If you have ever heard the term “routine reset” it might sounds like something you do to your computer. But from the business community to the mindfulness meditation crowd, the idea of a routine reset has been a concept that has been around for a long time. (See: this article from Oxbridge Academy.)
Even our grandparents had a reset day– it was called Sunday, the “day of rest” when stores were closed, we didn’t go to work, and we were supposed to spend the day in spiritual reflection or gathering with family. Even if you’ve never heard the term specifically, most of us try to set aside some time each week to regroup and catch up on “things” before we have to dive back into another hectic week.
Well, I suppose none of us ever expected a global pandemic to essentially send the whole world into a forced routine reset, yet here we are. A quick glance at social media may make it seem like some people are treating stay-at-home orders like some kind of vacation to bake or plant a garden. Other see stay-at-home as a restriction that has cast them into dire financial circumstances because their jobs no longer exist or can’t be done from home. Others are forced to work because their roles are deemed essential and have to face risks of exposure.
No matter your circumstances, we all need to hit that reset right now. So how do we do that? I will share my experience (so far) in the hopes that it will help you in your situation. Individual results may vary, of course.
If you are currently struggling emotionally, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Click here to read out therapists and how they can help you.
Physically distant but virtually together – the new “normal” social life and workplace at home
I have never worried too much about remaining physically distant from society at large. I don’t do high-fives and only hug strangers if it seems unavoidable. But that’s not how I treat the people I love! Not being able to hug my kids or close friends is weirding me out. The last time I saw my son and intentionally DIDN’T hug him out of fear, I nearly burst into tears. The best I can do is video chat with my loved ones, or at least call the ones that don’t use those services. But it isn’t really enough.
I am extremely lucky to have a job I can do from home. I am using web conferencing software for work all the time (too much), and now I am also using it for my friends and family. It’s awkward but it helps. If you have not tried this before because your job doesn’t use it, it can be intimidating. You don’t know where to look. You can start by video chatting one-on-one through social media or your phone. I do this frequently with my daughter. There are free web meeting platforms like FreeConferenceCall.com and WebEx that offer unlimited time for larger gatherings.
How about live performances? They are all cancelled right now and may even be out of the question for the foreseeable future. Do you miss going out? I really am! I book music shows around Baltimore and DC, and I have had to cancel several smaller shows and reschedule until next year one multi-day festival, Shadow Woods Metal Fest. It’s cost me money, time, and I may not be able to re-book the same bands for my multi-day event.
Instead, I am now hosting virtual events on these same web conferencing platforms I use for work. It’s not the same and the sound quality has suffered. But you know what? People are forgiving, and they are hungry to interact in whatever way they can. I hosted a 2-hour show on a Saturday night with three performers (just guys with guitars), and I had nearly 500 live viewers. The video of the show has had more than 3,300 views since it aired. In conjunction with the live stream, I also I took pre-orders for a t-shirt designed especially for it. Now the designer, the t-shirt printer, the performers, and I will make a little money off the show. I am going to have to do all the mailing for the 100+ shirts ordered, but it created a great memory and people are asking for more, so I am working on a new event! Even though the live event industry is suffering right now, I hope these virtual efforts I see people doing will keep it simmering until we can fire it up again.
Write it down
Many people journal in one way or another. It could be a very elaborate bullet journal or just a simple daily to-do list, but it’s a proven fact that if your spend a few minutes writing at the start of each day, it can help you show progress as well as give you a record that you can reflect on and learn from. Writing things down can also make them manifest as reality. The word “spell” can be taken many ways, ya know.
These days though, I feel very scattered, disorganize, and unproductive. More than ever, writing has helped retrain my brain, force me to stop reading the latest news, and focus on just one thing—putting words to page. Writing is hard work though (as evidenced by how long it took me to write this very article), but it can really achieve massive results in a heavy routine reset.
I keep both physical and digital journals and for different reasons. My current journals are not a diary, although I have kept diaries in the past. I like to write down work projects in a paper notebook (my favorites come from Writepads.com) and I like to use a nice pen, but I will also use a pencil. I write down story ideas, line ups for shows I want to put on, lists, sketches, everything, all in one notebook and I date the page. I used to keep different notebooks for different projects, but that became too confusing. Now I keep everything together. I am just as likely to have the notes from my last work team meeting in the same book that I wrote my grocery list or my notes from a conversation with a band I want to host. I write it all in one notebook, date everything, and then when it is full, I write the date range on the cover somewhere and start a new book. This method may not work for you. Try different ways out until something works.
