Breathing Space January 2024

by Dan Comer

The Power of Small Daily Rituals in Overcoming Overwhelm

Researchers suggest that only 9 percent of Americans that make New Year’s resolutions complete them. Is this the year to give that practice up? (I am not a fan of failing 91 percent of the time…) I may have a better idea for you.

It continues to be a crazy time for most of us, for a whole bunch of reasons. And in the frenetic dance of modern life, where chaos seems to be the only constant, finding a refuge of calm becomes essential for maintaining our sanity. I have discovered that amid the hustle and bustle, the power of small daily rituals can become a compass guiding us through the storm of overwhelm and stress.

Small daily rituals, seemingly mundane in their simplicity, possess an extraordinary ability to anchor us in the present, fostering a sense of control and tranquility. It is another way to use the power of mindfulness to support you through your day.

Let’s consider some possible times to intentionally add small rituals to your day:

  • Consider the morning routine. The quiet sip of a warm cup of tea or coffee, the gentle stretch of limbs, the unhurried embrace of solitude before the day unfolds. These small acts may appear inconsequential, but their cumulative effect is profound. They establish a rhythm, a cadence that resonates with the soul, signaling the start of a new day on our terms. You are going to have that coffee or tea—why not easily transform it into a calming ritual. A special cup, sitting on the deck listening to birds…you get the idea!
  • Starting your workday. Yes, you could walk in the door or sit down at your computer at home, and start your first meeting. But what small ritual might start your day from a different place? Have an intention for the day; choose how you would like to show up in your workday today (curious, optimistic, generous, etc.). Connect briefly with someone different at the beginning of each day, as a way of building connections on your team. What are your ideas?
  • I have stopped asking people if they take an actual break and (only) eat some lunch. NO one does this! Research suggests that taking a lunch break can lead to higher levels of work performance and creativity. You will do better work if you take a break and eat slowly and mindfully or have lunch with someone else, again, to connect with the other humans who inhabit your workplace. Try this for a week and see what you notice!
  • Ending the workday. Many folks have begun to add a small ritual at the end of their workday to delineate that the work part of their day is over (shutting your laptop, taking a walk, getting the mail, etc.). I have recently copied my neighbors’ ritual of drinking a cup of coffee together at the end of the day. It is a nice way to shift gears and to reconnect with family after work. What might your transition ritual look like?

Remember that the magic lies not just in the rituals themselves but in the consistency with which we practice them. They serve as touchstones, grounding us when the winds of stress threaten to sweep us away.

Small rituals need not be time consuming or elaborate; their potency lies in their accessibility. A brief walk in nature, a few moments of deep breathing, or even the act of pausing to appreciate the beauty around us can become potent antidotes to stress.

I would love to hear examples of your rituals. Share them at daniel.comer@cuanschutz.edu.

Sources: Batts, R. (2023, February 2). Why most new year’s resolutions fail. Lead Read Today, The Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business. https://fisher.osu.edu/blogs/leadreadtoday/why-most-new-years-resolutions-fail; de Bloom, J., Kinnunen, U. & Korpela, K. (2014, May 22). Exposure to nature versus relaxation during lunch breaks and recovery from work: development and design of an intervention study to improve workers’ health, well-being, work performance and creativity. BMC Public Health, 14, Article 488. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-488