The Pause: 5 Ways to Slow Down & Tune In to You
Between hectic work schedules and summer social calendars that are filled to the brim, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your self-care routine. Here’s how you can check-in with yourself physically and mentally with practices devoted to enhancing your me-time.
After a busy week, do you ever feel like your mind is spinning? Sometimes the sensations that occur when we’re wound up make us feel like we have to keep moving, doing, and going to the next destination on our list. However, the most powerful thing you can do in these moments may feel counter-intuitive: pause. Slow down and take stock of how you’re feeling. Awareness is the first step to pausing the spiral of doing that we can get so lost in, and that takes us further away from truly understanding how we feel.
It’s in these moments that we can evaluate how certain behaviors or interactions in our lives are affecting us, whether it be through how it’s manifesting in the body or the mind. Whether you prefer to spend five minutes taking deep breaths or are looking for a full-blown ritual, here are some simple practices you can integrate into your self-care routine to get you through the summer and beyond.
If you’re looking to check-in with yourself but still feel the need to actively do something, journaling might be the perfect solution for you. Grab your computer, write a note in your phone, or find yourself a designated journal where you can keep your thoughts. The most important aspect of the medium you choose is that it fosters openness for you. Your writing doesn’t need to be overly thought out, try to tune in and let the subject matter intuitively flow from you. What are you feeling at that moment? What do you think brought it about? How do you feel about it? Your prompts can range from simple to more intensive, but the most important part of journaling is allowing yourself to observe your thoughts without judgment.
Whether it’s work or relationship struggles, journaling can help relieve feelings of anxiousness and act as a soothing respite. In fact, a study showed that people who wrote online for 15 minutes for three days a week over a 12-week period had increased feelings of well-being and fewer depressive symptoms after just one month. Unsurprisingly, continued benefits occurred for subjects who maintained journaling as part of their self-care routine.1
Hate writing? Create a journal of voice memos instead or explore other mediums that allow you to turn inward and express outward.
Take an Epsom salt bath.
After a long day, there’s nothing like getting into a warm tub with Epsom salts. Choose one night of the week and treat yourself to this little luxury. Not only are you creating a soothing environment to mentally check-in with yourself, you can also reap physical benefits from Epsom salts. From helping support the body’s natural healing processes to soothing muscle soreness, Epsom salts can be a potent player in helping your body and mind unwind.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, studies show that a bath could legitimately increase your chances of catching some Zs. Research found that “a bath or shower of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit before bedtime that lasted for as little as 10 minutes was significantly associated with improved sleep quality, and increased the overall amount of time slept. In at least a couple of studies, taking a bath one or two hours before bedtime decreased the average amount of time it took the study participants to fall asleep — by about nine minutes.”2
Soak up optimal relaxation benefits by putting your phone notifications on silent, playing gentle music, and diffusing your favorite essential oil.
Try a meditation practice.
This pairs nicely with our last tip! While meditation can seem intimidating, in its simplest form it’s just noticing without judgment. Next time you feel high-strung, try to pause what you’re doing and take a comfortable seat. Close your eyes if that feels right for you, and take a deep inhale. Try to inhale steadily for 5 seconds and slowly release your breath with a sigh out the mouth. Now start to notice what’s true for you in the moment—how does your body feel? Is your mind buzzing or calm? Noticing what’s happening without assigning judgment is a powerful tool in reclaiming a sense of comfort with our current experience.
Research shows that meditation can have a positive impact on both body and mind. In fact, one study found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation significantly soothed the body’s stress response. That’s just the start with another study suggesting that regular meditation could help soothe feelings of sadness and anxiousness.3
It’s not always easy getting started. Be patient with yourself and remember that 5 minutes of meditation is better than nothing.
Mobilize your inner-yogi.
Bring body and mind together with a yoga practice. Yoga can help us strengthen our ability to move through difficult situations with grace. For instance, a deep stretch or challenging pose gives us an opportunity to practice breathing through discomfort—and also allows for some deep stretching and mobility improvement. This practice strengthens your mind-body connection, which can help you become more adept at checking-in with yourself throughout your day.
Whether you’re looking for a soft and slow class that focuses on stretching and flexibility or a power flow class that’s meant for building strength, there’s something for everyone. This makes yoga a multimodal form of exercise, making it the Swiss Army knife of wellness rituals.
You’re more likely to stick to a habit if you have daily visual reminders. Keep your yoga mat somewhere easily accessible and you might just end up rolling it out more often.
Discover a sensory deprivation tank.
When you’re trying to disconnect but feel like you need outside intervention, a sensory deprivation tank could offer a welcome reprieve. First used in the 1950s—but gaining recent popularity—sensory deprivation tanks are used for something called restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST). A dark and soundproof tank is filled with a foot or less of salt water, allowing you to float in a weightless and deeply relaxed state.
A recent study found that floating in a sensory deprivation tank has been linked to increased originality, imagination, and intuition, which are integral to enhanced creativity.4 If you’re feeling the effects of burnout, this ritual might be exactly what you need for a fresh start.
This is your ideal ritual if you feel calm in enclosed spaces and are interested in physically parting ways with all notifications.
What practice do you gravitate to? While all these self-care rituals can become part of your routine, start small if you feel overwhelmed. The best practice is one that you’ll actually do, even if it’s for ten minutes.
WebMD. (n.d.). How journaling can help ease anxiety and encourage healing. WebMD. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-benefits-of-journaling
Neilson, S. (2019, July 25). A warm bedtime bath can help you cool down and sleep better. NPR. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/07/25/745010965/a-warm-bedtime-bath-can-help-you-cool-down-and-sleep-better#:~:text=Based%20on%20scientists'%20review%20of,overall%20amount%20of%20time%20slept.
Thorpe, M. (2020, October 27). 12 benefits of meditation. Healthline. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#1.-Reduces-stress
Jonsson, K., & Kjellgren, A. (2014, June 9). Curing the sick and creating supermen – how relaxation in flotation tanks is advertised on the internet. European Journal of Integrative Medicine. Retrieved August 9, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876382014000845#sec0065