"Self Care in Quarantine" is a series I am writing as we all adjust to our new lives as a result of the pandemic. The world is clearly in a state of disarray, and many people are finding themselves struggling financially, personally, or otherwise. All of the new adjustments and transitions due to the pandemic are extremely challenging and affecting everyone globally. We are all seeking to discover what we should do. As an optimist, I am arguing that this is time to start fresh. We have been given the space to create new routines, strengthen relationships, and reflect on ourselves. This series is designed to provide tips on how to do these things, along with how to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally, spiritually, and creatively while in quarantine. I am not an expert and nothing that I say is meant to replace a professional's opinion or otherwise, but only to provide some insight into feeling more peaceful. It is my hope with this series that we can regain or continue to stand in our power, and take care of ourselves as we adjust to a new way of living.
In this essay, we will be discovering tips on how to create a new routine that works for you while following the social distancing procedure ordered by our government.
Whether we are in quarantine or not, having a daily and/or weekly routine will help us to be organized and use our time productively. But now that we're starting fresh, how do we adjust our routines? Or create a new one entirely? It's actually significantly easier than you may believe, and I've broken it down into 5 steps.
1. List Everything You Need and Want to do each day/week, Down to the Dirty Details
When we think of the things we need to do in a day, it usually consists of work, school, gym (maybe), and connecting with friends, family, or our partner. Maybe on the weekends our day includes doing an activity or hobby, running errands, and going out. But where is the time for taking care of ourselves? I'm talking about showering, brushing our teeth, and completing our skin routine. When creating a new routine, everything needs to be accounted for.
So, either on a piece of paper or the notes application on your phone write down everything you need and want to do in a day. Include every little detail. The end result could look something like this:
- wake up
- shower/brush teeth/wash face/etc
- school or work
- shower/brush teeth/wash face/ etc
In quarantine, it might look like:
- wake up
- watch tv
- school via zoom
- maybe shower, because who saw you today? no one
- sit and wonder what the hell is going on
In an effort to maintain a sense of sanity, and not slack off in our needs and responsibility, it is important that our routines mimic as closely as they can our ideal routine as if not in quarantine.
These lists are not comprehensive, and may change day to day as our responsibilities aren't always the same everyday. Your list should include the important things and things you want to do, such as read or workout, journal, or virtually connect with your loved ones. The goal in the first step is to include everything you do in a day from beginning to end.
2. Make Your Sleep Schedule + Morning Routine the Skeleton of Your Day
The most productive or centered people, and many successful CEOs all preach the importance of a morning routine. If they don't they're probably preaching about the importance of getting enough sleep. There are also handful of people, such as myself, that preach the importance of BOTH a morning routine and sleep schedule.
Now that you know exactly what you need and want to do in a day, it's time to arrange these things around when you are going to be sleeping. Little foreshadow here, the aim with our routines is to be consistent, so you don't have to feel restricted into going to bed at the same time every night or feel guilty if you sleep in past your alarm (you're probably not going to work anyways so for now there is no harm no foul).
So now your routine should be a little more specific because you're giving yourself a bedtime and time to wake up. We all know the importance of a good sleeping schedule, and being quarantined should not hinder this. We can still live comfortably and have a better head space if we have a sleeping schedule. Essentially, this means that a sleeping schedule will benefit both our mental and physical health.
Next, we can arrange a morning routine. Personally, I combine a few aspects of my day into one "box" to check off. I combine "shower/brush teeth/skin routine" into one category that I call "self care." I also include future journaling as the first thing I do every morning. Everyone's morning routine is going to look different, but to give you an idea of this in practice, our list should now look a little more like this:
- wake up 9am
- morning routine ("self care")
- school or work
- evening routine ("self care")*
- sleep 11pm/12am
In quarantine, it might look like:
- wake up 9am
- morning routine ("self care")
- school via zoom (or something that you need to do)
- activity or free time (or something that you need/want to do)
- homework/study (or something that you need to do)
- definitely shower because we still take care of ourselves (evening routine)*
- something that you want to do (example: read a book)
- sleep 11pm/12am
*I added evening routine because the evening routine should be similar to the morning routine in terms of shower/brush teeth/skin routine/etc.
In these examples, you could even include breakfast in your morning routine. It's really up to you and what you want to do with your time. At this point, our list of everything we need and want to do in a day has a bit more structure and should have a focus point on physical health, which will aid in nurturing our mental health.
3. Organize in a Chronological Order
This may or may not seem pretty obvious, and was hopefully completed in Step 1, but it is still important to talk about. If we know the order that things are going to be happening, there is less room for stress. Less stress will help provide more peace and the chance to gain/regain our power under these challenging circumstances. If the items on your list are not already in chronological order, this is the time to go back and tweak it so that they are.
