The changing of seasons always brings about an energetic shift. During the summer, Yang energy reigns supreme, creating an active and expansive period that can be pretty intense. Many of us already experience stress and fatigue in our lives, and this can be heightened as the days get longer, and demands on our time increase. To find balance, we must avoid over-scheduling ourselves and be mindful of slowing down.
The following self-care rituals can be practiced to encourage inner peace and calm during the busier summer months. Inspired by ancient tradition, these simple techniques can be incorporated into daily life or called on when feeling particularly overwhelmed.
Qualities of summer: lightness, spontaneity, exploring the wonders of nature, abundance
Morning routines really do set the tone for the rest of the day. During the summer, as sunrise gets earlier, it can be tempting to wake up and catapult ourselves straight into doing mode. Taking time to be with yourself in the morning, before committing to anything else, is one of the most important self-care rituals you can practice. When I wake up, one of the first things I do is give thanks for the day, repeating the following affirmation:
Integrating a gratitude practice into your morning routine creates positive vibrations to carry forth into the rest of your day, influencing your reactions, the decisions you make and your overall mental and emotional wellbeing.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” - Marcus Aurelius
After giving thanks for the day, I begin to wake up my physical body with a movement practice. This can be anything from a series of simple stretches to full-on ecstatic dance. One of my favourite rising rituals in the summertime is Seated Sun Salutations. By aligning slow, flowing movement with inhales and exhalations you unite your mind, body and breath, cultivating a calm and blissful state.
Seated Sun Salutations - step by step
- Sit upright on your bed crossed legged or with your feet rooted into the floor
- As you inhale, sweep your arms up to the ceiling, bringing your palms to touch
- As you exhale, lower your right arm down, and stretch over to your right
- Inhale back to centre and gaze up to your palms
- On your next exhalation lower your left arm down, stretching over to your left
- Inhale back to centre and gaze up to your palms, keeping your shoulders relaxed
- Exhale to bring your palms down, interlacing your fingers behind your head
- As you inhale draw your chin up, open up your chest and bring your elbows out
- Exhale to lower your chin to your chest, rounding your spine and bringing your elbows to touch
- Inhale your arms and palms back up towards the ceiling
- Exhale to lower your palms down in prayer through centre until they meet at your chest
- Give thanks and set your intention for the day ahead
Another staple rising ritual I practise is meditation. Sitting in quiet stillness for a period of time, simply bringing my focus on the journey of my breath as it enters and lands in my body, and then exits back out the same way it came in. Allowing thoughts to come and go without becoming carried away by them. Practising meditation has many science-backed health benefits, including improvement of memory and concentration, expanding self-awareness and creativity, transforming perspectives and increasing patience and tolerance - particularly useful in the summer. For anyone that finds it too challenging to sit still, walking meditation is a great ritual to explore and a wonderful excuse to spend more time in nature. Try this simple walking meditation practice to reconnect with your senses and cultivate a state of presence and inner awareness
Walking Meditation - step by step
- During a nature walk, find a path that allows you to walk back and forth for 10-15 paces, choose a place that is relatively peaceful, where you’re unlikely to be disturbed
- Walk 10-15 steps along the path you’ve chosen, and then pause and breathe for a minute or so
- When you’re ready, turn and walk back in the opposite direction for 10-15 steps, pause and breathe again for a minute or so before retracing your steps
- As you walk, try to focus your attention on sensations that you may normally take for granted, such as your breath, the movement of your feet and legs, your contact with the ground, your head balanced on your neck and shoulders, or whatever your eyes take in as they focus on the path in front of you
- When you notice your mind wandering, simply bring your focus back to your senses, taking a pause to be still and breathe every 10-15 steps
REST AND RELAXATION RITUALS
Intentional rest and relaxation are a MUST for self-care. I can’t stress how important this is, especially in the summer when Yang energy dominates and our diaries fill up with an onslaught of social engagements. Taking time out to do nothing at all allows you to recharge. Practising a simple grounding meditation at any time during your day brings you back in connection with your body, promoting calmness and self-awareness.
Grounding Meditation - step by step
- Sit upright in a comfortable position with your feet rooted into the floor, soften your gaze and gently close down your eyes
- Place your hands on your belly, noticing it rise and fall with your natural flow of breath
- Begin to deepen your breath, extending your inhalation and exhalation
- Notice your breath as it enters and exits your body through your nostrils
- As you inhale bring awareness to your body, noticing your breath as it travels within
- Use your exhalation to ground into the earth through your feet and release any physical tension you become aware of
- Allow thoughts and feelings to move through you without judgement
- Let your breath anchor you within your body and enjoy the sense of calm you create
Another of my go-to rituals for rest and relaxation is self-massage. Touch is an important human need, and self-soothing touch gestures are proven to reduce stress and trigger the release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone.” I like to practise a simple self-soothing facial massage to bring me back into balance after a chaotic day as part of my bedtime routine. You can practise it at any time you’re in need of some nurturing relaxation.
Self-Soothing Facial Massage - step by step
- Put a tiny bit of oil onto clean palms and fingers so they can move smoothly across your face
- Place both index and middle fingers at the centre of your forehead and gently massage outwards in circular movements toward your temples
- Repeat 3 times, each time starting at the centre of your forehead and massaging outwards
- Then, lightly press your palms onto your forehead, take a few deep breaths
- Bring the same fingers to your eye contour area and gently tap your fingertips on the bone
- Repeat 3 times, following the inner to the outer contour of your eyes
- Then, lightly press your palms onto closed eyes and take a few deep breaths
- Create a V shape by separating your middle and ring fingers and rub along your jawline in smooth but firm strokes, from your chin to your ear
- Bring your fingers to your ears and gently massage your earlobes between your fingertips
- Finish by gently patting your cheeks with your palms
I cannot talk about rest and relaxation rituals without the mention of a good night's sleep! A lack of it can weaken our immune system and exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Getting the hours of sleep I need is something I struggle with and am constantly working to improve.
Sleep Optimisation - easeful tips
- Try to go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day
- Invest in super cosy high-quality bed linen like Goss & Genus
- If you can’t completely cut out caffeine, try to enjoy it before 10am
- Practise slow stretches and calming movements in the evenings
- If possible, make your bedroom a screen-free zone at night
- Enjoy a warm soothing herbal tea before bed
DISCOVER WHAT LIGHTS YOU UP
Self-care isn’t just about meditation, being in nature and salt baths. Although these are some of my favourite things to do to take care of myself, so are extra hours of sleep when I need it, eating out or ordering in food when I don’t have the energy to cook and exchanging memes and giggly voice notes with friends when I need cheering up.
Self-care is getting to know all the things that keep you grounded, centred and in pleasure, and that fill you back up when you’re feeling depleted. Only you can determine the best ways to give yourself what you need. This will shift day-to-day as well as season-to-season so it’s important to remain fluid.
Feel into what your body and soul need the most rather than overthinking about what you ‘should’ be doing, (so much of our energy is spent on ‘I should’ thoughts). It can be the simplest things that bring you joy and give you a deeper sense of who you are; writing, art, long walks, cooking, gardening, watching the sunrise, laughing with friends, dancing to your favourite playlist, taking an afternoon nap…the list is endless.
Take a moment to note down the practices and rituals that you resonate with the most. Create a go-to menu of feel-good things to choose from whenever you need them. Bookmark this article so you can come back to it whenever you are in need of some inspiration.
Making space in our days for regular acts of self-care cultivates and nurtures a deep sense of worthiness within. This way we allow ourselves to show up fully as ourselves, as often as possible.