The Importance of Ritual and Routine During Stressful Times
The most important thing in a crisis is distinguishing between what is in your control and what is not. Initially we become hyper-aware of what we can’t control, and many others during this virus, have focused on what we can’t do.
Rarely do we hear about all the things we can do, even from home!
We can finally have a schedule or routine that doesn’t get interrupted by our usual busy-ness. Rituals and routines give us a sense of control, focus, and confidence. Habits are just things we do that have become automated, some positive, some negative.
For example, schedules, routines, and rituals are purposeful; intentionally aimed at putting your day right. Busy-ness is a habit. Who feels any sense of control when they’re stretched for time and energy? Chaos is a habit as well.
Now, you have a chance to create intentional rituals and routines that make you happier.
As we progressed through this virus lockdown, our lives were turned upside down because our automated activities were no longer automatic. The high stress levels are also due to less automated activities. We have to consciously think each time we enter a store or come into the house. Our routines are scrambled. We have additional hygiene requirements we must remember too.
80-90% of our lives are automated so it feels really uncomfortable to have that interrupted.
The first thing we need to do to calm ourselves, especially our brains and nervous systems, is to get intentional about our time and establish a routine, a schedule, and be mindful of our rituals as well. This will knock your stress and anxiety level down from a 10 to a 3. Rituals and routines are an easy way that we can assert a varying degree of control in our lives to bring us peace during stressful times.
By establishing a routine, you can navigate how your day will go and by creating rituals, you have something that centers and grounds you.
Schedules and routines:
One new routine you may have now is cooking at home more often or having more family time, calling and talking to family more often. We can transform several of these new routines into good habits once the lockdown and virus threat is over.
At the onset of suddenly becoming a homeschool parent, the first thing I implemented was a schedule. It was a game-changer, a life saver, a hail Mary….you get the point. While my friends were struggling with kids at home and homework piled on top of that, I’m breezing through my day. No complaints from the kids.
With children, it’s important to include them on the schedule-making so they also get a sense of control.
When I created our schedule, I kept in mind that our bodies have natural patterns as well. For instance, studies show it’s best to get the most activity and brain work done earlier in the day. This has to do with our body clock and circadian rhythm. You can find many sources that will guide you in the direction of the best times to do various activities throughout your day.
Of course, the best guide is yourself. You know yourself; you know your family. Do what’s best for you and your family. I changed our schedule three times before I found what works for us.
The kids liked that I alternated activities; the harder or more mundane tasks like homework and chores are alternated with fun activities like being outside, creative time, and playing on their devices. I’m happy as long as they get homework, chores, and some exercise. It’s a win-win!
If you’re not a parent, you can build a schedule in blocks of time. I do this for myself. I have 4-6 things (sometimes only 2) that I really want to accomplish each day and I give myself 2-hour blocks of time to get one or two of those things done.
For instance, I want laundry and checking my emails done the first two hours of the day. Then from there, I get homeschooling done from 10am-12pm. It’s not hard to fit a task or two in 2-hour increments, plus you feel accomplished at the end of the day. The tasks don’t have to be big things. They can be meditation or making yourself a healthy breakfast.
“We see in every culture- and throughout history- that people who perform rituals report feeling better”, Behaviorist, Michael Norton.
Studies show that people who believe in God are happier, but upon further inspection, there’s more to it. The rituals associated with believing in God, such as prayer, is a major source of happiness and contentment.
If you believe in good luck, you don’t actually become luckier, you just boost your confidence, which leads to all sorts of great outcomes. Sports psychologists know that pre-performance rituals improve focus, execution, and confidence even if many of them seem quirky or downright crazy.
Self-help guru, Tony Robbins, is also known for his pre-stage rituals. He both calms and energizes himself through rituals. He’s been seen meditating then jumping on a trampoline backstage before his seminars and public speaking engagements.
Habits are different than rituals. Habits are so automated, they seem involuntary. Rituals are sacred in a way; they are meaningful and intentional. They may hold symbolic value to you as well.
If I can sit down to a cup of tea each day, it signals to me that I didn’t spend the entire day hurried and hectic; that I had at least a few luxurious moments to enjoy a relaxing cup of tea and a mindful moment. Tea signals ‘slow down’ for me.
Create or implement a few rituals into your day that align with your values, your goals, and/or how you desire to feel.
By implementing a schedule, routines, and rituals during this crisis, we can control a big aspect of our lives, our stress levels, and our state of mind. You might prefer it to the habitual busy-ness.
Peace and Be Well,