We are all creatures of habit. We crave routine and the expected, much as we may prefer surprises and occasional spontaneity. And though this 'new normal' is far from our normal routine, its ever-lengthening tenure is likely causing many of us, knowingly or not, to form new habits and routines. It's a given in the framework of addiction recovery and detoxification that it takes approximately 28-days to break old bad habits, and to hopefully begin to replace them with things new, different, and better for you.
Making that new habit/routine more or less automatic requires more like 66-days, and it increasingly appears that before most gates are lifted, we will be well beyond that number in our home-based semi-quarantine.
Regular exercise and de-compression -
I had built my Yoga practice up to 5-6 days a week, I am actually practicing less frequently online now, but instead have added long walks, 3-5 miles, 3-4 early evenings or mornings each week. I do have the benefit of living on the PATH trail, but for most of us there is a neighborhood with sidewalks or a park with trails near enough by that this can become a healthy part of your daily routine.
Listening to and speaking with your children -
Our regular workday world, commuting, earlier bedtimes during the school year all combine to not be conducive to regular parent/child interaction. But even forced togetherness, sharing space every day, homeschooling and perhaps most importantly shared family mealtimes offer great opportunities to listen to our children and their concerns as well as the high and low points of their day. Ban electronics at the dinner table and they will still be there after the meal, and maybe, suggest a board game or two once a week after dinner, for some real fun and bonding time.
Better connecting with your partner -
And even the healthiest of relationships can suffer from a lack of regular two-way sharing and communication. Discuss your plans post-shut-in, or plan a reward family trip or weekend away to visit other relations and friends. Build some time for intimacy back into your calendars, surprise your partner with flowers, or a favorite meal, these are still things that can easily be achieved without stepping much further than your pantry or backyard.
Begin your Victory Garden -
We are greatly expanding our raised bed gardens this year. Time not spent commuting is easily transferred to watering, weeding and care for the garden, and again once the habit is formed, you will find it later to be an easy tack on to the start or finish of each day.
Greater Employer Flexibility and Increase of Telemedicine -
Your workplace and boss are hopefully becoming accustomed to work getting done without seeing your face and body at your desk or place of business every day. Prior studies in other countries, already more pre-disposed to telecommuting, have actually documented increases in productivity when workers can set their own schedule.
American medicine AND we patients are also finally utilizing, in significant percentages, the use of telemedicine, long available, but seldom used prior to this pandemic. Lower risks of infection and fear of sick people in office lobbies are expediting this transition and this will not be the first time that fear served as a primary catalyst for shifting American behavior.
Maintain friendships with more than the occasional text -
You do have more time in-home quarantine. You are not commuting, you are setting your own schedule, your kids are around you constantly. Take some adult time, easiest to gather in the evenings and on weekends, send an Email first or a text, and set a time for a long catch up phone call, Facetime, Skype or Zoom session. You will come away with feelings of nostalgia and hope, likely lifting spirits in at least two households in the process.
During the midst of any great battle, there is a tendency to feel overwhelmed, and the lack of certainty of when this will end is probably presenting the greatest challenge, other than perhaps crippling blows to our economy. But American birth rates have been dropping like a rock for several years now, and our population growth, absent immigration has dropped below 0 percent (births versus deaths). I am predicting a second Baby Boom this year, just in time for Christmas. That will be quite a gift from this pandemic after all. Pick a new good habit and get crackin'.