Importance of Rituals by Beth Ricanati, MD
This weekend I reached out to Beth Ricanati, MD, internist and author (Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs) to learn more about how rituals can help reduce anxiety and stress. She describes a ritual she adheres to, ones she recommends for families and some suggestions for weekend rituals that help prepare for the upcoming busy week.
What do you think can help reduce anxiety and stress?
It is practically impossible to pick up a newspaper or look at something online and not notice the bombardment of information coming at us from all directions imploring us to be more mindful, to be more aware, to be more present. The unintended consequence of all of this is that many of us tune it out ~ many of us [un]consciously choose not to be mindful. However, in 2019, this can have dire consequences for our health & wellbeing. Being more mindful is not just some hippy-dippy idea for those of us living in Southern California! Rather, with anxiety now one of the most significant mental health issues in America, affecting at least a third of adults, and suicide rates are rising amongst adolescents, it is more important than ever to have tools in our armamentarium to handle stress. An easy and accessible tool for all of us: rituals. Simply, rituals are behaviors that are done repetitively and become a habit. It can be as simple as finding joy in making your morning coffee every day. Whatever it is, having a ritual in your life can help you manage your stress.
What are your weekend rituals that you rely on to help relax and reduce stress?
Making challah every Friday is my go-to ritual. Not only do I get yummy bread in the process, but I also get the benefit that comes from making bread by hand: getting my hands in a bowl of dough, kneading the dough, is almost meditative. I feel decreased anxiety; I feel more present/grounded. Mixing six ingredients is soothing. And, importantly, for me and I know for so many others, it’s hard to multi-task while kneading! I just have to give in to it for these ten minutes.
What do you recommend for families to create rituals with one another?
Games: Board games, card games, puzzles. Anything that is fun, easy, interesting works. This is a simple way to unwind and spend time together, to actually have a meaningful conversation with your kids, perhaps, without all the pressure of a ‘formal’ conversation.
Cooking together: Cooking together is another easy way to incorporate rituals, and to teach healthy eating habits merely by the action itself. And since I believe that actions speak louder than words, cooking with your family is a great way to demonstrate healthy eating habits. Maybe it’s a frequent occurrence or maybe it’s just a ritual holiday meal; regardless, these are the rituals that last.
Entertainment: Watching a television show together, or following a particular sports team together is another great ritual for families. This works particularly well when family members no longer live together, i.e. a child has left for college or a family member has moved to a different city.
What are your most important weekend rituals to prepare for the upcoming busy week?
Meal prep: This is an easy way to get ready for the busy week ahead. Preparing simple, easy to grab foods helps to facilitate healthy eating during the week. Hard-boiling eggs, cutting up vegetables, or batch-cooking soups & stews are just some of the many options to try.
Calendar review: (and that of children if relevant) also helps to prevent untoward surprises during the week. Getting into the habit of doing this every week is a ritual not to be missed! Having a clear sense of what is scheduled is a simple way to prepare for what’s to come – and will make it easier when surprises do occur, because they often do.
Beth Ricanati, MD
Beth Ricanati, MD's debut book, Braided: A
Journey of a Thousand Challahs chronicles
her journey of a thousand challahs and one woman’s quest for wellness and peace. This physician-mother has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially busy moms juggling life and children.