Remembering Routine: An Essential Piece to Stay Grounded
Published by Kerry Meath-Sinkin
Like most of you, my world has flipped upside down. I have been home with my family for a few weeks now, and it’s been tough! After the first week and a half I found myself feeling anxious, scattered and a little irritable. We built a rough schedule for our kids that we sort of followed and just tried to squeeze in what we needed to do around that, which didn’t work. So, this past weekend my husband and I went through what was and wasn’t working for ourselves and our kiddos. I felt better after our conversation, and then as we have been living it, I also feel less anxious and more relaxed. Even though I know routine is important it is easy to forget what we know in times of change and upheaval.
When you develop a routine that your body can count on your nervous system relaxes. If your nervous system relaxes your anxiety goes down, your stress goes down, you eat better, sleep better, and feel better. Because there is so much upheaval and stress right now, I believe that trying to bring in routine to your life can really help you and your family. I want to offer some ways you can build a routine to support your mind and body during these next few months.
I offer these routine ideas not as something to bring any constriction into your life, but instead as a reminder to build a rhythm that works for you as a support during this very un-grounding time. There is no one “right” routine that fits everyone. Keep what you like, and discard what you don’t. A routine is something we can follow on good and bad days, and something that can ground us through both.
How can you build a daily routine for yourself?
It’s not only the activities that you choose to put into a routine that can be helpful, it’s also the way those activities are organized throughout the day. In Ayurveda, it is believed that everyday follows a natural rhythm. Certain times are better for meditation and rest, and other times are better for eating or exercising. One way to understand how the day goes through different energetic cycles is through the analogy of a fire. A fire can be used to represent your day from the moment you wake up, until the moment your head hits the pillow.
At first a fire has to kindle. When just getting a fire started, if you put too much on the kindle all at once, the fire goes out and nothing happens. You are the same way. If you take on too much when the morning starts, you never really get going. You are just overwhelmed from the start and you can’t do as much in the day. Consider the foods, activities or inputs that you bring into your world during that first hour when you wake up. Are you immediately jumping on your phone and looking at the news, or instead taking time for meditation or deep breathing? Are you hungry and eating foods that are light and nourishing, or hitting your body with heavy pancakes or fried eggs?
Next, as a fire continues to burn it gets hotter it can start to burn up more. As your energy rises, you can process and deal with more food and emotional and mental activity. This rising energy makes mid-morning a powerful time to do work that requires more mental energy or concentration.
By mid-day the fire is hot and burning strong. A strong fire can digest whatever it burns fast. Similarly, during the mid-day your body can more easily digest a large meal. A large meal in the morning can leave you groggy for the rest of the day, and a big meal at night may not get effectively digested. Try experimenting with the size of your meals and see for yourself how you feel afterwards.
As the fire starts to die out, you no longer want to add big piles of wood because the wood won’t be burned and will totally squash the fire. The same is true for your body. Towards the evening you want to eat lighter foods and slow down your activity to prepare for a night of slumber. Too much stimulation or activity later in the evening, can leave you feeling overwhelmed or cause difficulty sleeping because you don’t have the same capacity to process that stimulation.
As you think abot your own routines, think about the fire, think about how it could relate to the way you are going through a single day and the routine(s) you have in place. This moment in time is a rare opportunity to build a routine by your own design instead of being determined by the necessity of circumstances. However, it is not a time to overwhelm yourself so just take it bit by bit and see what adding a few pieces to your day could do. Then come back to the fire and the ideas below to add to your routine as you feel ready.
What Can You Incorporate into Your Daily Routine?
The best activities to build into your routine depend on your situation. Here are a few ideas to consider.
- Take some deep breaths before getting out of bed or set a positive intention you want to bring into your day
- Cleanse your mouth. For those who practice tongue scraping or oil pulling, it is best to practice in the morning.
- Drink a glass of warm water with fresh lemon to flush your system.
- Practice 5-10 minutes of silence. You can do a sitting meditation, deep breathing exercises, or just take a few minutes to slowly breath by yourself.
- Move your body for 15-30 minutes. For some people exercise in the morning helps them feel more energized and awake for the rest of the day, for others it feels overwhelming. As with all of this, choose what works for you!
- Warm light breakfast. If you are hungry in the morning consider having a light breakfast, if you are not hungry have some tea instead. In Ayurveda, we believe it is important to only eat when you are hungry. So, if you are not, don’t force it.
Mid-morning is a great time to do work that requires a lot of mental energy. I personally always try to bucket my most mentally exhausting work between 8-10:30 in the morning when I know I am going to be the sharpest. I will start the morning by outlining my tasks for the day and choosing the one or two activities that are the most challenging or important for me to do during these few hours.
By mid-day you may notice your digestive fire has started to build, i.e. you feel a strong hunger. In Ayurveda, you always want to get food that your body can effectively digest, and your digestion is strongest during the middle of the day.
- Eat your largest meal of the day
By 3-4 you may notice you start to feel a little more anxious or tired. In Ayurveda, these hours carry more of an airy energy, and is associated with the adrenals and kidneys. The afternoon is a great time to consider an activity that will provide you with nourishment.
- Yoga Nidra – You can think of this as a powerful lying down meditation. If you aren’t familiar with Yoga Nidra, it’s easy to find free versions online. If you want additional resources don’t hesitate to get in touch.
- Meditation/Time for Silence – Take some time for silence. (5-30 minutes)
- Deep breathing – (5-10 minutes)
- Herbal (Non-Caffeinated) Tea Break (10-20 minutes)
- Walk Outside (15-30 minutes)
Ideally try to have dinner before sunset, but at the latest try to eat your meal before 7:00. If you remember the analogy of the fire, it is best to have a larger lunch and lighter dinner. Your digestive fire isn’t as strong in the evening, which means your body may have a hard time fully digesting food later in the evening.
Once the big activities of your day are complete you likely have some time before bed. Evening is the ideal time to start winding down!
- Journaling – Journaling can take any form you like, but the process can be a great way to release your day.
- Gratitude Practice – Write down 3 different moments you are grateful for from your day. Remember they need to be different every day, as this helps retrain your day to look for the positive!
- Warm Bath – Consider adding Epsom salt to increase the effect.
- Meditation – Try sitting in whatever way feels right to you.
- Night-Time Tea Blend – Drink a blend of nighttime herbs to prepare for sleep. Yogi Tea, Pukka Tea, and Traditional Medicinals all made great and easy to find blends.
- Read a Book – Just try to avoid something with too much stimulation
- TV Show – If you do watch TV just try to make sure it is something that won’t stimulate or aggravate your emotions too much
- Get off devices at least 30 minutes before bed, ideally 1-2 hours
As you build your routine, I encourage you to start slowly by only adding 1-3 routine pieces listed above that resonate for you. A few simple moments or practices that your body can start to rely on makes a huge difference. The idea is to have fun and allow your routine to bring you more ease. There are days a routine may feel easier than others, but the idea isn’t for a routine to become something constricting and tight. If that starts to happen it may be a great time to re-evaluate and do less.
Thanks so much for reading and have fun as you get started.
Love and blessings,
Kerry Meath-Sinkin, CFP®AIF®, is a wealth advisor based in Minneapolis. She graduated with honors from Brown University and works with clients in the Twin cities and nationwide. Kerry believes in a holistic approach to finance. Kerry also has a passion for healthy living, is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner, and public health educator. Click here to learn more about Kerry.