After a challenging year, I headed towards the end of 2021 feeling like I needed a break. I took a few weeks off work but, with the travel situation so up in the air, I (ironically) couldn’t get up in the air to go anywhere. And maybe I didn’t really want to, either. Travel can be exhausting, especially for a vata-dominant person like me, so the idea of a staycation sounded incredibly appealing.
The trouble was, I really struggled to relax. I did a lot of relaxing things – reading, Restorative yoga, cooking (yes, I find cooking relaxing) – but there was still this feeling of needing to be productive. It’s so ingrained in us. And, I think that because the lead-up to my time off had been so busy, it took much longer to move from doing mode into being mode. Sure enough, I started to feel more relaxed as my time off went on. But also sure enough, that was just as I had to head back to work.
All this left me with a desire to do much, much less. I started the new year by making a more conscious effort to move more slowly, to not rush. To sometimes look at my (often full) calendar and simply cancel some things I don’t need to do.
I also decided to dedicate one entire Sunday to self-care, and the thing I was craving the most? Being offline. What did I need to plan in advance, what did I do on the day and what did I discover about myself in the process?
- Schedule it in
I picked a day when I could give myself the space to shut off from the rest of the world as much as I could. Talk to the people in your life who you need support from to make this happen.
- Plan a menu
I wanted to eat nourishing seasonal food, and I wanted to continue to eat in a simple way for the two days following my initial self-care day. I planned three days’ worth of healthy Ayurvedic meals and snacks with inspiration from three of my favourite Ayurvedic cookbooks: Living Ayurveda by Claire Ragozzino, Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind by Kate O’Donnell and East by West by Jasmine Hemsley. My go-tos were Claire’s kanji and golden milk oats; Kate’s sweet date and pear breakfast kitchari, gingered sweet potato dhal and sattvic noodle bowl; and Jasmine’s savoury kitchari.
- Shop for supplies
I made sure to have all the food and self-care supplies I needed beforehand, so I could avoid the bright lights and sensory overload of the supermarket on the day. If you’re planning to do Abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage), make sure you have enough oil (sesame oil is great for winter, and coconut oil is good for the warmest days of summer).
- Turn your phone to aeroplane mode the night before
I specifically wanted an offline day, and my circumstances allow me the luxury to do so. If you can’t go a full day without a phone for whatever reason, try and schedule in at least some time that day where you can disconnect.
On the day
- Limit external distractions
I share a small apartment with my boyfriend in Amsterdam, but I kept my phone on aeroplane mode and sequestered myself from activity as much as I could. I asked if we could keep screens and audio off in our communal spaces, and limit how much we talked during the day without it becoming weird. For example, we ate lunch together and chatted calmly and quietly, but didn’t engage in any intense discussions.
- Take time to cook and eat
Enjoy the ritual of cooking and slowly eating your meals – all fresh, no leftovers. Sit down to eat. No screens, no phone. Try having a smaller breakfast, a larger lunch and a smaller dinner. If you need to (I do!), have a healthy snack in between – at least two hours either side of a meal. Try to eat your last meal of the day relatively early – at least a good few hours before you go to bed.
- _Go for a calm walk_
A self-care walk should feel more like getting fresh air than getting exercise. If you’re someone who struggles to slow down, see what happens if you consciously lower the pace. If you’re feeling unmotivated, maybe pick up the pace a little bit – but don’t overdo it. Avoid busy areas and try to include some nature in your stroll.
- Practise Restorative yoga
Unlike many other types of yoga, Restorative yoga (as taught by my teachers Judith Hanson Lasater and Lizzie Laster) involves little to no input or output. Other slower forms of yoga like yin still include stretching, but Restorative considers stretching too stimulating to the nervous system. For a day that’s about lowering stimulation and input, Restorative is great. For any and every day, Restorative is great. I try to do at least 20 minutes per day, usually a long supported savasana. Judith’s book Restore and Rebalance is an amazing resource. On my mini retreat day, I practised for longer – around 90 minutes.
If you already have a meditation practice, make sure you incorporate it into your self-care day. If you don’t, you could simply try sitting in silence for at least five minutes (set a timer if you need/want to) with your eyes closed and ‘watching’ what arises within you while trying not to judge your thoughts. Be the neutral observer.
- Practise Abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage)
Give yourself a full body massage with warm oil, preferably in the morning before eating. If that’s not possible, you can do it at any point during the day but it’s best to wait a few hours after a meal.
Sitting or standing on an old towel you don’t mind getting oily, start by oiling your extremities – your hands and feet – and move slowly towards your centre, using long sweeping motions for your limbs and circular motions for your joints. Finish with your belly, making gentle circles in a clockwise motion. Pay extra attention to the soles of your feet and your scalp. As someone with digestive issues, I also focus on my belly. I fill up my belly button with warm oil and hold it there for a minute before starting with smaller circles that grow in size until my whole belly is oiled. Leave the oil on for around half an hour then shower as normal. I have an old set of cotton pyjamas and socks that I put on while I’m waiting. Afterwards, I hang both the old clothes and the towel up to air without washing them, and only use them for the purpose of self-massage.
- Read a book, but only if it makes you feel good
In line with this being a day of being rather than doing, don’t think about achieving anything. If the thought of reading a book on a day like this doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t do it. If it feels like work, don’t do it. If you think you’ll be triggered, don’t do it. If the thought of curling up with a novel feels delightful and even potentially indulgent, then absolutely do it. If you start reading and it feels arduous or tension-inducing, just stop.
If the mood takes you, write whatever thoughts come up during the day. But just like reading, don’t force yourself to write if you don’t feel like it.
- More, please
The main point that came up for me was: I need to do this more often. And even if it’s not a full day, I can give myself something, whether it’s a few hours without my phone online, prioritizing rest over exercise, or planning meals in advance to give myself more space in a day to cook and enjoy them.
- Giving yourself space can help you reconnect with you
When you reduce input/output and distractions, you might be confronted with some truths about yourself. I felt very resistant to a certain aspect of my life, which is a sign to me that I need to find more balance there. On the other hand, you might realize there are certain things you want more of. Restorative yoga is also a great tool for fostering spontaneous creativity, and I felt that on this day. I had some great ideas for things I want to do in the future.
- The mind will play tricks on you
I was totally happy being offline until around 7 p.m. Most of my family lives on the other side of the world from me, and I had this sudden (and thankfully short-lived) panic during the evening that if something were to happen to them, they wouldn’t be able to contact me. Putting aside how incredibly coincidental it would be that if on the one day I decided to turn my phone off, something really did happen, it’s also not true – they could have reached me via my boyfriend. For me, this reaction was a sign that I sometimes put others’ needs much higher than my own. And you know what? If something really had happened, I think I’d have felt far better equipped to deal with it after a day of me-time.