None of us know just how long this craziness will last. There is a danger that we will stick our heads in the sand, convincing ourselves that this will all be over quickly.
I took early retirement back in 2018. I went from doing everything at a hundred miles an hour, hardly ever at home, using every life admin simplifier available to me to zero miles an hour, always at home and no longer being able to justify to myself using (particularly paying for) those life admin simplifiers anymore. Very quickly, my days just started to drift. I would reach the end of the day and realize I had done absolutely nothing; in fact, I couldn’t even remember what I had done that day half the time as my days were that uneventful.
This left me feeling depressed, and I realized that if I didn’t nip it in the bud, it would soon become a vicious circle, so I set about changing that and creating some new behaviors that would serve some purpose and structure back to my life. So, when Boris announced the nation needed to lock down at the beginning of last week, it reminded me of how I felt in those first few weeks of retirement and it occurred to me that the new behaviors I put into playback then could be just as useful to you during these strange and uncertain times.
1) Keep some sort of definition between your weekend your weekends
Thriving in these very odd times is about creating a new “normal”. Our normal lives before this all happened had some level of structure to them and we generally knew what we would be doing in the coming weeks and had things to aim and look forward to. So, the first thing we can do is not let every day become the same, one long slob on the sofa, binge-watching Netflix or whatever you would do on a normal duvet day.
We can do this by continuing to keep definition between Monday to Friday and the weekend. We can do this by keeping some structure and a level of planning to our week and then chill and be spontaneous at the weekend as you would normally. Below are some good ways of keeping some structure to your week and creating your new “normal”.
2) Plan your goals/tasks for the coming week, i.e. exercise, decluttering or sorting out the garden etc.
I don’t know about you but on a Sunday evening I often ponder what is coming up during the following week. In normal circumstances a lot of our upcoming activities don’t need conscious planning, general life admin, work and family duties naturally reoccur daily/weekly/monthly. During these uncertain times, however, we need to put a little more effort and thought into keeping some of that natural structure in our lives. One of the benefits of these times is that we are all getting more time at home, whether we like it or not. So, why not:
- Make the most of this time and improve our health and fitness. Plan in regular slots for some form of exercise every day. There are all sorts we can do at home, like one of the online/TV classes, YouTube – where there really is something for everyone or just keep up your regular walk, run, weight workout, but try and keep some consistency and set yourself some goals and plan little rewards for when you achieve them.
- Why not get your home/wardrobe/garage declutter underway? Get on with all those jobs you have been planning to do for ages, but “normal” life always got in the way.
- If the weather is nice, why not get out in the garden or your balcony and get it ready for spring and summer. Maybe you have always wanted to plant some flowers, grow some herbs/veg but just never had the time, now’s the time to have a go. I know, we can’t get to the garden center at the moment, but we can still order seeds and some plants online. Maybe you even found some when you cleared out your garage or garden shed! If this is not possible maybe just have a good sort out, reorganize your existing borders/planters, moving and replanting and just having a good tidy up.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but I am sure you get the idea. By having a good think on a Sunday evening, you can definitely come up with a list of things that would benefit from getting done in the coming week and keep you sane at the same time.
3. Plan your meals for the coming week
For some of us cooking is a joy and we are loving having more time to do it, however, for others, it has always been a waste of their time and they would prefer to let others (takeaways, restaurants, preprepared foods, home delivery) do the hard work. In these current unusual circumstances, both those that love to cook and those that don’t, are equally challenged. With many of our usual produce suppliers closed or having limited stock available, we need to give what we are going to eat and where we are going to get the produce from a lot more thought. Meal planning i.e. sitting down and working out your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the next seven days is a must.
The first thing to do is check what you currently have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer so you can make sure you include these ingredients when you are planning. Once you’ve done this, you can start to identify what you haven’t got and where you will get the additional ingredients you need to make your planned dishes from.
The local supermarket may be the obvious place to start, but what about all the smaller local suppliers/stores around you or maybe even farm shops (some of these are even doing veg box deliveries/collections) if you are lucky enough to have one or two near you. Not only will you get fabulous fresh produce, you won’t have to fight with the supermarket crowds, and you will also be helping these very important businesses get through these very difficult economic times.
4. During the week try to be consistent and disciplined
Getting up at the same time Monday to Friday and following a consistent morning routine is important. Obviously, days can be long during this forced isolation, so I am not saying get up at the crack of dawn, as you may have done while working, getting the kids to school etc. but you will benefit from keeping a resemblance of routine during this period and if you have children they definitely will.
