Creating Space When Life Feels a Bit Too Routine

As I write this, we are 10 months into 2020, 7 months into a pandemic, 5 months into renewed racial justice protests, about 2 months into the school year, and a week away from a momentous presidential election. It feels cliché to comment on how unusual of a year we’ve had—but we can all agree it’s been a difficult year, for many reasons. 

And though I’ve been struggling with anxiety, missing seeing my friends and their babies in-person, and grieving the loss of the ability to pick up and visit my favorite local coffee shops and small businesses on a whim (I also turned in my leased vehicle this year and opted not to replace it for now), I’ve also grown strangely used to this “smaller” way of life! 

Are you feeling this, too? 

Plus, since I work from home, don’t have children, and usually don’t leave the house more than once a week, not much has changed for me, in a daily sense, over these 7 tumultuous months. It’s definitely feeling a little “Groundhog Day” over here, and I think I’ve uttered the words, “What is time, anyway?” at least 100 times since March.

In a Rut

I’ve had a mindfulness practice for over 5 years now, but there’s nothing like a forced new lifestyle to send you back into the habits of autopilot. The practice has been no less valuable to me this year, but even it has become a rote part of “just another day in the [pandemic] life.”

In some ways, it’s easier to make it through each day when you know what to expect. But I, and probably many others, have been suffering from a lack of space and spontaneity as we do our best to follow precautions while the health crisis continues. And if we’re doing the same things, day-in and day-out, we start to lose our sense of creativity and joy—and might become bored even with ourselves! (Or is it just me?)

Change It Up

I recognize not everyone has a simpler life these days. But no matter our circumstances, none of us signed up for the challenges we’ve had to face this year—challenges that will continue in some way for an unknown number of months. It’s fair to contemplate if our current daily patterns are sustainable for our well-being. I’ve found that mine are not.

If, like me, you’re feeling a bit stuck in routine these days, join me in trying some of these options for changing things up and creating more space:

1. Wake up earlier!

Me being up early today is a fluke, but how about intentionally setting your alarm for an hour or two earlier once a week to gift yourself some uninterrupted time before the rest of the world is up and running?

2. Meditate (or meditate at a different time).

If you’d like to start a meditation practice, start small (read these tips for getting started). I sit to meditate first thing in the morning every weekday, but I’d like to add some time at night to help me wind down, calm my mind, and fall asleep more easily. 

3. Go for a walk.

I know I’m not the only one whose physical activity has taken a nosedive this year! Movement is important for physical and mental health and can be a huge mood-booster! Plus, you can make your walk an opportunity to practice walking meditation

4. Cook or bake a new recipe. 

Baking has been a favorite hobby of mine for years, but only recently have I realized just how much it’s a mindfulness practice! It’s one of the few times when I’m being active, but also very present with what I’m doing, without trying to be. Attending to the details of the recipe, engaging the 5 senses, and enjoying the process of something delicious coming together all combine to break up routine and give you something to look forward to. 

5. Swap a habit.

Instead of getting sucked into scrolling social media, or watching another episode on Netflix, give yourself a half hour to engage in arts and crafts, make incremental progress on yardwork, clean a small room in your home, meditate, play a game… It’s no surprise that screen time has gone way up this year, but we can take back our attention and improve our mood by changing up our habits—especially if we end up doing something we’ve been meaning to do! 

“What Can I Do?”

Though so much about this experience continues to be outside our control and has forced us into temporarily small and more contained lives, we can create moments of respite in this “new normal.” 

Despite this time of uncertainty, there are things that we can have some choice over: Our response to our thoughts, emotions, and the world around us; and what we do with the time that we have. We can add some variety and space back for ourselves when our lives start feeling monotonous.

Do you have other ideas to add? 

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