If, like so many others, you are currently working reduced hours, furloughed, working from home, or not working at all — your routine has been interrupted.
When your routine gets shot like that it can have multiple consequences. You are likely to feel out-of-sorts, distressed, depressed, frustrated, uncertain, sad, and numerous other totally human emotions.
It does not feel normal but it totally is. We are generally creatures of habit. When our habitual behaviors are interrupted — especially for a prolonged period — we can be thrown off in multiple ways.
You are not alone in dealing with this! Millions of people across the country are experiencing a similar situation. To be fair, it’s not the same as yours because everyone is unique. Our environments, family, living situation, and many other factors differ.
There are some ways that you can create a new normal and new routines to handle this. These are some of the things I am doing or that others I know are making use of to help themselves work through the negativity, depression, and other emotions an interrupted routine can produce.
1. Get Up at the same time every day
For many people, they no longer need to be up at the time they did before. Their commute may not exist at all — or be a matter of seconds from bed to their home-office space.
In many instances, the usual wake-up time has been changed. Or, if you’re unemployed, may not even be set.
One way to create a new normal and new routine is to still set an alarm. Maybe you no longer need to be up at the crack of dawn — but that doesn’t mean it’s good mentally or physically for you to get up at variable and dissimilar times every day.
Choose a reasonable time to set an alarm to get up. And don’t play the hit-snooze-over-and-over-and-over game with this. Set your alarm and get up with it.
2. Get dressed
It is super tempting to spend the day in your pajamas. But one way to really throw yourself off is by not having to put on leave-the-house clothes when you know you are not leaving your home.
You don’t need to put on a suit, or business casuals, or makeup or a bra — unless you WANT TO. But do get dressed in fresh clothes — something you would wear to head out of the house — not your pajamas.
This leads directly to my third tip.
3. Establish a morning routine
When I have worked a standard 9–5 type of job, I have had a routine. For the most part, it was get up, shower, consume coffee, check personal emails and play a Facebook game. Then I’d brush my teeth and go work. I tried, with variable success, to create a morning work-out and/or meditation routine in this.
For some, this involved getting the kids up and out the door for school. Now it might be getting them to their screentime with their teachers.
Whatever your routine has been, likely there was a pattern your morning followed. For many, this has been altered, perhaps even altered drastically.
One way to establish normalcy is to create a new routine. Maybe this is the time to go for that morning walk — or get on the exercise bike. Perhaps now you should practice meditation after breakfast.
Making a routine calms the brain weasels and keeps you centered.
4. Develop a new workflow
If you are now working from home and have not done so before, there are some advantages and disadvantages you were unaware of.
Working from home tends, for me, to result in increased overall productivity. But, there are also increased distractions at the same time.
I am not going to pull up the actual data, but I have read numerous articles that have shown the 8-hour workday is unnecessary. The true amount of work most people put into an 8-hour workday tends to be from 2–3 hours on average.
When I worked at more traditional 9–5 jobs, I experienced this regularly. In some instances, I worked an hour here or there a day, but seldom more than 2–3 hours consecutively.
Even when I worked in call-centers, I probably did — at the most — 4-hours of work during the 8 hours I was there.
You’re at your desk for most of the 8-hour workday because that’s what your bosses expect of you. Now that you’re working from home, odds are you are getting a lot of your work done in far less time.
If you still have a set number of hours to put in, or like me, you are on your own recognizance for the hours you work, you need to develop a new workflow.
I recommend doing no more than a solid hour of work at any given time. Then take a break. That break can be 15 minutes to an hour. Then, put in another uninterrupted hour of work.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep working solidly for hours and hours. The truth is, with a few exceptions, NOBODY can or does.
The appropriate workflow for you is that which gets the work done that’s necessary. Your mileage may vary.
5. Be kind to yourself
When you have had the same routine over a long period of time and it gets interrupted, it’s natural to be upset. Routine is another word for habit. Many, many people who work regular jobs have their routines.
Now that your routine isn’t what it was, don’t beat yourself up when you can’t get into the swing of the new situation. Human beings tend to be resistant to change. That’s normal, and you shouldn’t be upset with yourself when you experience it.
Nobody is perfect and everybody is perfectly imperfect. That which works for me might not work for you.
Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself how you would want others to treat you. Take that bath, eat the donut, listen to the music too loudly, masturbate, or do whatever you need to be good to yourself and practice some self-care.
When you take your productivity breaks, what you do at that time is up to you. Maybe you sing. Eat. Play an online game. Whatever it is, accept it, go with it, be kind to yourself and incorporate the time you need into your new normal.
6. Establish an evening routine
After your workday, you need to have your time not working. I know that this may look very different, since you are not returning home from your job, and the kids may have been there all along. That doesn’t mean it should be neglected.
If you got home and took off your bra and/or changed into comfy pants — do that. Read, watch TV, eat dinner with your family, and do things that are not too dissimilar to how things were when you were working normally.
If you are newly working from home — or even if you are unemployed — if you had pre-work, work, and post-work blocks before this situation, you should establish a new variation of them in the now. Having the differentiation in your day will keep you balanced and centered.
The exact make-up of this will be different for everyone but the idea applies to all.
7. Maintain a regular bedtime
I am going to tell you right now that I suck at this. But frankly, I always have.
My wife will go to be between 9:30 and 10. Sometimes earlier. Many others I know have maintained a regular bedtime to get optimum sleep because sleep is good for you.
If your work schedule is interrupted, like your wake-up time, it’s really easy to lose track of when you get to bed.
It need not be exact — but try to go to bed within a regular hour-long window.
Even when I have worked the 9–5 routine, I tend to get to bed anywhere from 11–12:30. While my bedtime is pretty sporadic — and I tend to sleep no more than 6 hours at a time — I DO have my own (albeit off) routine.
Each of these tips and suggestions can help you help yourself with depression, anxiety, and other issues in this unusual situation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and each of these 7 ideas is applicable to your unique experiences and ideals.
Remember not to neglect your own needs and mental health through these unusual, unstable, uncertain times. The best way to help others is by helping yourself out, first.
You are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done you and I matter — as does finding and/or creating normalcy.