With the rise in delta variant cases as kids return to school and fight over mask mandates, the current period is in certain ways more stressful than lockdown. With everything in flux, it may be more difficult to have any kind of routine. But if you made positive changes during the lockdown period, like exercising, meditating, or spending more time with family, they are worth hanging on to. “With the stress of returning to work and sending kids back to school in an uncertain environment, you need the good habits that helped you get through the past 18 months more than ever,” says WCWCW psychologist, Dr. Susan Felzer.
Read on for guidance on how to maintain healthy changes and why doing so matters.
Set priorities and adjust your routines
Lockdown gave many of us time and space to rethink priorities. Use this transitional time to solidify those priorities—in the areas of relationships, work opportunities, and activities. Once you’ve set your priorities, identify the behaviors and practices that will help you stick to them. For example, if a priority is mental health, the behavior could be a meditation practice. If you want to keep a meditation practice you began in lockdown, work on transitioning it to your post-quarantine routine. If while homebound you meditated during the time you would have normally commuted to work, and now you’re going back to the office for part of the week, you could wake up earlier to meditate.
Even better, see if there’s a behavior that’s not serving you for which meditation could substitute. For example, if you habitually check your phone first thing in the morning, try meditating during the 10 minutes you might normally spend scrolling. Start small. If it’s hard substituting this every day, try three times each week.
“Don’t feel like you need to stick with every habit you developed during the pandemic, just the ones that best serve you,” says Dr. Felzer.
Maintain a sustainable schedule
In order to stick with a routine, it needs to be easy enough to do so. It’s why people live close to their gyms or stock their fridges with healthy foods. Overscheduling is one of the biggest killers of routine. It’s easy for your calendar to fill up when children’s activities, playdates, volunteering, and social activities are ramping up.
“It’s important to preserve time in your schedule for rest and self-care,” says WCWCW psychotherapist, Joy Paul. “When deciding whether to add something to your schedule, take a few moments to think about it. Do you genuinely want to participate, or are you feeling FOMO?” You can return to your priorities, commit to activities in your priority buckets, and decline those that don’t make the cut. Block out free and unscheduled time for yourself each week, such as family time Saturday afternoon, no meetings on Fridays, or a movie or self-care night one night a week.
Ask to continue flexible work
If you discovered working from home is a big post-pandemic priority but your company isn’t planning to support it, consider speaking to your manager about how you can work together to accommodate your needs. If your company refuses to budge, you may want to look into finding a more accommodating job.
Make quality time with family
With the tempo of work, school, and activities building back up again, it’s likely not possible to spend as much time with your family as you did during the lockdown period. And for many, it is a relief to have kids back in school and activities. But you can still make family time a part of your schedule.
A good way to maximize family time when you don’t have a lot of it is to focus your attention on it fully, instead of multi-tasking between work emails or social media. “When you get rid of distractions, not only are you more at the moment, but you remember that moment better later,” says Joy Paul, LCSW-C.
When change is out of your immediate control
Let’s face it: change is hard, especially when it requires the support or approval of others, such as a workplace that needs to okay a hybrid work situation, or a partner who needs to agree to watch the children while you take some self-care time.
“Change doesn’t need to come right away, but if you are able to maintain beneficial routines, it can help you deal with larger challenges in uncertain times,” says Dr. Felzer.
Our mental health professionals can help you tease out what came out of your pandemic transformation and navigate uncomfortable or challenging conversations. For more information on how WCWCW can help you meet your needs for healing and personal growth, make an appointment with one of our clinicians today.