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Using Rituals to Alleviate Stress

(Image courtesy of 9comeback at

We all incorporate small rituals into our lives, such as performing a particular order of operations or one little task that always has to be done before or after something else. For you, it might be the steps you employ to make your morning coffee. For a professional basketball player, it might look like a certain number of dribbles and false shots before performing that crucial free throw. I have witnessed many climbers perform elaborate rituals in the way they duct tape their knee pads to their legs or tie their climbing shoes (I'm looking at you, hubby!). This article says that these rituals are similar to those performed by patients with obsessive compulsive disorder. Within reason, rituals provide a sense of comfort, control, and efficiency, decreasing the massive decision making and head games that can flood each day. In this sense, they can relieve stress and also make some more arduous tasks easier (or possibly more enjoyable).

I've been using a ritual to complete a somewhat unpleasant daily task in my own life. I have to give myself an intramuscular shot of progesterone nightly as part of my current fertility treatment, and this could last potentially for up to 8 weeks! In order to keep myself motivated to do this on a daily basis, I've turned it into a flow-inducing process. Here are the steps:

  • First make sure belly is full of a delicious dinner and either herbal tea or hot cocoa.
  • Assemble all required supplies.
  • Place ice pack on desired buttock. Simultaneously warm a compress in the oven.
  • Pour a small amount of hot water left over from tea/cocoa making in a shallow bowl and place the progesterone vial inside (optional but helps to lower the viscosity of the solution, making it easier to draw up and inject).
  • When adequate time has passed (i.e. buttock is numb and burning from the ice pack), draw up 2 ml of progesterone with an 18 gauge needle on a 3 ml syringe.
  • Remove the 18 gauge needle and attach a 21 gauge needle. Do not skip this step or you will have a bloody, painful mess (believe me, I have done it!).
  • Clean the desired area with an alcohol swab and inject. Rub the area vigorously so as to distribute the medication. Do a little jiggle dance and move around hips to activate the muscle.
  • Top the injection site with a small bandage. Leave in place so as to know which side to inject tomorrow.
  • Properly dispose of all used materials (yes, I have my own sharps container).
  • The most important step: consume one Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Honey Mint.
There you have it. I even incorporated treats into both the beginning and end of this ritual. Treats are integral to the adherence of habits, especially difficult ones. Check out this article from happiness expert Gretchen Rubin on why we need treats (and expect an upcoming review of her new book all about the subject of habits)!

Do you have any rituals that you do to make something more tolerable in your own day? Share them here!


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