4. Leave Room for Error
Life happens. Things come up. It would be illogical to expect your routines to be the same and followed every single day to a T with no errors. So, even though we know everything we need and want to do within the time we aren't sleeping, we should leave room for the unexpected. This does NOT mean schedule in an extra hour for something to go wrong, but rather not hold ourselves to our new routines in a borderline religious manner. If we don't "check off every box," that's okay. If we wake up at 10am instead of 9am, that's okay (unless that would mean missing work or school). We will wake up again and still be healthy if we have to do things a little out of order on one day. Our routine should be structured, but it should also be flexible. As long as what you feel is a priority is not pushed off or skipped entirely, you're doing pretty good. Afterall, our sleep schedule and morning routine is the skeleton of our daily routine, and past the skeleton are the muscles, which we can move freely. Our bodies aren't ridged and in this metaphor, our routine is not either.
Now, I want to make something very clear before moving on. This step should NOT be something that you can use as an excuse to not do something on your list. If things are working out perfectly, and you're accomplishing everything, do not stop! If you have ample opportunity to complete your daily routine daily then do so. This step is really for the perfectionists, or those who may not know what to do if things are halted by traffic, a flat tire, homework lasting longer than you thought, etc. The unforeseen seems to find it's way into our lives, and these things should not prompt us to give up. Every morning we are given the opportunity to start again. Success is defined by how you measure it, but I argue that in the case of following a routine, success is defined by how many items on your list are completed. The more the better, but if something out of your control arises and you can't, that is okay.
5. Be Consistent When Practicing Your New Routine
Our days could arguably feel restricted and too rigid if we push ourselves to the extreme in terms of checking off every box. There is no single perfect person, and even if you were perfect there would always be someone seemingly doing it better. Perfectionism is unhealthy, and will not make us happy or lead to the results that we are working towards. Consistency will.
We should be practicing our routines daily and aiming to complete everything we have laid out for ourselves. Since we understand there is room for error for the instances when "life happens," we should also understand that there are going to be days when we don't or can't complete everything. The only thing we can do to maintain this new sense of peace and feeling of living in our power is to be consistent in following your routine as well as you can every single day that you can.
Use a calendar or planner
There is power in the words we write, and it helps us connect our ideas at a neuron level in our brain. Writing out our routine in a planner or adding it to the calendar on our devices can help us stick to it and be organized.
Share your quarantine routine
If you share your new routine with others, you are creating space to be held accountable for your actions or lack of actions. Having someone to keep us on our toes can help us feel more productive and give us a sense of responsibility. Sharing your routine is also a conversation starter, and potentially can lead to inspiration on how you can further personalize your routine or use your free time. Even if you don't find inspiration in sharing your routine with others, someone else might find inspiration in your routine.
Additional Tips for Quarantine
If your job is not considered an essential, like my own, then you probably have a lot more free time since you aren't working. If your laid out routine only includes the essentials (sleep schedule, morning routine, and evening routine), you may be wondering what you can or should do with the rest of your time. Here are some options and please add more to the comments below if you have any more ideas!
Learn how to cook your favorite meal
Grocery stores are still open, and home cooking should be more of a priority than going out since we have less money to spend right now. This is the perfect time to try something new, and cooking your favorite meal or a new meal will fill up your time and your belly.
Try a new hobby
There are so many things that people like to do for fun and now is a great time to try that thing you've always wanted to. There are free vocal exercise videos on YouTube if you want to try learning how to sing, recipes galore if you want to learn how to cook, MasterClass for various topics, video games on beta if you want to be a Gamer Girl, and many more options. There is also the potential to turn this new hobby into a side hustle. Sites such as Udemy and Coursea offer free to low cost courses that result in a certification so you can make money with your new practice (maybe even jumpstart a career). The internet is full of resources and most of them are free, so it wouldn't hurt to take a look.
Read a book
Whether that be a physical book or on a device, there are many options for reading nowadays. Additionally, there are endless topics. If you've ever been curious about a new topic, wanted to learn something, or escape into a different world for a little bit, reading is the answer. If you haven't read for fun in awhile and don't know where to start, Goodreads is a great resource to start with.
Meditation is an ancient practice of focusing on your breath and letting your thoughts rest for a little while. Studies have shown that meditation guides in easing anxiety, increasing your attention span, builds immunity, improves brain function, and helps in having a good night's sleep. Headspace and Meditation are free apps that can help get you started.
Check in with your family and friends
The state of the world is stressful right now, and being quarantined could lead to feeling isolated. These instances are also unfortunately where we see an increase in child abuse, domestic abuse, and suicide. Please take this time to check in on your friends and family to make sure they are doing okay, and provide assistance if you can. If these cases of abuse and depression are not present in your life or the lives of those around you, it is still a good opportunity to talk to those who you may not talk to frequently, or grow a closer relationship with those who you are quarantined with.
The times are stressful right now. Our lives are changing and we are being forced to start anew. Creating and following a new routine will benefit our physical and mental health. It will also give us a sense of control, and give us the chance to spend our time wisely. These aspects can give us a sense of peace that seems to be lacking in the world, and can keep us moving in our power.
If you have any suggestions on things to do in quarantine, write them in the comments below! Better yet, if this essay helped you to create your own new routine, I would love to see it so feel free to also share them in the comments!
Maren Hoflund MT HHP, is a massage therapist and holistic health practitioner based in San Diego. This her self created space where she explores topics such as mental and physical health, self care, spirituality, and child development; in addition to her poetry and prose.