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What is a Ritual – and How Can It Help Caregivers?

May 19, 2021

Part 1 of 3: How Rituals Can Save Your Sanity and Make You a Better Caregiver

We talked briefly in the MOVE Method post about how a morning rituals can help you boost your emotions and give yourself a positive start to the day. That resonated with quite a few readers – due in no small part to the pandemic, I’m sure. We’ve all started our days for the last 15 months or so being dragged down mental health’s sliding scale.

In this series of three blog posts, How Rituals Can Save Your Sanity and Make You a Better Caregiver, I want to delve into rituals a bit further. As the title suggests, rituals help anchor you, help you keep your sanity, and help you become a better caregiver.

And rituals aren’t just for morning routines. I and my coaching clients have found evening rituals to be extremely helpful as well. Coupled with morning rituals, evening rituals are like bookends to the day that help us take a few moments to get centred once again.

But first, let’s discuss the difference between ritual, routine, and habits.

Ritual vs. Routine vs. Habits – and Why Ritual is Most Important

A habit is something we do without thinking. A ritual is about mindfulness.At the most basic level, the difference between ritual, routine, and habits is the amount of thought we put into the actions that make them up.

  • A Habit requires very little thought. In fact, we might do it without thinking at all. Reaching out to pet your cat or throwing open the drapes. Something you do almost every single day as a matter of course.
  • A Routine requires some thought, but only because of the complexity of the actions. For example, perhaps when you wake up you put on your slippers, pad into the kitchen, grind some beans, brew some coffee, and put in a slice of toast. Again, it’s something you do most days, so you can pretty much do it on autopilot. (And good thing, since you haven’t had your coffee yet!)
  • A Ritual needs your attention for a very specific reason, which we’ll get to below. With a ritual, you never should be running on autopilot. A ritual is an act of mindfulness designed to help you bring peace and centre you before or after your day.

It’s this mindfulness that, by definition, needs your attention! There are a ton of resources on the Internet about mindfulness, and I encourage you to look it up. But for our purposes, we’ll define mindfulness as looking inward, living in the moment, and taking care of our own needs.

There are many benefits to developing a ritual including lowering stress levels, taking away needless worry, and reducing the risk of anxiety and depression

The difference is that ritual takes a lot of thought while a habit or a routine takes little thought, if any.Often, the only difference between a ritual and a routine are the reasons behind the action. For example, you might light a candle in a kitchen many evenings to get rid of cooking smells. Or, you might light a candle in a cathedral as you say a prayer. Same action, but vastly different motivations.

A ritual helps us achieve this mindfulness in several ways. First, like a routine, it often requires a physical action that takes some mental effort, but not a lot. Your focus should be on experiencing every moment of the process with all your senses. During these quiet moments, our mind, body, head, and soul can tell us more clearly what they want and need.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to describe one of the most famous mindfulness rituals: the tea ritual or ceremony.

How a Tea Ritual Can Help You Centre Yourself

Tea rituals are a popular way for people including caregivers to centre themselves -- but it's not the only one.The tea ritual is quite ancient, coming originally from Asian countries including Japan and China. However, today’s modern version often does not have the same formality or meanings attached. The ancient rituals are often about community and sharing the experience with other people. The modern tea ritual we’re talking about can be done by one.

Despite these differences, a solo tea ritual is still an effective way to help us focus our minds and purge any bad thoughts and feelings. It’s about noticing every step and experiencing it in the moment: how the tea smells, how the boiling water sounds hitting the insides of the tea pot, how the cup feels in our hand.

There are a number of things at work here. For one, we are slowing ourselves down. It takes time to make tea, and even more time to do it mindfully. It’s like the having a break in the eye of the storm – a quiet spot in the whirlwind around us. But it also allows us to take stock in ourselves. Is something weighing on our mind? How’s our mental state? Do we feel particularly good or bad? How do we feel physically?

The tea ritual – and rituals in general – are like a self-tune-up, checking our levels and getting ourselves ready to move or to recover from our day. 

The Tea Ritual is One of Many

The tea ritual is an easy one to explain because most of us have heard of it before. And, it’s a great one! But it’s not the only one. In the next two blog posts, we’ll look at Morning Rituals and then Evening Rituals, and how they can help us wind up and then wind down from our day.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me for a quick phone call. I provide a number of services to help caregivers achieve Balanced Success in their lives. Let’s arrange a free, 15-minute phone call to help you get back on track!


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