If you want to reduce stress and bring more calm into your daily life, try taking a leaf out of Lyndall Mitchell’s book.
Lynda Mitchell, certified wellness coach and owner of the iconic Aurora Spa in St Kilda, has spent 20 years helping her burnt-out clients – and herself – unlock more energy and live a calm, fulfilled life.
Along the way, she’s sampled just about every “life improvement” hack and has concluded that one of the most effective things any of us can do to improve energy and reduce stress is to “bookend” our days with simple rituals that we repeat every morning and night.
“If we can just get a rhythm going, harnessing our morning energy and preparing our body and mind for the night-time unwind [to] improve the quality and quantity of our sleep, it gives us the ability to have a higher level of resilience throughout the day, and less chaos and stress, which negatively impacts our health and wellbeing,” Mitchell, who facilitates Aurora Spa’s digital Daily Rituals To Reduce Stress course, tells Body+Soul.
“Once you experience some structure in the morning and evening, you realise it unlocks energy and positivity.”
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Start with an evening wind down
Mitchell’s mantra is “tomorrow starts today”, so she is passionate about using your final half hour to set you up for a good next day.
“We all love to sit down and unwind in front of the TV but it’s about having the commitment to unwind [properly] to give our body and mind the best chance at having really good quality sleep,” she explains.
Each evening, Mitchell does some healthy food prep and lays out her activewear for the next day, then takes to her bedside haven for a structured wind down that includes journaling, meditation and some DIY spa pampering to send a strong signal to her body and mind that it’s time to rest.
“Next to my bed I have my ‘zone’ set up – I have a beautiful journal with a beautiful pen and a meditation cushion,” she says.
“I start with journaling, which is about unlocking those thoughts that are in your mind and getting them down on paper. I generally write what went well today and what I’m grateful for – it may just be a paragraph or it may be a few pages. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re thinking until you write it down.”
Then she’ll move into meditation to calm her mind and focus her breathing before using a thermal balm and essential oils to give herself a personal neck and shoulder massage.
“That little package represents to my body and mind that sleep is around the corner,” she explains.
“If I’ve got a little bit more energy, then I might also do some reading. Then I’m into bed.”
Kicking your day off right
After a solid night’s sleep, Mitchell gets out of bed and straightens the covers immediately.
“Making your bed is the easiest success habit you can have because it builds momentum for the next step, which for me is meditation,” she explains.
“As soon as I get out of bed, my meditation cushion is there for some breathing. Then I’ll pull out an affirmation card and do some journaling about how I want to frame my day. I’ll always create a ‘power thought’ for the day, which is a sentence starting, ‘Today I am…'”
Mitchell says these powerful thoughts give us the ability to shape the way we approach our day, and gives us an anchor to return to as challenges come our way.
“The other day my power thought was about lightness – light conversation and light energy,” she says.
“For me, that represented exactly what I wanted to achieve on that day and I kept coming back to it, asking, ‘Where am I at with lightness today?’ Then at night-time, I was able to drill down into that in my evening journaling.”
She’ll usually do some mindful movement, which she tailors to her energy levels on any given day.
“Sometimes it might be running 10-15km, other days I’ll skip exercise if I realise I need nourishment and to refuel my tank if my body is exhausted,” she says.
“I find that these daily ‘bookends’ give me the ability to tune in and to have a day filled with mindful intention. If we start from that [space] in the morning, we have a better opportunity to be less reactive and get into the stress and chaos and drama and draining energy that can occur on autopilot.”
How to find your best bookends
Your bookends could include anything from meditation to journaling to being creative to exercise or connecting with loved ones.
“No two bookends are the same – it’s about customising and finding what works for you,” Mitchell says.
“Some people are more creative, others are really physical and others might be completely depleted and exhausted – you can customise and create bespoke bookends.”
But Mitchell says most of her clients benefit from taking a minute in the morning to consider how they want to be that day, and another moment at the end to reflect on how the day went.
“Your ‘power thought’ has got the ability to really shift and change your day, and it’s a point that you can keep coming back to and keep referencing throughout the day,” Mitchell says.
“[Good] morning and evening bookends [cover] the mind, body, spirit and emotions … When we’re working with those four quadrants, then we’re at our optimum.”