By Carla Oates
It feels like a lifetime ago—pre-COVID-19—that spontaneity was believed to be the spice of life. Winging our way through the week was fun when everything was going our way. But sadly that’s not the case for most of us right now.
With so much uncertainty swirling around, suddenly we’re craving simplicity and predictability or cozy and comforting things to keep us calm when the world is in chaos. Instead of worrying about what we can’t change, it’s time to focus on the things we can.
The good news is that when things get really quiet and still, it becomes easier to see the things we would like to change. We notice little details that we were too busy to see before. And this clarity helps us carve out a new way forward.
Building some rituals and routine into our days will help us strike a smoother rhythm during offbeat times. Plus, taking control of little details will help us lower stress levels, soothe nerves, improve moods and sleep better. Routine is not a cure for chaos but it can be a soothing panacea.
Where to Begin
Humans are naturally creatures of habit and there are plenty of stories about other people’s morning routines and daily rituals online. You may be inspired to copy and cut and paste ideas from someone else’s routine. But it’s also worth jotting down your own short term desires and longer goals. Think about the small daily steps you can take in their direction. If it’s to write a novel, commit to writing 500 words a day before breakfast. If it’s learning an instrument via Youtube, schedule daily lesson time. Tailor your routine to suit you.
Take It Day by Day
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, maybe basic self-care is all you can manage right now. Start making small daily changes to stay calm and productive. Introduce a few new ones each week rather trying them all at once. Repeat them daily to see if they work. At the end of the week discard the ones that didn’t work and keep the ones that do. Hopefully, many of them will become life-long habits.
Go to Bed and Get up at the Same Time Every Day
Not having to travel to the office will make it tempting to sleep in or stay up late scrolling through social media, especially when the weather cools down and you feel disconnected from friends.
Make a habit of putting your phone away at least an hour or two before bedtime and don’t let it near your bedroom. Regular disruption to your natural circadian rhythm has been linked to health issues including cognitive impairment, cardiovascular disease and obesity. Numerous studies have also shown a link between circadian rhythm and the immune system. Instead of sleeping in, set your alarm, get up on time and use your commute time to exercise, read or do something else you enjoy.
Make Your Bed and Get Dressed
These six golden words of advice were shared by author Elizabeth Gilbert on Instagram recently. Gilbert has worked at home for about 30 years so she knows what works. People who make their bed every day are also more likely to enjoy their jobs, exercise regularly and get more sleep.
In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Charles Duhigg claims making your bed every morning makes you more productive and better at sticking to a budget.
Take Control of Your News Consumption
Decide on a few credible news feeds to follow and when you will check them. Don’t overload on information or allow endless updates to hijack how you feel. Constantly drip-feeding your nervous system via attention-grabbing headlines is not a healthy habit. Read the headlines and a few worthy articles then get on with your day. Unfollow the publications and people who exaggerate or spread mistruths or make you feel bad. And avoid consuming news upon waking or right before going to bed.
Redesign Your Day
This deep reset is an opportunity to redesign how you run your days and your life. You can decide what time we to rise, exercise, journal, meditate, be unplugged or do all the other things you have always wanted to do. Start using the dry body brush or gua sha tools you bought ages ago, stream an online yoga workout at lunch time, take a mid-afternoon nap or early evening bath before dinner. The choice is finally yours.
Set the Scene in Every Room
Setting up little self-care stations to soothe your senses in every room makes daily TLC more likely to happen. Install an aromatherapy station in your living room, a herbal tea station in the kitchen and a bath time kit complete with candles, salts and a stool for your book in the bathroom. Place a sleep mask, earplugs, some hand cream, lavender essential oil to sprinkle on your pillow and an inspiring book of quotes or poetry or a gratitude journal next to your bed.
Don’t Forget to Breathe
Deep breathing is proven to calm our nervous system. If you find yourself feeling anxious, try the 4-7-8 breathing technique which involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Set your phone alarm to remind you to do it at 3pm every day. Or do it right before bed. Or at 3am when you can’t get back to sleep. There are also plenty of guided meditation and mindfulness apps to download such as Headspace, Smiling Mind and Buddhify.
Use your evening commute time to call a friend. But instead of talking while you’re unpacking the dishwasher or other chores, sit down, stare at the wall and pretend you’re using one of those old-fashioned landlines with the curly cords attached to the handset. Listen carefully, pay attention and savour slow connection.
There are plenty of websites offering free and subscription-based yoga and home workouts. There are also plenty of free workouts and yoga sequences on social media—use the bookmarking tool on Instagram to save the ones you want to try. But remember small businesses will be hit hardest by the COVID-19 slowdown. If you really want your local gym, yoga or pilates studio to survive, follow them and support what they are offering.
Embrace the Go Slow
For the next weeks or maybe months, many of us will have a brief respite from being busy. No more complaining about multi-tasking. Or feeling frazzled. Or getting distracted by our colleagues. Instead, we can practice single-tasking or mindful attention switching. That means doing one thing at a time and giving it our full attention before switching to the next task. Appreciate this chance to press pause as much as you can.
Look for the Magic in Cohabitation
If you are home schooling children right now and serenity is elusive—try to celebrate togetherness at least once a day. A shared book and a cuddle on the couch, sit on the floor and colour in together on the coffee table, playing a game, craft projects, learning instruments online, cooking dinner together and family movie nights, will make for some sweet memories long after this temporary setback is behind you.
Don’t miss the opportunity to weave in some magic moments. We need them all right now…