Rituals builds Resilience

I’ve often been asked how I did what I did as a Clown Doctor for all those years, well at the beginning I was often a mess, I used to cry in the stairwells (because it’s not a good look to see a sad clown in tears in the corridor).  It was pretty clear when I began working that I was going to need tools to manage some of the trauma I saw and the anguish I felt for others. I needed rituals to help bring me back into balance.

The toolkit that I developed consisted of these 5 things:

  1. Switch-off  - switch off my mind.  Ten minute meditation in the car before I drove the hour drive home.
  2. Quiet – quiet my nervous system.  Listening to classical music or smooth jazz as I drove, no radio with ads, no phone calls, no podcasts, just quiet to soothe my nervous system.
  3. Move – move my body.   A swim after work to move the emotion and tension that had built up in my body.
  4. Process – process my emotions by writing the stories of my experiences on ward that day as a way of dealing with my complex reactions to the day.
  5. Closure - letting go.  Closure for me was creating a ritual for when a child passed, so that I could honour them in some small way and allow myself to grieve.

Closure for me would consist of stopping at the local party shop to buy a helium balloon and then drive to a nearby headland where I would sit holding the balloon and look over the ocean. 

I would sit quietly, still in my clown doctor outfit, and I would gaze at the power and beauty of the ocean and reflect on the child whose path had crossed mine and think about some of the time we’d shared. This would give me the opportunity to feel the loss, the sadness, even the anger of what seemed so unfair, and I would cry.  Tears just wash the sadness away.

Then once the emotion had passed I would let go of the balloon into the breeze, and watch it travel upward and simply say thank you and send love to the child.

Rituals for Resilience empower us with the strength to continue, it creates a pause from the plugged-in frantic digital world we live in that consumes us so easily.  Rituals create the space for us to find the serenity to accept the things we cannot change. Rituals build resilience.

What small rituals can you create to help you build resilience to the difficulties and adversities that we all face?