HOW TO CRAFT A SHUTDOWN RITUAL



  1. Benefits of a shutdown ritual

  2. Two types of Shut-Down Rituals

  3. Work Shut Down

  4. Nightly Shut Down

  5. Take-Home Points

  6. More resources

  7. Playlists

Benefits of a Shut Down Ritual

So you may already know the incredible benefits of having a startup ritual & the importance of pouring into yourself first thing. Now let's talk about how having a solid shut down ritual can be a wonderful way to prime the body & nervous system for optimal rest.



A daily shut down ritual gives your nervous system the chance to downshift.


Giving yourself the space and time to transition from daily activity to rest and recovery mode is especially beneficial to establish routines surrounding bedtimes.


Wind down rituals are proven to help relieve:


✔Struggle to feel relaxed.

✔Anxiety or other mental health conditions

✔Inability to mentally disconnect from work

✔Burnout & other chronic stress states

✔Insomnia

✔Analysis Paralysis

✔Overthinking


Essentially a shutdown ritual will get your nervous system out of the sympathetic tone required to maintain high levels of performance as is the case for healthcare professionals, where the pressure to not ever make mistakes keeps you on your toes all the time.

Pressing the vagal brake will increase parasympathetic tone and illicit the rest and digest mode. In this physiological mode, cardiac output is reduced promoting relaxation, self-soothing, growth, and repair.


2 Types of Shut Down Rituals

  1. Work Shut down routine

  2. Nightly shut down routine



Work Shutdown Routine


Healthy Boundaries around work


Working in healthcare, there is so much heavy stuff we deal with at work. A while back I noticed that leaving work with a brain full of worries for patients, frustrations with admin, death, life, and all the other complex emotions, really made me a miserable person to be around at times.


Some days after really tough shifts, I would come home, say hi to my husband for a minute then immediately go to my bedroom to shut down the world because my brain couldn’t handle the stress and emotion of that day at the hospital.


Other days I would leave the hospital so overwhelmed that I would sit in my car in the parking lot for long periods of time. I didn’t know why I was doing it, I just knew it made me feel better to be encapsulated in a space in time between my work ad my life for a while.



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When things got really bad during the day, I found myself going to my car a few times during the workday to escape the psychological stress & chaos in the hospital for a while.


When examining my odd behavior more closely I realized it was an attempt to self-regulate. I was surprised to find out many of my colleagues had the exact same ritual.


This is what lead me to coin the phrase healthcare hangover to that ubiquitous yet inexplicable feeling of wanting to take refuge and stop time before caregiving work and participating in your regular life.

Then when working with my therapist to form boundaries around work, I learned the incredible value of using these rituals to soften the transition between work and life.


How to Intentionally Leave work at work


In addition to needing time to transition from the high emotional charge healthcare work can have, there is also something to be said for having cues in place that taps right into your nervous system to let you know that you’re done with work.


This will hack your nervous system and alleviate some of the responsibility of downshifting off of you.


Like taking the jacket off of a police dog, or changing out of your scrubs when you get home- the physical act is a physician cue that elicits a full-body understanding that- ok, we’re done with work, and now it’s time to chill.


It’s pavlovian.


More organized workflow the following day


Another benefit of having a work shut down ritual is to increase your productivity the next day.


With quality rest, you will have better performance but also writing down where you left off the previous day as part of your work-shutdown ritual will save you time & help you to pick up right where you left off and get in flow faster.


Doing this helps you be more efficient and accurate because you no longer have to rely solely on memory when remembering important work tasks.


Work Shut Down Ritual Template

  1. Before leaving work, write down the next 3 most important things to tackle as soon as you get to work the next day.

  2. After a shift, dedicate a few minutes alone (before getting home & engaging with family or friends) to dissipate some of the heavy energy that may still be with you.


Simple ways to dissipate the emotional charge of healthcare work before heading home

  • Say a quick prayer for your patients

  • Sit in your car for a while

  • Listen to music that you can sing along to

  • Take a walk outside

  • List what you are grateful for

  • Call someone who makes you laugh and/or always lightens your mood.

  • Listen to a comedian on the way home

  • Neurohack your overwhelm with rhythm therapy

This is just a place to start. You may be as creative as you want when personalizing your work shut down ritual.


I typically do one or a combination of these to gently shift my focus away from work and get back in vibrational alignment with who I really am, not just what I do for a living or what healthcare misadventure happened that day.


Typically by the time I get home, I feel much lighter and able to participate more in my life outside of work.


Nightly Shut down Ritual


Ok so now you did everything you could to leave work at work. Now it’s time to participate in your life.

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I know, I know. Sometimes it just feels so unfair to have to work & do life too.


Here are some tips to make it more manageable.


Taking the non-negotiables into account, like making dinner, taking care of your family + pets, and spending quality time with loved ones, how does this fit into your nightly shut down ritual?


Well, they can be incorporated, however, it is important to have some time to pour into yourself at the end of the day, just as it is at the start of the day with a start-up ritual.


My preferred way to do it is to keep energizing activities that hype up my nervous system to a minimum by only engaging in calming activities for at least 1 hour before bed.


These calming activities can be active or passive:


Keep in mind that heavy workouts can sometimes have the opposite effect. Before engaging in exercise in the evenings, know your body & try and keep the exercise that you know will feel calming to you when you're done.


If I’m honest I like a big chunk of time to wind down of 2-4 hours, especially on days where I feel over-stimulated or anxious because it typically takes a lot longer to get to calm when you're all revved up.


Practicing sleep hygiene is also important in optimally priming the body for restful sleep.


Sleep hygiene is defined as behaviors that one can do to help promote good sleep using behavioral interventions.


Especially if insomnia is an issue, creating a ritual before bed that counters modern dopamine traps like over scrolling & binging television.


Nightly Shut-Down Ritual Template

  • After eating & cleaning up, wind down alone or with loved ones.

  • Digital detox

  • Passive or active activities that promote calmness

  • Sleep Hygiene

  • Warm bath or shower

  • Skincare

  • Gratitude with 5-minute Journal

  • Aromatherapy

  • Cool room temperature

  • Blackout curtains & eye mask

  • Same sleep time every night


This is just a place to start, you can be as creative as you like with these.


Word of Caution if you have an I-phone and use the bedtime feature. I found out the hard way that with a new software update, my phone was automatically put on do not disturb, unbeknownst to me. Then the next time I was on call, my phone did not ring or vibrate and I got called in for an emergency CABG. Luckily, they got a hold of the other PA who was not on call and the operation went on without a hitch, but you can imagine the despair this caused everyone on the call team. I’m pretty sure that surgeon is still secretly pissed off at me about it and I’m still ashamed that even went down, never happened my entire career. Watch out for digital sabotage folks!


Take-Home Points


Creating start-up and shut-down rituals are really wonderful ways to offset the toll of working in healthcare & honestly, just being human.


It works with our natural propensity to have different stress hormones early in the day and late at night as diurnal creatures.


Working with the biphasic nature of your nervous system is a hack that can fast track healing, growth, and well-being.


More Resources



Playlists to Soothe





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