Creating Your New Normal: Daily Routines

Submitted on 10 April 2020

Letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Quest or the Editorial Board.

As you settle into your new environment, hopefully you have created a productive space to study and have managed the transition from classroom to the cloud. It is definitely easier said than done, but putting these strategies into place is vital to success in your new environment. In my conversations with Reed students, having a lack of structure and purpose is the biggest challenge they are currently facing. Students have reported a kind of vacation mentality; staying up late watching Netflix, scrolling through endless social media sites, gaming, and then sleeping in late the next morning or even into the afternoon. Too much time can be our enemy if it is unstructured and can lead to overthinking during difficult times. This often turns into ruminating on past events and worrying about the future which can lead to increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

In a time with so much uncertainty and circumstances out of our control, our day to day routine can give us a sense of control and security. Maintaining a daily routine propels us to start a new day, keeps our bodies healthy, and our minds sharp. This starts with eating a balanced diet, keeping a sleep schedule, and exercising regularly. 

You might be asking, “how do we create purpose and structure in a time of social isolation”? Pull out a piece of paper or a planner and make sure it is blocked out in half hour increments. Think about what time you would like to wake up in the morning. From that time, count backwards at least 7 ½ hours. This is your new bedtime. Schedule in your wake-up time, bedtime, and meals. Next, block the classes you need to attend and then attempt to break down your reading, papers, and projects, and schedule them according to class deadlines. This is your fixed schedule and you can now think about what kinds of activities you want to schedule with your remaining time. 

Planning a daily activity that actually gets you out of bed in the morning is the most important item on your schedule because doing this will determine the rest of your day. Students have told me that they really struggle with this and they have shared some great solutions that are working for them: getting up and going for a walk or run, making a healthy breakfast, doing online yoga virtually “with” a friend, or scheduling a “good morning” call with a friend or family member. This event needs to have a time stamp and it really helps if you can get someone else involved because you will feel accountable to them. Getting up at a decent hour and starting your day on a positive, productive note really sets the tone for the rest of your day. Next, plan a nighttime routine that you do every night so your body and brain know it’s time for sleep. This will be crucial and enable you to stick to your schedule the following day.

We can focus on planning out the remaining time left on your schedule.  Yes, you can have Netflix time or “down time”, but plan for it. Make sure your schedule includes time outside, exercise, meaningful social connection, and time for fun. All of it. Every day! We need fresh air, some sunshine, our blood to pump a little harder, to hear the voice of or see a loved one, and to laugh and have joy. It is really easy to just take each hour and day as they come. I admit to falling into this trap early on in my “social isolation, stay at home” period. It didn’t take me long though to realize it was making me unproductive, grumpy, and just “not normal”. Once I took the time to plan out a daily routine, it made a huge impact on my happiness as well as that of my family. It didn’t happen overnight, it was a process. Try to commit to a schedule AND be patient with yourself. We all do better with structure and truly are happier and healthier for it. I’m hoping it will help you develop a positive “new normal.”  

If you are looking for additional support during this time, please visit the Health and Counseling Center’s website for information about support groups, coping strategies, and other Covid-19 resources.

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