Staying at home requires new routines to stay mentally and physically invigorated. We discuss key questions to help you create ones that nourish and sustain you.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and efforts to “flatten the curve” through social distancing intensify, many of us find ourselves facing a long and continued stay at home. This abrupt departure from familiar routines can be jarring and disorienting leaving you feeling lonely and adrift. Wrenched from your usual patterns of daily life it remains essential to begin new ones immediately. Having routines can help offset the anxiety and fear that often accompanies us when facing down times of uncertainty.
Routine = Tension Reduction
Last week I wrote about 5 strategies to help you find peace and build resiliency to help keep your mental game sharp. The next piece of your survival puzzle is to re-establish daily rituals. Routines can serve as powerful anchors that ground you in a shifting landscape.
Where to Start
Routines can be as simple as making your bed first thing, reading your favorite blogs with your morning java or exercising. The key to setting yourself up for the day begins first thing in the morning. Make a habit of doing certain things, like meditating or yoga right at the start of your day. This will help you launch your day in a positive way that builds a sense of calm and control that can carry you through the day.
In building out your new routines ask yourself the following questions:
1. What will I do daily to ensure my mental wellbeing?
It’s important to take into account how this uncertain moment in time is impacting your mental health. As I outlined last week, your mental wellbeing is key to staving off worry and negative thinking. After the impact of all the preparing, protecting, adjusting, coping, responding, providing and procuring it’s about pausing long enough to let your nervous system come back to baseline after constant triggering. Carving out just 20 minutes a day for a mindfulness practice can do this nicely. Meditation or guided relaxation can work wonders for you and there are numerous free resources online.
2. How will I practice daily movement?
Your body needs to move everyday. It needs to stretch, reach, bend, twist, push and pull. Your body doesn’t care if it’s not at the gym or yoga class – it just needs activity, whether that be in your home, balcony or somewhere outside. Crisis heightens fear and anxiety and the more you can shift out of your head and into your body, the more grounded you’ll feel. Take a 10-minute walk around the block. Run the stairs in your building. Do five push-ups. This not only will help you stay in shape but bolster your immune and mental health. Schedule at least twenty minutes per day. If you’re looking for guided exercises, YouTube and other online sources are plentiful and many are free.
3. How will I nourish myself and my family members?
Unless you’ve already been working from home, your meal options and routines are likely constricted. For many of us, cooking at home has become the new reality. While treats are not verboten, try keeping a focus on healthy food choices. Try setting up a daily structure that includes both meal prep and time to sit and enjoy your meal with your family. If you have kids, perhaps now might be a good time to engage them in the preparation, whether that be setting the table or learning to cook. If you are dining solo, why not time one of your meals with a friend to share a virtual meal with? I bet you’ll be surprised by how deeply fulfilling it is.
4. How and when will I connect with friends and colleagues?
Maintaining social contact cannot be emphasized enough. It is regular contact with our friends that underlies our longterm happiness…and in our current circumstance, will help keep us sane. Simply put, social relationships are crucial to our health and wellbeing. A few good laughs, shared experiences and simply seeing friends or teammates mugs on the screen can be deeply satisfying. My spouse and I have started doing virtual cocktail hours with friends far and wide and it’s been a blast. It’s a regular habit that I think we’ll continue well past the end of the pandemic. So break out the Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom to stay on top of work commitments and to nourish your soul.
5. When and how will I experience the outdoors?
Studies show that time spent in nature benefits you physically and mentally. It reduces stress and promotes healing and a sense of wellbeing. Nature, fresh air and sunshine are good for our bodies. While not all of us may not be able to get to the ocean or forest, simply leaving your home is helpful. The optimal time to spend outside on a weekly basis is two hours to get the full impact of nature. Even if you cannot get outside physically, can you open a window for fresh air? Can you sit in the sunshine for 10 minutes, watch the reflected colors of the sunset on nearby buildings or watch the moon as it rises?
Using the above questions to form your new routines will help you stay on top of your game. Now might also be an opportunity to introduce new activities into your life given that you likely have some extra time. What have you been wanting to do or learn that you haven’t had time for? An online photography course? That book you’ve long wanted to read? Perhaps a new yoga or fitness routine?
No matter what changes you introduce be sure to be kind to yourself. Enjoy these new moments of stillness to reflect on and be grateful for the relationships and things that you value in your life.