How to Care for Yourself during Difficult Times

Work, life, school, economic, social, political, and environmental disasters and stressors are everywhere these days. Today’s society bathes in stressful events every day. It’s enough to make you want to crawl in a hole and pull the dirt up over yourself. (See “Does the News Make you  Disheartened and Afraid“). But if you hide, you will never achieve your dreams. So what to do? Develop a personal ritual to care for yourself during difficult times. 

Image of fire ritual where male hand is dropping a piece of paper into a fire. Develop a personal ritual to care for yourself during difficult times.
The Fire Ritual

What’s a Personal Ritual?

The word ritual has a lot of baggage. According to Merriam Webster, the word ritual means:

1. of or relating to rites or a ritualCEREMONIAL

ritual dance

2. according to religious law

ritual purity

3. done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol

ritual handshakes

ritual background checks


The personal ritual is a “normal protocol” or a routine. You have many already. 

What’s the thing you do every day when you first get up? That’s a ritual. Perhaps you wear a “lucky” t-shirt to your favorite ball game or you cross your fingers before saying something. Those are also rituals. 

Image of coffee and burning incense next to a laptop computer. Develop a personal ritual to care for yourself during difficult times.
Incense and coffee to invoke the muse.

Are Rituals Effective?

Different rituals work for different reasons and the reasons may not be what you think.

The ancient Egyptians’ ritual of pouring water before pulling the sledge with the stones for the pyramids worked. They may not have known why it worked. But the pull across slightly damp sand was easier than over dry sand.

Even simple rituals can be effective. 

Scientific American

There have been studies of how rituals work. In a study, they set up a known stressful situation for participants. The people who took part in an assigned ritual afterward reported feeling less stress.

Image of a boy performing the Buddhist water ritual. Develop a personal ritual to care for yourself during difficult times.
A Buddhist water ritual

Are rituals always effective?

Rituals come in many forms. They can involve technology. Sometimes they’re self-or social motivated such as religious rites and rituals. They can be simple or a complex series of actions. Sometimes they work.

Sometimes rituals don’t “work.” Why? We understand very little of the social and psychological underpinnings of ritual. Perhaps they don’t work when we don’t believe. Maybe it’s that we’ve fallen victim to some magical thinking. For example, Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game. But if he wore those shorts and never practiced his skills, the ritual wouldn’t work. 

Rituals are tools

Rituals are tools that can help us consciously choose the direction and purpose of our lives. They can affirm feelings you have or ones you wish to have. For example, lighting a candle and turning on music with a specific tone or feeling can give you a moment of peace or inspire your muse to write or draw.

The ritual process provides a sense of stability and continuity amidst the ever-changing, hectic and often chaotic world in which we live. Rituals engender a sense of healing calm and a feeling of trust in life’s flow and forward movement. 

~Psychology Today.

How to Create a Ritual

Create a ritual specific to your needs. Do you need to feel inspired? Or you need to feel confident? Are you seeking a sense of calmness and wellbeing? Think back to a place and time you’ve felt calm (inspired or confident) in the past and build your ritual around that. Perhaps a photograph and a bit of sand or rock from the place where you felt the most calm. If you need a little more ritual, repeat a phrase that’s meaningful to you. A portion of a poem will work. Or you can recite a self-affirming statement. (When I think of this place(insert name of place or time) my heart and breathing calm.)

A pillar candle burning against a black background. Develop a personal ritual to care for yourself during difficult times.
A simple ritual-light the candle and watch the flame to center yourself.

Rituals can be as simple as lighting a candle. Or they can be complex with many steps. The primary thing to remember is that it must be significant to you. It needn’t be huge, earth-shattering significance. But something that you connect with the feeling or activity you wish to do. 

Don’t have any ideas on how to create a ritual? There’s a huge list here. The author of that blog post suggests picking seven. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Pick three. The three that resonate with you. 

How To Care for Yourself During Difficult Times

During difficult times, we often forget to take care of ourselves. Using a personal ritual can help. Rituals remove you from ordinary life for a few moments. They remind you of your purpose and help you focus. It’s a way to care for yourself during difficult times. If rituals are not your thing, you may find some useful information in The Best Way You can Not Feel Helpless. Do you use rituals? Will you create one now?


    1. Absolutely. A ritual can and should be something that represents the idea or emotion or memory you need to invoke.

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