A sudden lack of routine in life can feel like we are propelled from still water directly into rough rapids. The more control and skill we have, and we can ensure our survival unscathed.
One way to secure safety in the midst of rapids would be to access a covered bridge to protect us from all elements. But life doesn't always offer that opportunity. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of troubled water, where the only way to survive is by powering through with intention. This is accomplished by gaining control, and leading one’s self to safety.
Disrupted routines impact us at all ages, causing an increase in worry, disrupted sleep, unhealthy nutrition, lack of physical activity, lack of ability to concentrate, an ineffective use of time, and lower self-esteem (Northwestern Medicine, 2020). All of these consequences can lead to increased anxiety, loss of optimism, and depressive symptoms, as well as poor overall health.
In a study by Ludwig (1997), established routines were found to be “linked with nine specific adaptive outcomes that constitute wellbeing among the participants.”
These outcomes include:
Maintaining activity level
Anticipate or look forward to things
Balance work, rest and play
Accomplish and achieve
Feel good about self
Disruptions to routines can cause distress in ways that we don’t even realize, until we feel our moods change. Establishing routines in the midst of chaos, however, can lead to enhanced sense of self and purpose.
Psychologist Mariana Plata provides some simple tips to establishing routines by having them “incorporated seamlessly into your daily life in differing levels or aspects: on a personal level, a relationship level, and/or a professional level" (2018).
In whatever way you decide to add structure to your day, including these practical guidelines can help increase wellbeing, in the midst of the rapids of the COVID pandemic, and beyond.
Carve out 15-30 minutes of self-care each day to nurture overall health, including physical activity and mindfulness or relaxation
Include a plan for 3 small nutritious and lower carbohydrate meals and vegetables for energy
Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day (8, 8-ounce glasses), adding more with increased heat and activity
Carve in time in your daily routine to connect with others in your life
Social connection each day, through phone or electronically if you cannot in person
Family meal each day without phones, television, or internet distractions
Family or your own bike riding, walking, or activity at a park
Establish a date night weekly, if even in the back yard for a picnic, or dining together creatively over Facetime or Skype
Career/work routines or Contribution routines
Stimulate your intellect by reading a book or studying something in your profession that interests you and improves your knowledge
Network and connect with your colleagues once regarding your field and similar interests
Keep a log or journal about goals and working towards them
In times when life is disrupted through trauma, grief, stress, or illness, we may feel an increase stress resulting from loss of control and unpredictability. As creatures of habit, we tend to find comfort in predictability.
Adding structure to each day begins to create predictability, as well as a foundation of renewed control, and power. Being able to navigate through the rapids of life not only enhances our sense of self, but increases confidence, and resilience, too.
Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telahealth visits. She can be reached through emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling (513) 234-9184, or visiting www.jacobsoncounseling.org
Ludwig, F.M. (1997). How routine facilitates wellbeing in older women. Occupational Therapy
International. 4(3), 215-230. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/oti.57
Northwestern Medicine (2020). Health benefits of having a routine.
Plata, M. (2018). The power of routines in your metal health. Psychology Today.