It’s common this time of year to feel pulled in too many directions, craving stability amidst the chaos. Autumn is a time when sticking to a routine can help us feel more grounded, present to the joys of life, and fully alive. Routines and schedules are antidotes to the effects of Vata’s airy qualities that dominate this season.
Routine doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, blocking off time for restorative evening activities can be one of the best parts of Autumn. Nights can be spent sitting around a campfire, sipping steaming drinks, and dressing in cozy clothes, which helps balance Vata, soothes the spirit, and warms the heart.
Because each of us has a unique life, a fluctuating relationship to the doshas, and a continual need to adjust to global shifts, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for creating routine. Discovering what works for us becomes a lifelong experiment as we find new ways to prioritize what nourishes and supports us. In a life that is anything but static, nevertheless, there are tried-and-true practices we can turn to again and again to create a life in balance.
What Lights You Up?
So many of us want both our working life and our personal life to be fulfilling, and everyone deserves that. In order to create that kind of life, with enough time for work and personal needs, first we must discern what matters most to us. To figure this out, set aside an hour for contemplation: take a few breaths, become present, and meditate for at least twenty minutes on your own or with the Chopra App. Then, follow these prompts.
- What do I wish for in my life? Ask yourself this question and notice everything that comes up no matter if it’s big or small, how relevant or possible it seems, and whatever category it falls under: love, work, or well-being. Notice. Allow. Open-mindedness is key to let what’s truly important come to the surface, especially anything that you have overridden previously because you judged it as impossible or out of reach.
- Write down all ideas, without editing. Watch what unfolds on the page.
- Look carefully at each item and think about if it already exists in your life. Where is it in the works or how have you tried it before? This step can be surprising because often we don’t pause to reflect on what we have and where we have been. Take time to open your mind to what’s already present for you. Feel gratitude for how far you have come, and commend yourself for all you have endured.
- Now that you’ve had new insights, single out the most important items from the list that you want to build on in the near future. Allow this to light you up, to be something you look forward to incorporating into your routine.
Prioritize Your Non-Negotiables for Joy
Among the items that might rise to the surface as a top priority is more sleep. In this article for Time, Arianna Huffington, co-founder, president, and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, shares easy tips for preparing for a good night’s sleep. She notes that getting enough sleep each night not only is better for health but also leads to a joyful feeling each morning in anticipation of the day.
While making your list, did you daydream about starting a side hustle? Despite the feelings we might associate with the word “hustle,” a side hustle involves something that fills you with joy. It might be selling cards online, writing a memoir, or sharing the fruits of your garden at a local market. Nicaila Matthews Okome is the creator and host of the podcast Side Hustle Pro, with more than one million downloads. In her inspiring Ted Talk, “This Is the Side Hustle Revolution”, Okome discusses the defining traits and the appeal of the side hustle to get you started.
Perhaps you noted that it’s time to prioritize working on your relationship with your partner? If you are stuck in a rut or simply want to deepen your connection, you might enjoy the game called Where Should We Begin, designed by psychotherapist and New York Times best-selling author Esther Perel.
Map It Out
The primary task when creating a routine that will work for you is to get specific about what you will do and when you will do it. A main reason we become overwhelmed is because we think we can fit more into a day than we actually can. The following exercise helps us intentionally fit in what lights us up and shows us what we need to release.
In the previous exercise, you listed what’s most important to you. In this exercise, list necessary tasks. In the end, you will combine the two.
- On a piece of paper, write down the times of day in one-hour increments from morning till night for all seven days of the week.
- Note what time you will get out of bed each day and when you want to be falling asleep.
- Before filling in anything else, create a separate list of everything you wish to do specifically for your own self-care. Include meditation, cooking, etc.
- Make a separate list of the family experiences that occur every day and every week.
- Jot down your work hours for a typical day and week.
- Gather the lists. Plot out the schedule of what a typical day and week can look like very specifically. As you do this, try not to get frustrated if you can’t fit it all in. Instead, have compassion for yourself around how much you juggle. See what has to get cut or postponed, and make space for what’s important.
Seeing what actually is possible allows you to make time for the things you value so your life becomes more intentional. Prioritize routines that nourish you: a morning walk, an afternoon cup of tea, and an evening bath. These important routines will help you feel more present in daily life, more connected to yourself and others, and more balanced.
You likely will have to say “no” to others and even to some things you want to do. Saying “no” is an important life skill, and best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about it eloquently.
Now you can look forward to feeling calmer and restored in autumn with a schedule that includes time in your routine simply to be. With time to say “yes” to what slows you down, such as relaxing autumn nights, you’ll feel more balanced, you’ll create a natural antidote to Vata derangement and burnout, and your body will respond in greater health no matter what’s going on in the global scene.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.