The holiday season is interesting: a bucketload of freetime that doesn't feel very free at all. I often find myself completely depleted after the holidays, and eager to get back into my groove. The trick? Getting back into your groove looks nothing like the media makes it seem. This is likely because it’s such a unique space to be in. It’s yours. Fully. And rarely do individual spaces follow a common path. Instead of piling up our to-do lists before the year even begins, I always choose to enter the new year slowly, by leaving behind what didn’t serve me last year, rather than filling my calendar with goals. It’s important for me to attempt to start the year in a space of rest, calm, gratitude, and repair. The truth is that mental, physical, family, or financial struggles don’t just magically disappear because the year has changed. But by breathing through a space of rest and repair, we can change how we respond. And that’s the magic. Below are a few things I like to do for my body and nervous system during the month of January. Keep in mind that these are personal, and adapting one habit change will bring you further than a list of untouched yearly goals ever could. It’s not about how much you do, but what you do and how you do it.
Barefoot cold exposure. This is as simple as it sounds. Just walk through the snow without shoes or socks. I love this method of cold exposure because it’s easy and approachable- regardless of what limitations you may or may not have. The sensation of cold feet wakes up sensory nerve endings: increasing your ability to balance, which is good for avoiding pesky winter injuries due to slipping. Further, it's an effective and natural strategy against poor sleep, pain, inflammation, chronic stress, and cardiovascular disease. Whether it’s cold or not, walking barefoot develops the muscles and ligaments of the foot, increases the strength of the foot's arch, improves proprioception, and contributes to good posture. Connecting touch to the earth is endlessly beneficial. The millions of receptors in our feet help us feel the space we are in, reminding us of our existence. Don’t forget to be smart about it: frostbite is still a risk even though our feet are well insulated. Be careful not to move too fast when the muscles in your feet are cold, and time your walk. 3 minutes is a good start (90 seconds out, 90 seconds back). If you go out several times the body will adapt and begin to compensate, and you will reach an equilibrium state, where your body creates enough heat to compensate for the heat you will be losing through your feet- a process that aids in immunity.
Stop before you need to. This is something I like to call proactive rest. When you hit your wall of overwhelm, stop everything. Turn off notifications, screens- and take some time to simply be a human being. Rest may feel like you’re not doing enough, but it takes downtime to foster creativity, productivity, and a good mood.
Practice a daily ritual. It doesn’t matter what it is, but rather the intentions you set around it. It could be your skincare routine, tea/coffee time, cooking, a walk, journaling, meditation, yoga, or a hot bath. If you feel you don’t have time to do one thing for yourself per day: do two. Mark it on the calendar and show up for yourself. Consistently.
Reset after work or school. Likely, your cortisol levels are high in the evenings after a day of work. Take 15, and transform from “work mode” to “home mode”. This could even be on your commute (if you still have one!), and it can look however you want it to: a solo dance party, loud music, singing, reading 10 pages, writing about your day, or a handful of exercises to jiggle the day away. I always run my hands along my arms, legs, and neck in an outward motion. As I do this, I picture pushing away everything I’ve taken on that day- the negativity, the stress, and the deadlines. It allows me to be fully there for my family, and most importantly, myself.
Don’t underestimate the small things. We’re all guilty of it, in all areas of life– things seem insignificant and they can quickly pass us by. However, your daily habits make up who you are. They have the ability to drive you in one direction, or the complete opposite. And the best part: it’s all up to you. I personally love to give my face a spritz mid-day with the Boosting Mist, just because it makes me feel alive. It’s the little practices, like lighting candles, because I find the sound, light, and scent soothing, or diffusing my favourite essential oils. The trick to feeling calmed by small rituals is doing them. Doing them starts as an act of discipline, and ends up becoming a habit. Then, when you feel stressed, you’ll automatically spritz your face, pull out your favourite essential oil, or do whatever makes you feel most like yourself. But this takes time, and conditioning. It’s hard to be automatically relaxed by a simple task, unless you train your body’s response.
And when all else fails, get some fresh air. Sun exposure on your bare skin is fundamental, especially in the morning. It regulates your circadian rhythm, helps your body produce vitamin D, and reminds you of just how precious this life is. This doesn’t mean you need to spend 4 hours outdoors, even 4 minutes will help.
At the end of the day, you need to find the things that trigger rest + repair within your system. If a routine doesn’t fit with your lifestyle, you won’t stick to it- no matter how often you see it displayed online. Start slow, weed out the things that don’t work for you, and most of all– remember to enjoy the process!