It has been over a week of social distancing for most of us. With the added closures of restaurants, bars, gyms and coffee shops across our city, we are seeing nearly all aspects of our normal social routine grind to a halt. For many of us, we now find ourselves in a period of complete social isolation. Being cooped up in your home by yourself or with a loved one can quickly begin to feel frustrating, lonely, or, at best, boring.
Last week I provided 10 activities that you can take part in at home to keep yourself busy. Today, I want to focus on the importance of getting yourself back into a routine. Without routine, our days can feel aimless and drawn out. We feel most comfortable when we know what to expect. During a time when we do not have our usual workplace and childcare schedules, our body is likely craving a new sense of routine to guide us through the next few months.
So now that you have tried different activities to keep you occupied, let us focus on essential habits that make us feel good each day and use these as the anchors in our new routine. Even though we may not have much to accomplish, it can feel productive to start the day by continuing to participate in your daily hygiene routines. Simply making your bed, taking a shower, practicing good skincare, and getting dressed in something clean (and not pajamas) can help lift our spirits. I then suggest a 5 minute meditation, to reset for the next moment and provide a moment of calm and clarity. Following meditation, one can make breakfast and then write a daily to-do list. The act of making a list gives you an opportunity to set intentions and goals for the day. Sure, your list might not be long, but you can still be productive if you give yourself those few minutes to reflect and identify priorities to tackle. You are also providing yourself the opportunity for a sense of accomplishment, which can be lacking in times such as these. Anchoring your day with these routines may help stimulate creativity, productivity and prevent an endless Netflix binge that can make time feel like it is standing still.
This is also an opportunity to appreciate the added time that we now have, which, for many, is a very stark contrast to our previous busy on-the-go lifestyle. Perhaps this is your opportunity to focus on improving your sleep, starting that daily gratitude journaling practice, or now take the time to cook healthy meals.
It is important to recognize the things we are still doing and not dismiss them because they are small or easy. By scheduling portions of your day to tackle items on your to-do list, you will feel like your days are still fulfilling.
Here is a sample of a to-do list I created for myself during this social distancing time when I am less busy than usual. I positioned my to-do list items into time slots to help ensure that I keep my day productive and only permit lazy TV watching for the evenings.
8:00 am: Make bed; Hygiene routines; 5 minute morning meditation
9:00 am: Upload Wellness Wednesday; Check emails
10:00 am: Breakfast
11:00 am: Write Wellness Wednesday Post for next week
12:00 pm: Yoga on Instagram live with Saana Yoga
1:00 pm: Lunch; Prepare for clients
2:00 pm: Online Client
4:00 pm: Online Client
5:00 pm: Read 2 chapters in my book
6:00 pm: Swiffer the floors; Laundry
6:30 pm: Prepare and eat dinner
8:00 pm: Netflix
I would love to hear on our social channels what routines you are putting in place.
COVID19 is all over the news, and, for many of us, it is all we can think about. It makes sense, our lives have now been altered to protect ourselves and those around us from contracting the illness. However, the illness is not the only thing that is contagious and destructive, it is the fear that it incites.
During fearful times, we have to focus on self care and our own mental health. If we let our fear and anxiety about the virus overwhelm us completely it may lead to a break-down in our self-care and ultimately lead us to have a weaker immune system. We often see this effect around school exams, when those late season colds sneak up on us.
If we are unable to go outside and take part in our usual stress management practices we might need to get creative.
Some self care ideas to keep you occupied and while still keeping you safe:
While we undoubtedly go into therapy with the goal of feeling better, it is true that one can sometimes feel a bit worse after an emotional session. As unfortunate as that sounds, it is normal to sometimes feel upset or drained when revisiting tough emotional experiences or uncovering difficult insights and truths that have not been so obvious to us in the past.
Often we approach emotions in a pathological way, by chasing good emotions and ignoring or avoiding the bad. We grow, change, and move forward in our lives by experiencing a full range of emotions and using that experience to shape our future intentions. While we might feel like we went into therapy just to feel better, many of us have also tried a bit of consumer therapy by spending money on a chocolate bar or a new dress. While you may have felt better in that exact moment, did it really lead to any long term gains?
In reality, we go to therapy to build a stronger and more resilient relationship with ourselves, work through difficult experiences, and gain insight into the complexities of our choices. These gifts often only come with the recognition that we are not perfect and that negative emotions deserve to be felt. Those emotions give us important information and act as an emotional compass. Talking about difficult experiences may feel worse in the moment, but that experience also blossoms awareness of those elements of our lives and our experience that we pathologically avoid. These moments of discomfort, especially supported by a therapist we trust, can empower us in the future and slowly lessen the impact and the emotional charge that lay behind these traumatic narratives. If we do not bring these narratives forward we lose the opportunity to rewrite their endings.
What have you been avoiding thinking or talking about lately?
Whether you are in high school, college or university, you are likely starting to think about the end of the school year, which means it is getting closer to exam time. No matter what year or grade you are in, exams bring stress. It can feel overwhelming to try and balance finding time to finish those last assignments, essays, readings and small homework tasks with the bigger goal of starting to study for finals. Add to that trying to maintain a personal life and attending to self care, cleaning, and personal responsibilities that all take up valuable time.
If managing all of these demands are starting to cause stress, these tips will come in handy:
Organization & Time Management:
Perfectionism & Self Imposed Pressure:
Positive Self Talk:
Practice Self Care:
If exams are a ways away, why not try to implement a few of these strategies from the very start? If things are already busy and you are already moving towards your peak stress level, take a step back and give one of these approaches a try. You might just find it helps.
Jessica is a member of the clinical wellness and learning support team at FLEX Psychology. Jessica started Wellness Wednesday out of a desire to provide further opportunities for her clients to extend their wellness journey to all avenues of their life. You can learn more about Jessica by clicking here or by learning more about her and the clinical team at FLEX Psychology by clicking here.