3 everyday rituals to combat stress

In Rituals for Every Day Nadia Narain and Katia Narain Phillips share ‘recipes’ to help you move through busy times in a way that feels graceful and deliberate, rather than rushed and routine. Here are three 'rituals' to help you press the pause button.


Rituals are a way of acknowledging and honouring our emotions and experiences, and they can give us a safe place to lay down some of our more difficult feelings. As the crazy-busy festive season looms closer, we’re sharing three rituals to help you press the pause button the pace of modern life.

1. Candlelit morning

This is a ritual for dark winter mornings, before the sun has risen. Rather than switching on electric lights as soon as you wake up, maintain the winter darkness for a little longer and reach for some candles instead.

Spend the first twenty minutes of your day in the warm glow of candlelight. You can sit quietly, or make a cup of tea, or just potter around the house. Feel how the candlelight allows you to transition slowly into your day.

We so often race from moment to moment, forgetting that transitions also deserve our attention and our respect. Taking time to honour  this space between waking and the ever-present to-do list will set the tone for how you tackle the day ahead.

2. Circular breathing

At times when we feel totally under siege, our first reaction to the suggestion of a breathing exercise can be, ‘Breathing? Please. Someone get me a Valium.’

Bestselling author Brené Brown tells a great story about how she resisted the idea of breathing exercises for years, thinking they were pointless and couldn’t possibly work, until finally, she asked a Navy SEAL how he kept calm in situations of extreme life-threatening pressure. His answer? The breathing exercise below.

You can do this ritual anywhere – at work, on public transport, or in the car. No one will be able to tell you’re doing it, so remember that pausing and paying attention are possible anywhere.

  • Inhale to a count of four
  • Hold the breath to a count of four
  • Exhale to a count of four
  • Hold the exhalation to a count of four 
  • Repeat for a full minute, or more

If it works for a Navy SEAL, it just might work for you too.

3. Difficult situations

When you can’t change a situation, sometimes the very best you can do is just treat your anxiety around it. These rituals offer you two really simple techniques to bring you back into your body. Try them in times when you’re awake in the night because of worries, or if you’re waking up full of fear at what the day ahead might hold. 

- Pinch the index finger and thumb of your right hand in the space between the index finger and thumb of your left hand. This is an acupressure technique that is great for calming the nervous system. If you want to amp this up, add a little essential oil and massage the space by squeezing your finger and thumb together. Lavender and bergamot are good for anxiety. Repeat on the other hand.

- In Chinese medicine, the space in the centre of the chest, just under the breastbone, is known as the ‘sea of tranquillity’. Tapping the centre of the chest is said to reduce stress and anxiety. Join all of your fingers and thumb together, as if you were holding a sock puppet, and use the fingertips to tap on the chest for about thirty second. Repeat two or three times a day.

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