Maybe get up an hour or so later, but nevertheless, set a time and then get up at that time Monday to Friday and then follow what would have been your normal weekday morning routine. For example, if you were working you would most likely get up at a set time and spend a set period of time to have your coffee, breakfast and read the paper/check social media, before having to leave to walk, drive etc. to get to work or kids to school at your normal time. Keeping to a similar type of routine even if you are not leaving the house is key to not getting sucked into sitting around watching Netflix or another equally mind-numbing activity all day.
5. Get on with your goals/planned activities for the day
If you are not disciplined, it can be very easy to get sucked into lingering for hours over breakfast or scouring social media. Try to get your day started at roughly the same time Monday to Friday. If you have set your regular getting up time at little later than normal then of course, extend your start time a little later too, but don’t fall into the trap of letting your morning routine drag out to lunch-time.
It’s so easy to get sucked into social media and whilst it’s very important in times like this as it keeps us connected to each other, it can still be a massive drain on our time if we are not disciplined in how/when we use it. Set an end time to your breakfast/morning routine and get on with your day. When you get to the end of your day having ticked everything off your list, you will feel a real sense of achievement.
6. Dress for your day’s activities and avoid staying in your pajamas all day
How we dress has a massive impact on our mindset and it is amazing the positive effect that changing out of our PJ’s can have on us, it effectively turns on our mind, gets us ready for the day and whatever that may throw at us.
I don’t know about you but changing into my PJ’s at the end of the day helps me unwind and makes the weekends feel extra decadent when I don’t have to get dressed. This demonstrates how what we wear affects our minds and what we do or don’t get done. Let’s be clear I don’t mean changing from PJ’s into equally slobby clothes, I mean getting dressed into something we would happily walk out of the house in and feel good doing so. Doing this makes you feel better, sets the tone for the day, making you more motivated, productive and prepared for anything. It’s basic self-care and hugely beneficial to your mental health.
7. Only watch or read the news once or twice a day
It’s nearly impossible to turn on the TV, open a newspaper, or scroll through social media without being assaulted with everything “Coronavirus” at the moment. Our News Media just loves to emphasize bad news and suffering.
Negative news can significantly change our mood and continuously viewing negative news scan sometimes magnify and feed your own personal worries. This is not good for your mental health and over time can go on to affect your overall health and well-being. Yes, we need to know what is going on in the world, particularly at the moment, with the government changing its strategy for dealing with this crisis regularly but catching up just once or twice a day maximum should be more than enough.
8. Learn something new every week
Learning something new is so good for us on many levels, even if it’s just learning a new recipe or how to use a new app/technology so you can stay in touch with friends and family. It helps us break out of our normal patterns of behavior, which, having to isolate, is negatively forcing us to do. So learning something new will help you transition through this change in a more positive way.
Learning something new also gives our brains something to think about other than our daily worries and keeps us away from the TV and its continuous negativity. By learning something new you will gain confidence, feel better, improve your ability to cope with change and not to mention, be able to tackle all sorts of new tasks. Learning can also be fun and easy to do, especially with the internet and YouTube as a great source of learning. There really is a “how-to” video or internet information for everything you might want to do.
9. Eat healthy meals and snacks
Having this extra time is the perfect opportunity for us to eat clean and do some form of exercise for a least 30 mins every day. Planning your meals and snacks ahead really is a game-changer when you want to eat healthier. You can also use eating healthy as another way to learn something new. Why not research how to cook the meals you love, but in a healthier way and find new recipes to try. Try to avoid processed foods and where possible buy fresh produce. The great thing about cooking from scratch is that you know exactly what is going into your meals. Even through the panic-buying recently, nearly every time I went to the supermarkets, there was always some sort of fresh veg available and eating a vegetarian meal once or twice a week can be a great way to help us to eat healthier without even thinking about it.
Not sitting in front of the TV or your Computer all day will also save you from snacking mindlessly. Lastly, do try to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, even it is just a walk, it will improve your health, raise your spirit and boost your immune system.
10. Don’t dwell or worry unnecessarily.
No one really knows how long this lockdown might go on for, so dwelling on how things have changed or worrying what the world will be like when we come through the other sided of this pandemic is pointless.
Why not take control of what YOU can control, plan your week, take each day as it comes, stay focused on your short-term goals/activities and don’t dwell or worry about what you can’t change. The world, home, work and play are most definitely going to be different once this is all over. There will be a new “normal” in all areas of our lives. Worrying has no currency, it will never change the outcome, just damage your health and well being, so focus on what you can change or control.
Most importantly, take care of yourself and stay safe, your health and well being are priceless.