When life as we know it comes to a stop, what is our course of action? We build our habits, our commutes, our destinations, and sometimes even our social interactions into steady tracks for our minds to run on. Sometimes there is a delay, or an unexpected change of plans, but usually there is a level of seamlessness that we build into the patterns of our lives.
During times when we are no longer able to follow these schedules, we notice everything that we put on autopilot. Our ability to build habits into that “autopilot” feeling can be very helpful. Our feet carry us to the station, we know which stop to get off the train, we barely need to think about where the hand needs to go to press our floor on the elevator. We are in environments we know how to be productive in. Our choices are set out for us: lunch at place A or place B?
What happens when much of that changes? Whether you are working from home, or have kids who have no place to go, and most of your usual social circle is running on different schedules, how do you meet that?
Acknowledge that this is difficult.
When we are used to routine, making decisions for almost every action can feel exhausting and frustrating. Especially in situations that are in a state of constant change and adaptation, making this many choices can feel challenging. Knowing that the current circumstances are difficult, allow yourself patience and grace as you build new and effective routines for this time. Recognize that feeling scared or sad or angry is normal, and there is no need to beat yourself up over the difficulty of change.
Respond, don’t react.
Take time to bring in the mindset of making conscious decisions. If you are used to running on habit, the next easiest thing would be to move into a reactionary space. Instead of jumping into those reactions, see if you can pause any time you feel a strong sense of fear or anger. Give yourself the time to let these emotions subside, then see what the most helpful course of action is. This will likely not be a one-time thing. As changes continue, different emotions will likely arise. Every time they do, see if it’s possible to allow yourself a short period of reflection before you make a decision. While it’s normal to feel worried, it is not a productive space to make decisions.
You know yourself.
When making new routines for this time, it’s important to remember that you already know what you need. When we get panicked, often the first things to go are the things that nourish us. If you are someone who is usually active, sociable, and productive, going into a routine that has none of these things will feel incredibly draining. If you can’t make it to your usual workouts, how can you still keep fit? If you are trying to avoid bigger social gatherings, how can you still maintain some level of social life? If you can’t make it to the office, how can you create a productive environment? Find things that are actionable and effective to fulfill those needs.
Everyone is so different, that there is no cookie cutter solution for dealing with change. However, if you allow doubt and panic to take the wheel over all of your endless creativity and wealth of self-knowledge, the result won’t be good. Be patient and resourceful, you’ve got this.