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Illustration by Mariah Wilson

Why it is so hard to maintain a healthy routine while social distancing?

By Lauren Olson, April 2 2020 —

Social distancing, the new behaviours foisted upon us by the COVID-19 virus and all the stores shutting down has really thrown everyone into a tailspin. I’m certainly no exception, but thankfully after about a week of feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me combined with excessive exercise and excessive consumption of alcohol, I’ve settled down into a state of acceptance and I feel balanced. 

So, what’s the deal? Besides the fact that we’re all worried about financial implications and what this all means on a global scale, what about bringing it in? Bring it home, to yourself, and consider this. With all this extra time on our hands and nowhere to go, we are being forced to sit with ourselves. This is literally most people’s worst nightmare. As humans, we have grown so accustomed to avoiding ourselves and our demons that the thought of having down time is actually terrifying because you can’t hide anymore. This is why, instead of taking this time as a chance to rest and recharge, most people are frantically trying to stay as busy as possible to continue avoiding themselves. 

Being a busybody outside in the world at our workplaces, gyms and online is the same thing as being a busybody in your own home. Sorry. It just is. This is why everyone is doing 16 home workouts a day, baking 12 dozen cookies and muffins daily, making huge reading lists, taking on massive home projects and spending an insane amount posting pointless crap on Instagram. Nobody can just sit and be with themselves. For that very reason, social distancing and being forced to stay home is, in my opinion, the thing humans need most right now.

This time is for getting reacquainted with yourself. 

Now, I understand that it’s easier said than done. We’re all used to operating at a daunting pace and it makes most sense to continue this daunting pace, even if that means going full-blown psychotic in your house. But, let this be a gentle reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve seen a message being circled around on Instagram that said something to the effect of that you don’t have to use this time to get jacked and fit, you don’t have to use this time to write that bestseller, or to read that stack of books, or get your home renovations done. I thought it was the most helpful reminder, because I too had a knee-jerk reaction of immediately envisioning how productive I could be during this time off work. 

But, balance. Guys, we’re always striving for balance when we’re out working. Why is social distancing and quarantine any different? Balance. The only difference right now is that you have more time to do things for yourself than normal because 40 hours of your week isn’t owned by your employer. So, rather than seeing those 40 hours as time that must be filled, take a breath, and consider what would happen if you didn’t “accomplish” anything. 

You panicked a little, didn’t you? Because not being productive or accomplishing things is a thought that is terrifying to the very core of your being. Start with that. Acknowledge that you have entangled your self-worth with how productive you are, and therefore cannot allow yourself a rest unless a certain level of accomplishment has been met. By acknowledging it, step one is complete. 

Because we’re not all becoming spiritually enlightened here overnight, and I truly understand how hard it is to go from 100 to zero, my suggestion for getting closer to feeling balanced during this time of social distancing and quarantine is to look at your goals and lists that you’ve already made — because I know you have one — and to be honest with yourself. Having goals is great, keep the list. But instead of being such a hard-ass on yourself, give yourself some grace. That means that if your goal was to run every single day to get more fit, amend the goal to move your body in some way every day. If your goal is to read more, but you don’t even like reading, ask yourself why is that your goal? If your goal is to learn a new language, maybe commit to 30 minutes a day practicing it. Nothing has to be balls to the wall here. Just because we’re quarantined doesn’t mean the regular rules of time don’t apply. It still takes time to get fitter, learn new skills and get more rest. It’s like we’ve forgotten that and everyone is trying to fit in what they feel they never have time for into this condensed time frame. “I don’t have time to exercise and eat healthy regularly so I’m going to exercise for eight hours a day during this quarantine, drink eight cups of celery juice and become healthy!” NO. It doesn’t work that way. 

To bring it back around to the bottom line and to my entire point here is that we have been gifted time off work, with no immediate obligations to anything outside of what we can do in our own homes. When does this EVER happen? I understand the deep, burning urge to “make the most of it.” But in my mind, making the most of it is learning how to slowwww down. Learning to be with yourself when you’re not “accomplishing” something. Learning what it means to spend time with your family again. Taking time to cook some new meals that you’ve never done before and be ok with it if it isn’t as good as you wanted it to be or watch a TV series that you’ve been meaning to see, read a book before bed and let yourself get BORED! 

I’ll say it again — nothing needs to happen here, nothing needs to be done in a big or intense way. Understanding that the immediate reaction of hyperactivity and overzealous goal-making is a natural reaction to being afraid that your sense of self-worth is at stake can help to settle those feelings down. Ride it out, and then let yourself settle into a slower pace — it’s okay! Productivity and getting things done has been made into an ideal by humans and, just as easily, humans can withdraw that importance and make the ideal something new. Make balance an ideal.


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