square bulletTIC, Wellness, and Routines/Rituals

March 24, 2020

From Ana Hristić, MA, LCSW, Director of Education & Workforce Strategies, Trauma Informed Oregon

One thing that’s certain about life is that there will be change. Some change feels more obvious than other change. For some of us, the current state of acute change and uncertainty may feel novel and/or activating. For others, it may remind us of our “normal.”  We offer a brief video on the importance of routines/rituals for the workforce, during a time of incident response.

Let’s consider how routine/ritual can promote predictability and trustworthiness in our lives, and thus invite our brains and physiology to remain present and responsive rather than reactive. This video is 12:15 minutes.

Find more information on the Trauma Informed Workforce Wellness Strategies page.

Hi everybody this is Ana Hristić. I am the education and workforce strategy director at Trauma Informed Oregon. I am coming to you live from my home in Northeast Portland and I just wanted to send a quick video to connect with you all, particularly in the realm of using the trauma informed care principles and more particularly the trauma lens as you consider your wellness during this time. As you know at TIO when we consider wellness we are looking at both the intrapersonal level the interpersonal and then of course the programmatic or organizational level, and that much of what we talk about here in our trainings and our writing is that the responsibility, or in some cases opportunity, for wellness doesn’t reside within the individual only. 

While we are all for certain movements in quote-unquote self-care we’re really interested in the notion of community care and the notion of how the workplace itself could actually be a place of healing and a place of wellness. So one thing I wanted to touch on today, and I’m going to do my best to put out some of this content on a weekly basis so that we can actually hear from you about what you’re doing, is the notion that regulation, meaning that the full brain is available to you and those around you, is facilitated by routine one key principle in trauma- informed care is trustworthiness as you all know, and we would argue that it’s fueled by things like predictability. 

So I wanted to talk about this concept of routine, if you will, especially during this time when so much of our daily experience might have been turned upside down. One thing that’s certain about life of course is that there’s always change and some change feels more obvious than other, and for some of us the current state of acute change and uncertainty may feel novel. For others of us who may feel activating and for some of us and maybe reactivating especially for those of us our whom this notion of acute change and chronic instability is actually our normal. 

So I wanted to very briefly invite the concept of routine as a possible lifeline, if you will, or a possible pillar to our daily experience that could facilitate our quote unquote regulation, that could facilitate our full presence in our work and our daily life. So through the trauma lens I would like to invite you to consider ways in which routine, and maybe you didn’t think of it as routine but now that I say it you’re thinking to yourself alright I did do that every day, ways in which routine may have been part of your daily life prior to any news of a certainty that we’ve been getting these days. 

So interpersonally how is it that you maybe started or ended your day? How is it that you grounded yourself throughout your day? Interpersonally, what did you notice yourself doing on a daily basis that now that you consider it you’re actually thinking to yourself oh right that is a routine of mine? The way that I make my morning coffee, or the way that I facilitate a meeting is the way in which I facilitated a sense of routine. So the first step to today’s video is really to consider before things felt so in upheaval for you, can you recall ways in which intrapersonally, so for yourself as an individual, intrapersonally, what kinds of routines and rituals did you have in place? Maybe you didn’t name them as that, but what were they? 

And then interpersonally, so in the ways that you related to others, maybe it was to your pets, to your dear ones, to your colleagues, to complete quote-unquote strangers, all right on the bus or wherever, and then programmatically or organizationally what were some of those routines that you had in place? Right, maybe it was the team huddle at the start of the day, maybe it was the lunchroom gathering every Thursday, maybe it was the way in which we actually said goodbye to each other as we left the office. So the first step is to reflect on what were some of those routines and rituals in your daily life prior to this amount of uncertainty and upheaval that you may be experiencing today, and then secondly, what are some ways in which you can reclaim those rituals or routines? 

Right, even if let’s say you may be working from home these days, or you may be at risk of losing your employment, or kids are at home in an unpredictable and unexpected way, or you are caring for more individuals than you thought you ever would need to on a daily basis, whatever your new normal is, how can you reclaim certain routines and rituals for the intrapersonal level, the interpersonal level, and the organizational level? 

So maybe intrapersonally this is you starting your day before you even get out of bed with one moment of gratitude. What is one thing that you feel grateful for, for the morning or for the day before? Maybe it’s doing some squats every time you’re brushing your teeth? I don’t know, it’s not one I’ve taken up, but I’ve heard people do it, right.? Every day every moment that you brush your teeth maybe you do some squats and that’s your routine or your ritual a way of reclaiming your power and your agency at this very moment. Maybe if you’re working from home, or you are suddenly under or unemployed, maybe it’s committing to still showering or getting dressed, even if you have no physical contact with anybody for the day, right? 

What are those intrapersonal ways that, despite the potential chaos and uncertainty that might be happening around us, you could put in place as a way to ground, as a way to create a sense of predictability and transparency and trustworthiness for your intrapersonal way of being? Your brain will be receiving messages of this routine, of this predictability, that may communicate to it that it’s safe enough to actually be fully online. Interpersonally, this may mean scheduling daily zoom lunch dates with people the way you would in the office or maybe you have before in person but now we may need to switch to having technically facilitated zoom lunches. Maybe it’s sending out a daily video or audio of humor. You know humor is contagious and so are other things, but I’d like to say that humor is one thing that you could actually use as a way to interpersonally invite some routine and some potential positive contagion, if you will. 

And then we talked about intrapersonally, interpersonally, and finally programmatically or organizationally, if you will. What are some of those routines that even though your workforce structure has changed given the circumstances, what are some of those are instructors that you could keep in place? Is it that you’re going to do the morning huddle on video call or just the phone call? Is it that you’re going to create a new routine of an end of the week video or audio check-in? Is it that you’re going to be extra clear about your work availability and schedule for 

the day if you’re in a position of leadership? Is it that you’re going to invite people to reflect on a daily basis what their one activity of agency is for the day? There’s so much work to be done and so many activities that are need to be or are going to need to be done in a new way in this new normal. And could your routine organizationally or programmatically be to have people check in on a daily basis about what is it that they are hoping to do for today, what is it, what is their newfound goal so that the routine is a check-in and a group huddle? 

So in the spirit of reflection and relationship that we often talk about in trauma informed care, particularly around wellness and regulation, those are the two of many offering resilience variables, I’d like to invite you to write in the comments below what strategies you’re implementing today to establish a routine or ritual in your day? Now you’ve probably heard me talk before about the sort of shadow side of this invitation, which is that I’m not inviting you to create a new year’s resolution, okay? I’m not inviting you to put in place another reason for you to feel shame and guilt, and to maybe possibly, if you’re anything like me, fail at your routine three days from now, okay? 

The thing to do here and using the trauma lens is to really refine and to really give yourself some grace for the smallest thing, the smallest thing. So maybe it’s simply the routine of making yourself some warm tea everyday, the way you would have prior to all of this, and go ahead and engage in that even if everything else around you seems to be in turmoil at the moment. Maybe it’s taking three deep breaths before you answer the email that just came in to your inbox, right? What is that very small full of grace routine or invitation of a ritual that you can provide to yourself so as to allow your full brain to be online? As you’ve heard us many times talk about trauma informed care as an engagement tool, so to this invitation for some level of routine and ritual during this time of turmoil and the possible uncertainty for many of us, trauma informed care can be an engagement tool. 

This ritual, this routine, can be invitation to your brain and your physiology to be fully available and fully online, and thus responsive rather than reactive. Take good care and I’ll make sure to stay in touch in weeks to come.