The Power of Routines and Rituals in these changed times: Has social distancing impacted your daily routine?
I recently had a conversation with a friend about the need we humans have for routines in our lives. Being socially and physically distanced can lend to a feeling of loss, and one may find a growing lethargy, due to the lack of customary routines and rituals we can no longer (even if temporary) partake in. In these "new normal" times, one of the biggest changes to our routine has been the inability to engage in morning and evening rituals that signify our day has begun or ended; especially if we work from home!
We might feel that working from home has its perks - no rush-hour traffic to contend with, no daily commute on the train or bus, or the need to wake up to an alarm and rush out the door. These are all pluses! However with the loss of these lesser than ideal routines, we also lose the other rituals and routines that provide structure to our day. You may have a routine that involves a stop at Tim Hortons or Starbucks for a morning coffee, or a chat with a co-worker prior to starting your work day. The simple act of turning on a computer or the lights in your office. The act of getting dressed for work, involves routine, that most of us no longer engage in unless we have a meeting online. The loss of routine may mean you leave your bedroom, walk down the stairs (or up) and find yourself at work - the kitchen table, island, office desk or couch.
Whatever your routines and rituals are, social distancing and physical distancing have changed the way you live in the present. What impact does this have on our daily structure? And in turn could it be impacting our mental health in more ways than the feelings of isolation we struggle with? We no longer have an on-off button that signifies the start and end of a day. We could be working from early morning, late into the night, with no "shut off". There is no need to rush home, or meet with friends - you are already home, and your social bubble consists of your family. We maybe working on personal tasks at "lunch" as these are readily available when one is home. We maybe making dinner and then returning to work, as there is nothing hindering more work. If we live by ourselves and do not see friends often, we may have lost our only daily social interactions.
Through many conversations, the one constant I have come across has been that the longer one stays home, the harder it gets to be outside, the more lethargy one feels, the more overwhelming one gets with tasks that may have been handled with ease before.
This brings me to the question.. what does one do? Short of returning to our everyday routines, what can each of us do in these "new normal" times"? One possible answer .. adapt! Create new routines and rituals for your new way of being. What that will look like will be up to you. Maybe it will be a meet up with a friend on the front lawn or in a park, where you both can social distance but it will mean the end of your work day; maybe, it will be a conscious effort to get dressed for your work day, and change into something more comfortable to signify the end of your day.
One important step is to communicate your needs to those around you; create a routine that includes social interaction - even if it is online, over a fence, across a park bench, or a walk in your neighborhood. A sign of resiliency is our ability to adapt to changing times. The importance of routines as a means to wellness cannot be underscored more.
Be the architect of your "new normal", and let it support you in these changing times!
For more information:
American Psychological Association https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2018-59956-013