Toilet paper is not the only thing wiped clean off the shelves; so too is our sense of stability and well-being. We’re grieving many losses. What’s more, we can’t see what’s around the corner which amps up our grief and anxiety about what else to anticipate in addition to stores with empty shelves. In the absence of certainty and the presence of loss, consistent structures help counter our disorientation. The practice of rituals is one structure we can put in place to regain and retain our calm.
Here are five rituals that have helped my coaching clients. They practice most of these without requiring additional time in their schedules.
Slow down your mornings. Instead of checking your phone, the news, or work before your feet hit the floor, take the time you would have spent on a commute for yourself. Design your mornings for one to three self-care rituals by having a list of a dozen or so from which to choose. Your rituals might include exercise, a walk with a loved one, texts to let friends know you care about them, preparing and eating a healthy breakfast, or stretching. My ritual this morning included time with my husband over a cup of tea and reading. By having a menu of morning rituals from which to choose, you won’t be bored. You can create fun themes for yourself over the week such as Walking Wednesday and Facial Friday.
Wake up your wonder. We feel loss because we possessed things that were precious to us in the first place. Loss originates from a place of abundance. We still have many things to be grateful for. Practice gratitude daily for someone or something contributing to the abundance in your life. I often used to think about practicing gratitude but as with many good intentions, only acted sporadically until I thought of the “power of the shower.” Now, every day in the shower, I focus on gratitude. After about a month of consciously reminding myself to practice the power of the shower, it’s now a natural occurrence, tagged on to a task I perform daily. Thankfulness helps pivot our attention from loss to love and boosts our happiness.
Keep your commitments. We’re usually pretty good at following through on promises we make at work. We tend to make fewer promises at home; perhaps we’re afraid we might not keep them? For many people working from home it’s easy to let work bleed into all hours. Begin your week by sitting down with your family and scheduling family time. Perhaps your ritual will be lunch with your family each day for half an hour at noon, a household dance routine at 4pm, going out together to thank essential service workers, or jointly preparing a meal. You’re more likely to keep family commitments if you make them before the week’s work schedule hijacks all your time. Family time has the dual purpose of connection and boosting productivity once you resume work.
Involve kids in your work. What better time to have your kids learn more about your work than when you’re separated by a few feet instead of an hour commute? Share a highlight from work at the dinner table, ask them to help you with easier tasks such as tallying your overdue expense reports, or have them capture your notes from a book you just read. By having your children actively participate in your work, you can fast forward their education about the real world, spend more time together, delegate some work, and sow the seeds of collaboration and mutual exchange where you’re not the only one contributing to their (school) work.
Wind down your evenings. Bookend your day by unplugging. Spend at least ten minutes each night unplugged. Just like your morning rituals, having a variety of activities might help, or you might find comfort in sticking to a single one. You could read, reflect on the day with your partner, or journal. My favorite evening ritual is to turn on a meditation app once I’m already settled into bed. I often fall asleep before the meditation is complete but wake up feeling more relaxed. As a bonus, I don’t have to feel guilty for not carving out time for meditation during the day – it’s almost a freebie when you’re already in bed.
Whatever your sources of stress or need to decompress, design rituals to weather your emotional storms day to day. Consistency helps us retain a semblance of control when events overtake us and provides a reliable foundation for moving forward despite uncertainty. You might find the rituals you practice during this pandemic to be evergreen when the crisis has passed.
Written by Sabina Nawaz