Do you remember the start of your year, in 2020? What were your personal thoughts about the well rounded, almost ‘perfect’ 20-20 year that stretched ahead? Did you have any goals or plans that you wished to pursue, or that seemed likely, that because of the pandemic have been interrupted or cancelled?
As someone living and working in the UK, at the start of the year much of the talk in the news centred around ‘Brexit’ – Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. Regardless of the politics and whether or not you have any particular feelings towards this (which I understand many of you living in other parts of the world may not), there was a feeling that there would be implications for our personal lives on some level.
As such, I optimistically started 2020 thankful for my steady job, and beginning to brainstorm European countries that I have not yet been to that I would like to visit in 2020, before any potential future travel restrictions that might be caused by Brexit! Ah, how little did I know back then!
Needless to say, none of those travel plans materialised in 2020, and not because of Brexit, but because of Covid! Wherever in the world you may be, I am certain you’ve heard of that. I am thankful that I have travelled quite a lot and enjoyed traveling on my own as well, so although my plans never materialised for travel in 2020, it is no great disappointment or inconvenience.
However, I’m not the only one who had plans at the start of the year that did not come to pass. Perhaps you did too. Maybe you planned to get married this year and that had to be called off or at least postponed to less uncertain times. Maybe you considered relocating or buying your first home, changing job, or taking a risk, visiting friends or family or doing something that due to the pandemic has had to be put on hold or cancelled altogether.
Some of you may be in a place of real turmoil, or may know others whose lives have been shaken in 2020. It is heart-breaking to hear stories of people who are mourning loved ones because of Covid, who have lost their jobs or face uncertainty with their income, who are struggling with mental health, loneliness and depression on a more intense scale than they might have been before because of isolation, uncertainty and anxiety.
The bad news hasn’t stopped some people from experiencing joys in life, but sadly this has not been the case for everyone. I know of people who are expecting babies this year, who have got engaged, and even couples at church who managed to get married as planned this year, albeit with a few less people in attendance. Some have still managed to get away on short holidays or breaks, or explored the world of ‘staycations’. Others have enjoyed working from home, time with family, or time to enjoy hobbies that they previously had little space in their calendars for.
We have all come through this year differently, with shades of light and dark along the way, but it is unlikely that you have not been touched or impacted by the pandemic in some way, even if that is inadvertently.
And because of this, I write to reach you and encourage you, as a small offering of hope.
What are some of the ways that many of us here may have been impacted? One thing that I know many people face is a change of routine. Routines have changed in terms of where we work, whether we are able to work at all, being able to socialise, see friends or family, where we can eat, where we can go, and what we need to be ‘on guard’ for.
No longer is our routine when leaving home characterised by a final check of whether we have money, keys and phone with us; instead, we have the additional ‘check-list’ of whether we have our facemask, hand sanitiser, maybe even gloves with us. We have to be even more mindful of our interactions, our distancing, our shopping and disinfecting habits than we were before as we realise how much of the day to day things we took for granted in seemingly more ‘care free’ days.
Whether your life and routine has been slightly or significantly impacted, there is no doubt that you have had changes to adapt to this year.
It’s a word of solidarity to say that you’re not alone. We’re all facing change in some way.
So what do routines and self-care have to do with each other? So much. If any of you have also suffered with times of mental health challenges, then perhaps you also know the importance of routines to help get you through those tough days. Routines do not save us (as you will know if you have read my blogs on faith before, I believe that only Christ can save us to the uttermost that we need), but they can provide a sense of stability in uncertain times.
If your routine has been changed this year, and you are facing unexpected changes due to the pandemic, try to establish new routines that provide you with a sense of comfort, predictability and even joy.
There may be things from your previous routine that you miss, and others that you are glad to see the back of. I personally do not miss the daily commute to work, and instead enjoy lingering unhurriedly over my morning cup of coffee.
Think of some of the things you are thankful are no longer part of your routine in this season, and take a moment to write them down, to be grateful or simply ponder them, however small they may seem to be.
Things such as no longer having to face rush hour traffic if that is the case for you. Of no longer missing out on time with your children, perhaps. Whatever it is, take a moment and appreciate that even in unsettling times of change, some changes have been a blessing to you.
Next think of the positive changes to your routines that you may not have even noticed before. Think of ways in which you can establish and build upon these to bring in a greater sense of wellbeing into your life as you persevere through this ‘pandemic year’. You may have lost a lot this year, or may feel unsettled and disrupted, but are there any things you can incorporate into your day that will help you?
A friend of mine has been incorporating regular walks into her new routine, and enjoying the peace of nature, something she wouldn’t have had so much time for before. Maybe you’re stuck at home in a high rise flat in the city and can’t enjoy such things on a regular basis, or at all in this season of your life, but perhaps the routine ritual of your morning breakfast / work out / coffee / crossword or whatever it may be is something you can look forward to.
Routines help take some of the mental pressure away from our minds. With fewer decisions to make, we can be more present in the moment, more able to enjoy the gifts of the day, and routines can help to ‘free up’ certain areas of our lives to do this.
I know that many people deeply dislike the term ‘the new normal’, so I won’t use that here, but in what ways have you adapted and brought in positive changes into your daily life?
Routines don’t have to be rigid, but having something predictable to look forward to in our day to day lives can help ease the burden and promote self care in these changing times.