There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably climbing the walls, playing out the worst case scenarios in your head and questioning what life will be like once we get back to “normal”. I think it’s perfectly reasonable given the fact that we have a lot more time to still ourselves without any distractions. Also, there is a lot of unknowns, which is a perfect space for our internal narrative and negative self-talk to take root. If you’re like me and this time has been making your skin crawl, try these 4 tips to keep your mental and physical well-being on track.
Establish a Routine
According to Northwestern Medicine “Health Benefits to Having a Routine,” there are many health benefits for humans of all ages to establish and maintain a routine. We are all creatures of habit and establishing a routine provides us the the structure and balance we need to improve overall mental and physical wellness.
If you want to keep yourself on track, be mindful of the following:
Are you going to sleep and waking at the same time every day?
Do you take a shower and get dressed (don’t stay in your pajamas all day)?
Do you eat meals at a consistent time?
Are you exercising daily (getting outside and getting some fresh air)?
Get Sleep and Rest
It might be tempting to use all of this extra time we have to sleep in or stay up late watching your favorite Netflix show, but you’re really not doing yourself any favors by having an inconsistent and irregular schedule. Our bodies need time to rest and recharge. We also need consistency. Take this time to act as if you’re still going to work or school. Fight the urge to blow your schedule up because eventually we want to get back into our routines once things get back to normal. At first, it might feel counter intuitive to go to bed early when you don’t “need” to necessarily wake up as early as you used to, rather use the new found time in our schedule to devote to things like journaling, meditation, exercise and other activities that promote your mental and physical wellness.
Change your lens and look at this time as a blessing and that you have more free time than ever before (no more commutes to work – yay). Capitalize on that time to practice activities that will “fill your bucket”. Think of this time as building a foundation for healthier and happier habits that will carry you through a difficult time and create new practices that can create movement forward. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit (on average around 66 days). For some of us, we have already been in quarantine for almost 4 weeks, that is 28 days towards forming these new habits. We are all at home anyway, wouldn’t now be the best time to start?
I know it’s tempting to want to sleep in and not get dressed in the morning because it just feels good to stay in your pajamas all day. I mean, who doesn’t want to get a little extra rest and be comfortable during difficult times? It feels safe and secure, I totally get it. There have been a lot of studies done around the correlation between how you take care of yourself and your mental well being. If we just stayed in bed all day and didn’t get dressed, we might start to feel lethargic and lacking purpose. For me, taking a shower has a positive effect on my mindset, and I feel generally more happy after. Now, I am not suggesting you need to get dressed in your best clothes, put on make up, but if it makes you feel better to do so, then DO IT! Why not? But if it feels like a struggle, you really don’t need to go that far. The intention is to keep yourself moving forward by keeping up activities that make you feel better and also keep you on track with your routine. Think about how small daily activities in self care can fill your bucket!
Eat Consistently NOT Constantly
Now, I am by no means advocating for eating constantly. Eating constantly and consistently are very different. We don’t want to overeat but rather try to eat meals around the same time each day. Tune in to your body and be mindful when you are getting hungry (and when you’re full), and you will begin to notice that it’s likely around the same time. We are normally on the go, working, going to the gym, taking kids to soccer practice and running errands that we may not stop to realize what our body actually needs. Eating consistently can help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and boost your metabolism. You might also feel a sense of reward with the ability to regulate your cravings and consumption while continuing a healthier lifestyle which can increase your overall mental and physical wellness.
If you find yourself having a hard time maintaining the consistency, trying some of the following:
Meal prep for the week and make a plan – try shopping only once a week
Only purchase items that will help you stick to your meal plan
Prep snacks or write down some healthier snack ideas that you can purchase while grocery shopping. This might help deter you from making impulse purchases
Get Out and Get Moving
Getting outside and get yourself moving might be one of the most important activities you can add to your new daily routine. This doesn’t mean that you need to hit the trails and run a 5K, but rather create a daily habit to get outside and take a walk. The goal is to just get moving – whatever that is for you, think about things you can start practicing today that you know you can maintain long into the future.
One of my favorite activities is to go to a nature park near my house and walk 2-3 miles each day (obviously being mindful of social distancing). I love getting outside in the sun, breathing fresh air and looking for little critters along the way.
Fill Up Your Bucket
Creating a routine is a great activity that you can practice now that has many long lasting benefits to your mental and physical well being. Now is as good a time as any with all of the added time we have to slow down and think about ways we can improve ourselves and find way to make it a lasting intention long after the quarantine has ended. Look for ways that you can fill your bucket and avoid things that might drain your bucket, while also moving you forward towards a healthier and happier life long into the future.
You might want to notice if you’re finding the urge to …
Consume yourself with work and stay up late watching your favorite TV shows or movies
Stay in your pajamas all day
Eat at irregular times with foods you normally wouldn’t eat
Stay in bed all day and not move
The intention of this exercise is to bring more mindfulness to your daily routines and bring positive patterns that will keep you progressing forward. Notice while you’re being more mindful, do shame or guilt start to creep into the narrative? Remember, this new routine is meant to kick start you and stabilize your internal system by bringing mindfulness, structure and balance. It is not meant to be an exercise is shaming yourself. If you stay up late one night or indulge in your favorite dessert, that is totally OKAY. Instead, focus on how you can bring more structure, purpose and control to your life when everything around you feels chaotic.
Let me know what you think in the comments. If you have tips on how you’re creating and maintaining consistency, I’d love to hear about them!