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Power of Routine

I am a very organized, structured person. I take pride in my to-do lists and schedules and actually look forward to my set “schedule time” each day and week. But it wasn’t until recently— being quarantined with a toddler, to be specific, that I realized how essential they are to my mental health. Knowing there’s a general flow to my day just helps it seem more manageable. It might be my need to try and control everything, but I also think that little bit of semblance of control is pretty essential to coping with unprecedented times.

Earlier this week, my routine was completely thrown off. I slept in and skipped my usual morning rituals and instead of trying to get back on track, I took a “fuck it… this day is completely thrown off” and tried to just wing the day. As a result, an underlying anxiousness sat in the pit of my chest and stomach making me question whether I was having a panic attack or succumbing to the virus that I was already freaking out about. Instead of enjoying my morning walk with my son, I felt rushed and out of sorts, and then my curious toddler touched something he shouldn’t have and that sent my paranoia and panic into overdrive. I rushed home, doused his hand in sanitizer, furiously washed his hands and mine, then promptly thew up, releasing my panic. It was not a good moment.

After my panic attack, I knew I needed to rest and take it easy— or as easy as I could with a toddler. He spent more time than I’d like to admit in front of the TV and I finished reading a novel in less than 24 hours, which is what I needed. I didn’t stress that I wasn’t getting anything done (okay, I stressed a little when my concerned mother told me I should try and find something more productive to do) because I knew my system would recalibrate the next day. And it has. I got back into my routine and feel so much better as a result. Sometimes we need those resets.

In some ways, that’s what this quarantine time period feels like— a giant reset. We’re recalibrating and figuring out what systems work for us and what don’t. It might look completely different week to week and that’s okay. Circumstances and different responsibilities will factor in, as well. For example, my day is going to look completely different than someone who is child-less, and that’s okay. It’s all about finding what works for you and what doesn’t.

To me, quarantine does feel a lot like the newborn stage. You’re in this completely new situation, knowing your life has changed in a very big way, and you just have to surrender to it. Much like the newborn stage, the natural rhythm and routines present themselves. Some of them may be remnants from the “old life” and they will adjust to the new situation as needed. New routines and rituals will also take shape. You don’t have to complete all tasks each day— there are some days I’m able to do all my grounding rituals, and some days when I’m able to just do one. It doesn’t matter, it’s just a comfort knowing they’re there and will make me feel better.

Here’s what’s been working for me during quarantine:

  1. Morning Routine (A combination of working out, meditation, journaling, and getting dressed before my son wakes up and I have to be a mom. Again, sometimes I only manage to shower before he gets up and that’s okay).

  2. Morning Walk (I try to go around the same time each day, but the route and time varies)

  3. Homeschool time (This looks different every day— sometimes it’s reading a book, sometimes it’s doing a learning app, sometimes it’s a variety of things. But, I try to spend at least 30 mins a day doing something productive and educational with my son).

  4. Lunch (When I’m stressed, I forget to eat. Sometimes I don’t eat much, but I try to prepare something when my son eats).

  5. Afternoon Break (This is usually during my son’s nap, when he naps, and can look like a variety of things: changing into actual pants, drinking some tea, going for a solo walk, talking on the phone with friends, doing a 10-min workout… just a little something for me to break up the day and remind me to breathe and take it easy).

  6. Write or Work (I really try to do this every day because it does make me feel better to be productive, but oh man… so hard, especially when Jack doesn’t nap).

  7. Afternoon Activity (If I don’t plan out an “activity” for the afternoon, inevitably my son will end up in front of the TV and that’s not good for either of us. We’ve been baking, doing obstacle courses, going for drives, having dance parties, making terrariums, and yes… once a week watching movies).

  8. Outdoor time (Right before dinner I try and go for another walk or play outside with Jack for a bit).

  9. Dinner / Bedtime Routine (This has been the routine that has stayed pretty much the same pre-quarantine, except now I have my quarantine pal who sometimes makes delicious meals for us so I get extra time to play with Jack beforehand. But, it’s nice to sit at a table and eat, then keep his bedtime routine consistent).

  10. Me Time (Depending on how physically and emotionally exhausted I am, this can be just doing chores and going to bed, or virtual hangs/phone dates with friends, working out, watching a show, taking a bath, or reading for hours).

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