Reinventing Rituals in Times of Change

As we adhere to public health guidelines by halting gatherings, social distancing, and staying home, we’ve recognized that we have also eliminated many of our sacred and daily rituals. I have a senior in high school this year, and although we have been lucky to have in-person learning, all of the senior year rituals are off: pep rallies, football games with friends, homecoming dances, prom, banquets, and more. Most of the “lasts” happened over a year ago, well before anyone knew they would be the “last”.  For many people, it feels the same way at work. Our Friday morning break room bagel time, team events, and even just the mid-afternoon “stop by” have had to change. With this, we may be feeling uncertainty, loss, and anxiety.

Why are rituals so important, especially in times of change? Rituals are a way to cope with uncertainty. Most of us have rituals (big or small) that provide comfort or even confidence.  Rituals immerse you in the experience, rather than the uncertainty of what’s coming. And sometimes just “doing the ritual” is more important than the activity that follows it.

So, if you are feeling a little hole, it might be that you are missing a ritual and need to create a new one. Over the past year, we’ve become creative and thoughtful in the design of new rituals: drive-by birthday parties, drive-through graduations, holidays via Zoom, virtual coffee breaks, and more. Maybe you’ve found a way to get back that “decompression time” you had on your commute home from work or discovered a new way to prep for an important meeting.

Here are a few tips for creating new rituals:

  • Think about what you are missing. Was it a connection with a person or group of people? Is it a rite of passage or spiritual activity? Or was it simply a way to refocus your energy?
  • How did that ritual make you feel? Were you reassured, connected, inspired? Did it celebrate, grieve, or process an emotion? Was it a way to put something in the past and move forward?
  • How can you create a new ritual? Are there new ways to create that experience or feeling? For some rituals you may be able to make small adjustments, but for others you may need to re-imagine the experience. Can you make it simpler, but just as impactful?

Our need for rituals is real. They help us regulate our emotions and provide a sense of control. Let us know if you’ve created or reinvented any rituals. You might just hold a key to helping us all cope with our ever changing world.


Written by PeopleResults Partner Cheryl Farely. You can find Cheryl on Twitter @CherylMFarley