Can't Relax? These 6 Ayurvedic Tips Will Help You Transition to Calm

Use self-care rituals to unwind at home or during your travels.
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BodyHoliday in Saint Lucia

"Once I let go of my 'must do' mentality, my relaxation perspective took a pleasant turn."

After booking a solo getaway to a wellness center in Saint Lucia, I counted down the days until I could sip from a fresh coconut on the beach, SUP in the warm Caribbean waters, and let my worries go “poof!” No kids vying for my attention (I’m a mom of two preschoolers). No work deadlines or late-night scrolling (ahem, Liking) on my phone. Just five whole days of blissfully ignoring everything else in favor of spa treatments, yoga, and self-care.

But when I finally landed on the island, my relaxation fantasy wasn’t quite the reality I had envisioned. BodyHoliday, a 42-acre beachside wellness resort, is paradise. The lush grounds and hillside Alhambra-inspired spa fortress—complete with its own reflecting pool and a designated Ayurvedic center—were exactly what I needed in my life. So why did I feel a pang of angst instead of vacationer’s euphoria?

Turns out, I’m a creature of habit, and the sudden lack of structure in my day combined with what seemed like limitless choices of resort activities—archery, chanting, tai chi—sent me into a mild panic. My list-making mentality backfired, and seeking calm and relaxing activities became stressful.

See also Know Your Stress Type + How to Balance It

It would have been wise to close my eyes, inhale the briny salt air, and let the lapping waves ground me into a laissez-faire state of mind. Instead, I started to tally all the things I felt I had to do while I was here: must try the turmeric tummy juice, must loaf in the spa’s infrared treatment room, must order from the custom Ayurvedic menu, must read in the hammock on the beach, must order those adorable mini-scones at tea time. Why don’t I feel relaxed yet?

"As the herb-infused sesame oil streamed down my forehead, I felt as if waves were washing over me." 

"As the herb-infused sesame oil streamed down my forehead, I felt as if waves were washing over me." 

It wasn’t until my first Ayurveda therapy—shirodhara (a ritual of pouring oil onto your forehead)—that I surrendered. Even before I entered the treatment room, which looked more like an ornate jewel box than a place for massages, the spa therapist lead me to a stone basin for a ritual foot bath. It took less than five minutes to rinse and gently massage my feet, but this small step made a huge impact on my mindset. It was like stepping over a mental threshold that forced me to pause before entering a new space.

As the herb-infused sesame oil streamed down my forehead, aimed at infiltrating my sixth chakra, I felt as if waves were washing over me, hypnosis-like, as I dipped in and out of conscious awareness. I was in another world. After the treatment was done, the therapist sprayed rose water on my face, awakening my senses and bringing me back to the present.

The need to weave transitions throughout my vacation felt like a revelation. Taking an extra step to bridge activities, especially those that had their own pace, wasn’t obvious, at least not to an on-the-go person like me. Once I let go of my “must do” mentality, my relaxation perspective took a pleasant turn and I floated from one activity to the next without feeling like a vacation-starved being.

BodyHoliday prides itself on setting up its wellness program in a way that allows guests not only to make positive changes incrementally, but to stick to these vacation-learned practices back home. My lesson here: Forced relaxation is counterproductive, and I need to implement transitional behaviors before I switch gears from chaotic to calm.

See also What a Traditional 21-Day Ayurvedic Detox Looks Like

Now that I’m back home, I miss drinking honey-ginger tonics on a whim and my skin no longer smells like the grounding herbal sesame oil of Ayurvedic spa treatments, but I’ve since added some mini rituals to my routine. As soon as my kids are in bed, I shower so that I can open a new chapter in my evening that’s just for myself. Before I start typing away at assignments, I spritz a crystal-infused frankincense-and-patchouli spray called Peace. These new habits are small, but they are some of the best souvenirs I’ve brought home from a vacation.

Here are six more lessons from BodyHoliday experts that will help you make smoother transitions, whether you’re unwinding on vacation or seeking TLC at home.