Adapting to the "New Normal"
Temporary or not, we are all living in a new normal. A time of uncertainty, so many unknowns, so many questions left unanswered. Myself, like so many have had to adjust over the past several weeks with the new rules and regulations in place while we are living what will one day be in our children's history books. Never in my wildest nightmares could I have ever dreamed I would witness a global pandemic. Nothing in graduate school could have prepared me for "managing client's during a global pandemic." Myself, like so many, are learning as we go, taking it day by day, and some days, hour by hour.
In adapting to quarantine, to being home, to a loss of what was your normal, it's important to try and remain on some sort of schedule. Keeping a routine will ultimately help you stay hopeful, focused, and decrease a slump in your mood, helping decrease any increased feelings of anxiety or depression. There are a few things that I have found helpful.
1. Sleep Schedule and Sleep Hygiene
All of us have some sort of sleep schedule. There are many habits that can improve your sleep health. Being consistent with your sleep schedule. Going to bed as close to your "normal" time and getting up as close to your "normal" time is going to be more beneficial than having to re-acclimate to your schedule when life get's back on track. If you are changing your sleep pattern, try to stay within a two hour window on each side. Yes, this includes weekends as well. Make sure your sleep area is comfortable, clean, dark, and a good temperature for your body to rest. Avoid caffeine after 3P.M. along with eating sugary foods, large meals, or drinking alcohol too close to bedtime. Getting some light exercise during the day, being physically active in some way, shape, or form, can help you fall asleep more easily at night. It's also recommended to disconnect from electronics and avoid blue light, this includes TV's, phones, iPads, and computers.
2. Get up, get moving!
Staying physically active is key! even during a period of quarantine. Take short breaks during the day. Get up, get moving. Stretch, go for a walk, jog, or run around your neighborhood, practice yoga, or perhaps support a local studio or gym by taking one of their virtual classes. Staying home for long periods of time can make it more challenging to be active, sitting stagnant, remaining sedentary, and low levels of activity can have negative effects on our overall wellbeing and quality of life. During this time, there are additional challenges and stressors, which not only have an effect on our physical health, but on our mental health as well. Physical activity helps get our endorphins going, and helps boost our dopamine and serotonin receptors, helping us feel more happy. Daily physical activity, meditation, and practicing mindfulness during this time can be valuable assets in helping protect your health during this time.
3. Scrubba dub! Shower and shine before 10am!
Basic self-care. We all need to shower, even if you are changing from pajamas to sweatpants, and sitting on ZOOM meetings all day dressed from the waist up. Showering and basic hygiene is a positive, constructive activity that allows us to feel a sense of normalcy during uncertain times. In getting up, keeping somewhat of a routine, showering, and at least putting on clean pajamas, or as a client said "day pajamas" we are being kind to ourselves. This is a time when we may need to use opposite action, perhaps your mind and body are feeling lethargic and unmotivated. Doing it anyway, getting up, washing off, washing your hair, will help boost moral. In a time when we are supposed to be washing our hands more, we should be continuing with daily showering, and don't forget to brush your teeth and put on deodorant for good measure.
4. Get dressed!
Hear me out, I know it's easy to stay in your favorite sweat pants, your boyfriends tee-shirt, your fluffy slippers, or that unicorn onesie. I understand, however, how we dress can have an effect on our mood. Honestly, the first few days of working tele-health, I too wore sweatpants, until I noticed my mood shifting and realized it wasn't good for moral. It's easy to stay in pajamas, it's comfortable, but unless you're sick in bed, you should put some clothes on. It can be easy as we are isolated, some of us with family or friends, many managing this trying time solo, to lose the motivation to put on clothes, to wear jeans or real pants. I am telling you, it's necessary. If you give in to staying in pajamas, stop practicing self-care, and fall off the bandwagon with your hygiene, you may find yourself stuck in an uncomfortable rut. In taking time in the mornings for ourselves, to shower, do our hair, get dressed, and enjoy our cup of coffee as usual, we are more likely to feel confident, have a better mindset for the day, even if it's from the comfort of our own living room or kitchen counter. Getting dressed is important for our mental health during this pandemic. Similar to getting some physical activity, when we get dressed in the morning, the neurotransmitters in our brains are released, including that dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and those endorphins again, giving us the feeling of a sense of purpose. Do your hair, makeup, shave, don't stop taking care of yourself!
6. Step outside, even if it's just onto your patio for some fresh air.
Have you ever spent any given amount of time outside, and noticed that afterwards you felt more refreshed, lighter, and perhaps even a little more happy or content? Fresh air can actually help improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Go for a walk, take your pet outside, enjoy your coffee on your front steps, do yoga in your yard, watch the sunset or sunrise. Fresh air increases the flow of oxygen, which can help us digest our food more effectively. It can also help improve our heart rate, blood pressure, and assist in strengthening our immune systems. It also makes us feel more energized and increases out emotional wellbeing. As we breathe in that fresh air, we are getting more oxygen, which also increases our happy hormone, serotonin. It's like we are breathing in happiness. So, inhale, exhale, repeat.
7. Don't lose touch! Stay connected.
It can be extremely easy to lose touch, when most are forced to stay home, we can become consumed with negativity and get lost in our own heads. We are lucky to live in a time where we have more advanced technology. Allowing many to continue on with their school and work with video conferencing. Talking in the phone, texting, playing games virtually with friends, social media, video conferencing, taking a virtual fitness class, having a virtual game night. Stay connected and stay in touch with family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and neighbors with the recourses at hand. Try to check in on your family and friends, send them a morning or mid-day message to remind them, and yourself, that while we may be physically alone, we aren't truly alone during this time. We are all in this together.
8. Limit media intake.
While it's important to stay informed, it's also to be mindful that we are getting our information from reliable sources. Limit how much time you spend listening to or reading the news, or scrolling social media. If we don't limit our media intake and the amount of news we are taking in, we can become incredibly overwhelmed. Try sticking to one or two news sources, and only checking updates one to two times daily.
9. Stick to a routine, avoid burnout.
In creating a routine, you are less likely to become completely overwhelmed and burn out. You are creating a sense of purpose for yourself, allowing some normality and productivity in this current "new normal" that we have been handed. Give yourself tasks to complete daily, avoid spending all day in the same room. Change up your environment even if its just moving to another room for a period of time. If you are working from home, allow yourself a mid-day break. Try and start your work and finish at the same time daily. Just because you are home, does not mean you need to work around the clock. Allow times for projects you have been putting off, catch up on a TV series, read the pile of books that you have been wanting to dive into, but the hustle of daily life wasn't allowing. Focus on the positives, remember that through all this, they are still there. Keep a clean living environment, don't become complacent with chores. Eat your meals as you normally would. Each day do something kind for yourself, consider writing a gratitude list at the end of each day to help you remain positive and to see the good things. Focus on those things, remember that this is temporary. Take it one day at a time, you are not alone, we are all in this together.