Grappling With Normalcy Amid COVID-19

With rapidly evolving protocols, regulations, ordinances, and updates, you are now working from home while navigating COVID-19. Your company, too, is evolving thanks to virtual meetings, VPNs, and technological advancements. In fact, you and your coworkers now wonder if remote work will prevail when the dust settles.

If that doesn’t apply to you, it may also be likely that thanks to COVID-19 you have been laid off, furloughed, or reallocated to part-time. You now have a plethora of free time but can’t actually do the things you used to daydream about if you were granted a permanent vacation since, well, the nation and world are experiencing something resembling lockdown.

Regardless of which situation best describes you at present, you are likely experiencing a situation similar to falling overboard off of the cruise ship and trying your best to tread water while you get your bearings.

Regaining your “normal” lifestyle likely won’t come to fruition until the coronavirus winds down/ becomes manageable at scale.  There are, however, small steps that you can take to normalize your temporary lifestyle. Routines and schedules are tools that can offer you a way to feel normal.

Doing things in a certain order from the start of the day allows you to check things off of a list, feel the sensation of accomplishing tasks, and build momentum throughout the day. Routines work because of this momentum.

Create a realistic routine for yourself. If you’re not a morning person, telling yourself that you will wake up at 5:00am and go running for an hour will likely result in you hitting snooze, not running, and then beating yourself up for having hit snooze and not gone on your run all while throwing off the rest of your routine. Positive momentum builds and, unsurprisingly, negative momentum does as well.

Here’s an example of a shelter-in-place routine that you can implement, and adapt to fit, in your own life:

  • Wake up at the same time every day.
  • Make coffee, put it in a to-go mug and take a walk (alone). Listen to music, a podcast, an audio book, whatever. But this is your “commute time”; as you would normally spend on your way to work.
  • When you get back, make yourself breakfast. Read for a set period of time during/ after your breakfast. Reading, synthesizing, and digesting information (and your breakfast) will help turn your brain on in the morning.
  • Then if you have work stuff to do, regardless of if you are currently employed or not, get to it (i.e. emails, meetings, bills, unemployment logistics, phone calls etc…).
  • Go for another walk at a set lunch time and then eat lunch when you get back. Incorporate a social phone call on this short walk (or a work call- but leave your work space). Consider ordering take-out to support any local businesses that are still open if you are financially able.
  • After lunch, carve out some productivity time. Set your calendar to unavailable so you don’t get interrupted (unless you have meetings, prior engagements, etc…). You can use this time to work on projects, job hunt, work on your resume and professional profiles, read up on a new skill that you want to learn, or something new that you’re interested in. This can be as simple as watching youtube videos on new cooking recipes you want to try or as advanced as learning HTML. The point of this time slot is to get your brain firing on something new that it has to figure out.
  • After your “work day” is over go for a run, do zoom yoga, or some type of exercise. Same time slot, every day. It does not have to be rigorous exercise. (You can also sub this time slot for FaceTime/Zoom/ Google Hangout calls to be social with the people in your life).
  • Make dinner/ have dinner. If you stocked up on food and not just toilet paper, congrats! Make something new or that you haven’t had in a while. This could also be another opportunity to support open local businesses if you are financially able.
  • Watch something on any of the streaming platforms you might have. A lot of them have beefed up their list of offerings since the whole world now needs new content. You could also read, play music, do a puzzle, tackle that home improvement project you’ve been putting off etc…
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour, and get enough sleep. You are not on vacation.

After crafting your daily schedule, spend a few days test driving it. Tweak it and make changes to improve it. Downtime can get away from you, fast. Now is a great time to take on projects that you’ve been shelving until a time when you could actually focus on them. You’ve just been granted the time to tackle them.

Use Sunday or Monday to goal set for your week. These don’t have to be enormous goals. Those big projects you’re ready to take on? What would the first step be? How about the second? Cool, there are your first two objectives right there. By segmenting your big picture goals into smaller, more manageable pieces you are much more likely to actually start to make progress. Figure out those steps, and then sprinkle them into your schedule for the week each Sunday or Monday. Then on Friday, take inventory of what you were able to accomplish. It is one hundred percent ok if you didn’t meet your goal for the week; don’t beat yourself up. The point of taking inventory is to figure out what your next step is. Do you need to change your goals? Do you need to change the actionable steps that you took to try and move toward your goal? Being able to see and adjust those parts of your equation will help you succeed!

Given the likelihood that you’re sheltered in place with someone else or even multiple people, carving out productive personal time will make the shared time in communal spaces more bearable.

Remember: the social impacts of COVID-19 are temporary. Use the tools at your disposal to support yourself during this time. If by using those tools you happen to sharpen them and like their role in your life, keep using them when we get back to “normal”.

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