy and happiness in the small things. I was always worried about doing things to make them happy, to be picture perfect, a ridiculously unrealistic ideal. So I spent a lot of time in overwhelm for no reason whatsoever except my own unrealistic judgement of myself.
When I finally decided to make changes in my life – when I realised that I had the ultimate power to release some of that pressure, that my family did not expect me to be perfect, they just expected me to be me – it was the a-ha moment I’d been waiting for.
I began to implement small, daily rituals in my life, which quickly ushered in more peace, happiness, and relaxed days.
Let’s talk about rituals and how they can help you. Don’t get weirded out by the term ‘rituals’. It’s not all witchcraft and woo-woo (I mean, I’m all about the woo-woo personally, but I’m not here to push that onto you!). For our purposes today, ‘rituals’ are just simple ideas that you can easily implement in your life to affect positive change.
Keep it simple, but make it non-negotiable
A ritual is simply a routine that is done with purpose and intention. How do you get started? Start by listing all your daily tasks (To-Do’s). Include items that you ‘try to do’ for yourself. You know, the self-care that always comes last, or never at all? Then decide what you can do with certainty and purpose. To make it even more intentional, create a sacred space to perform part of your ritual. Let me give you an example to make it clearer. Here is an example of my daily ritual. I call it my Start My Day Ritual.
I rise early before waking both my husband and daughter up for work. I start my coffee and let the dog out before making sure they’re all watered, fed and taken care of (and out of the house!) before moving on to myself. I’ll head outside to tend to my chickens and ducks, or water the flowers and garden (depending on time of day/heat, etc). I journal, give gratitude, meditate, pull cards, practice yoga, and read. If I’m short on time, I will make sure to always do something, even if it’s just sitting down with my coffee, taking a few deep breaths and reading for a little bit. That something, no matter how little time it takes, is non-negotiable.
You may be asking, how is this a ritual? Well, when I wake up, I set the intention I want for the day. I give it purpose. I do all the things for my family and animals with love in my heart. When it’s my time, I have a space in my office I’ve made a sacred space that I use or, if it’s nice outside, I keep a basket in my sacred space that holds my journal, oracle cards, pens, books, etc. I just grab it and take it outside with me. Before I settle into my time, I reaffirm my intention with an affirmation and a few long, deep breaths.
If you are just getting started with rituals, keep it simple. If creating a series of rituals feels overwhelming, start with just one thing. Pick just one simple thing that you enjoy doing and make it your non-negotiable. Do it for yourself as often as you can.
And if even the pressure of ‘daily’ feels too much, yet another thing on your to-do list, remember that the point of creating these rituals is to make your life feel more peaceful, not less! For beginners, I always suggest journaling or meditation for the simple reason is there is so much proven research to back how impactful they can be in your life.
The healing power of journaling as a daily ritual
Inspired originally by the Morning Pages exercise in Julie Cameron’s famous book The Artist’s Way, I have no doubt that daily journaling has helped me heal and vent. It’s helped me imagine, clarify, and articulate my goals and dreams, find inspiration in my life, and ease stress and anxiety.
Journaling doesn’t need to be fancy. You don’t need an expensive book, nor do you need to be articulate or care about punctuation. It’s all about you getting what you need out and down on paper.
There is something extremely powerful about putting words and thoughts to paper. It’s a way for you to get out your feelings to allow you to heal from pain or trauma or hurt caused by others. It’s a way to vent when you need to get something off your chest but don’t want any confrontation. When you want to explore your dreams or goals, journaling can help develop them into more of an actionable plan.
The benefits of journaling are widely documented, including memory sharpening, improved immune function, and more efficient problem solving and clarity for dispute resolution. Journaling has been shown to reduce stress, boost mood, support those experiencing depression. It’s powerful stuff!
10 easy prompts to get your daily journal ritual started
Here are 10 of my favourite journal prompts to help get you started:
- I feel happiest when…
- The thing I like the best about myself is….
- Make a list of 20 things that make you happy
- Make a list of things you said yes to when you should have said no
- When was the last time you truly laughed, a full-on belly laugh?
- List 5 of your fears, then try to determine the origin of them
- What would your ideal day look like?
- If you could have any 5 things right now, what would they be?
- Think about 5 years into the future, what does your life look like?
- If you could talk to your teenage self, what would you say
Even putting pen to paper for one of these prompts every day will help create a small habit that will quickly grow into a daily ritual.
Meditation; ancient practice, modern marvel
The second modality that changed my life is meditation. Essentially, meditation is a practice of using techniques to train your attention and awareness, to help you achieve mental clarity and an emotionally calm and stable state. Sounds heavenly, right?
Dating back as far as 5,000BCE, with written evidence of any form first seen in Vedas around 1500BCE, there have been numerous studies on its effectiveness with anxiety, pain, depression, PTSD, sleep, heart disease, and more.
Literally, “the quality of your mind determines the quality of your life.”
Daily meditation practice can help you, just as it has helped me, with focus, clarity, serenity, breath-work, observing feelings, and improving your inward connection with yourself.
The Mayo Clinic lists some of the benefits of meditation, including gaining perspective, managing stress, increasing self-awareness, helping to focus on the present, reducing negative emotions, and increasing creativity, patience, and tolerance.
Healthline.com has documented even more benefits, including decreased blood pressure, pain control, improvement in sleep, help in fighting addiction, generating kindness, reducing age-related memory loss, lengthening attention span, and promoting emotional health.
A 3-minute daily meditation ritual
The great thing about meditation is you can do it anywhere and for any amount of time. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. On my busiest days I will do it in the shower. I close my eyes while the water is running over my head, take a few deep breaths, and imagine whatever is blocking me, any negativity, being washed away by the pure clear water. I picture those negative feelings as a colour and watch as they are – literally – washed down the drain. Then I visualise the pure, clear water restoring me as it washes over my body.
Even you can find 3-5 minutes in your day to get quiet, breathe deep, and meditate. The impact will be long-lasting and life-changing. If you’d like a guided meditation to get you started, check out my Facebook Group or the Free Resource Library on my website.
When you begin to implement these small changes in your day, you begin to re-wire your thought patterns and make yourself a priority. Be sure to give yourself grace and compassion as you make these steps towards your future. You’re worth it.