I also keep a digital journal in Zoho Projects (https://www.zoho.com/projects/ ) I only use the free version and only have one “project” which is everything in my life that I am working on. I like Zoho because, as projects progress, I can change their color from Open, In Progress, In Review, Completed and so forth. Seeing things “completed” by changing their color is very satisfying to me. There are lots of project management programs that you can try out or you can just use something like Google Calendars, Sheets, and Docs. Whatever you decide to do, even if it is just writing a task list on a sticky note and putting it on your mirror, writing things down can give you a measure of control during times when where none can be found.
Personal private diaries are another thing entirely. But if you decide to a diary you may reap mental health benefits. (See: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/ )
Personal journaling can sort our feelings you are having or remind you about the positive (and negative) interactions that you have with others. You may begin to recognize patterns in your behavior or in others over time. Journaling may also prove to be historically valuable. (See: https://news.virginia.edu/content/write-it-down-historian-suggests-keeping-record-life-during-pandemic) If you want to take your journaling public, you can also try photography, illustration, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, and even live streaming. Your Instagram can become a journal.
Even in the “before times” when we may not have been spending the majority of our time at home, making our living spaces as pleasant and functional as possible was a big part of the reset routine concept. Creating dedicated, efficient pleasant and aesthetically pleasing spaces puts you in control, when everything else seems out of control.
Here’s a small example of how I took control of one tiny thing and how it made a huge impact elsewhere in my life. For whatever reason, my spice cupboard had gotten way out of hand. I had like three nearly full jars of cumin because I could not find the first cumin when I needed it. One afternoon, I emptied the entire cupboard, sorted through all if it, combined things as I could, threw some mystery items away, cleaned everything, and organized the spices not by the alphabet, but by function. For example, I put all the spices you might use in baking, such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, vanilla extract, etc. together in a small box. I gathered all the spices I commonly used in Indian dishes in another box. Same with those for Asian and Mexican cuisines. I found one of those turntable things (it was in there!) and on that I put all the pre-made spice blends that my spouse typically puts on meats. Now he only has to look one place for the lemon pepper for fish or the poultry blend for chicken.
As the simple result of organizing that cupboard, my stress and anxiety about cooking more meals at home greatly diminished. I can look into the spice cupboard and become inspired to make something knew. I even pickled zucchini recently because I knew that I already had all the things to flavor the brine, including the 1-quart mason jar to store it in! This all happened because I took a couple hours to take control of a 2 x 2ft space in my house.
I have made similar moves in my office space and in my closets and drawers, although I have not made as much progress in that latter effort as I would like. My next goal is to clear out a junk room and turn it into a dedicated music room so my spouse can practice drums at home. He hasn’t rehearsed with his band in their shared practice space since late February, and his frustration is evident. My only challenge in emptying this room, as it has been with emptying the closets, is figuring out if my local charities can take donations now. I may have to hold on to those donation bags for a while.
The importance of self-care
Self-care should not be a luxury. It should be treated as necessary as clean water, nutritious food, and a safe place to live. And it does not have to be fancy, expensive, or anything trendy.
One tiny self-care thing I do every morning after I get dressed is take both of my pets outside for an extended period of walking and exploration. I have a dog and a cat, and they both have gotten used to this routine, which I started long before Covid-19. They wait patiently side-by-side by the front door for me to put on their harnesses and snap on their leashes. Then we wander the yard for up to 20 minutes just breathing in the sun or the rain, as the case might be. They explore everything and we talk about the birds or whatever is going on. We inhale some fresh air. They stretch, and I stretch. We check out a bug. Sometimes the cat wants to walk the block. Usually the old dog does not. I am certain my neighbors think I am nuts, but I don’t care. This is the best way I know to start my day. They love this time and are more bonded to me for it, I believe. At the end of the time, I tell them it is time to come in for “snacks,” which is any meal they are served, and we enjoy breakfast together. If the weather cooperates and my schedule allows, we go out again in the afternoon. [If it is pouring rain, I take the dog outside quickly, but then we all play inside for a while.]
For you, self-care might be the time you spend playing an imaginary game with your kids, or cuddled up with your spouse, or reading a book, or soaking in a tub, or watching your favorite tv show. You might like yoga, or mediation, or long hikes, or weight lifting. Whatever you choose to do, do it with the fullest of conviction and passion. Drink in your moments of self-care. Even if it’s a 20-minute stroll around the block with a feisty white cat in a tiger stripped jacket and a small blonde dog in a red bandana harness. Self-care, in whatever form, prevents the stress and anxiety you may be feeling these days. (See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/anxiety-coronavirus-sleep-memory-anger-focus/2020/04/03/61dab1b0-75b9-11ea-85cb-8670579b863d_story.html)
Looking forward (but to what?)
I have heard a lot of people say that they can’t wait to get back to normal. The fact is, none of us know what that new normal will be. Although no one can predict that will happen in the post-pandemic times, I hope that me sharing my personal experiences will bring you some happiness, strength, humor, and peace.