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How to Stay Sane and Add Variety While Socially Distancing

Rebecca Jones  |  May 27, 2020

Is your routine becoming more boring than comforting? Here's how to keep things fresh (and protect your mental health) during social distancing.

Your daily walk is becoming a bit boring, you’ve organized your pantry for the fifth time, and you’ve even run out of new shows to watch on Netflix. While a little boredom can be healthy, even inspiring from time to time,  you really are trying to stay engaged and active, and get into a groove that feels comfortable but not mind-numbing. Trust us, we’ve been there. (Literally, we are there right now.) 

While some states are beginning to lift stay-at-home orders, 85% of Americans are still in some stage of lockdown, and it’s unclear when we’ll be able to return to “normal,” whatever that may look like. It’s no wonder that many of us would welcome some variety in our day, or simply a means of shaking up our stale routines. If the four walls you’ve been staring at haven’t  been doling out the inspiration lately, we’ve got you covered. 

Plan Something to Look Forward To

The best way to shake up your routine is to plan one little adventure for each day, says Laura Vanderkam, time management expert and author of Off the Clock. “To do that, you need to think up a long list of little adventures so you have options to choose from,” Vanderkam says. Consider asking friends what they’re doing to get a variety of ideas, or look on social media (just keep it brief — this could eat up an entire day). “You might try having a picnic breakfast, going on a virtual vacation by looking at photos from a lovely spot, then cooking or ordering that cuisine for dinner,” she says. Just changing up one small thing in your routine can add variety and a little excitement to your day. 

Shake Up Your Daily Walk 

If your daily steps are now road oh-so-very-well-travelled to the point that you’ve begun waving at an imaginary Robert Frost, it’s time to change things up. “If you’re a morning walker, consider working first, then enjoying a walk after lunch or at sunset, or consider taking a detour you’ve never tried,” suggests Susie Moore, life coach and author of Stop Checking Your Likes. Be spontaneous, and remember that a little variety may be just the thing we need to get us out of our predictable ways, she says. For example, when’s the last time you tried roller skating or biking? And if you’ve only been walking when the weather is perfect, why not try a stroll when it’s less-than-perfect out next time?  My family just took a rainy walk on Sunday, and while there was some whining, it was memorable!” Vanderkam says. Also consider listening to something different too, maybe an audiobook or a new podcast, says Moore. “Why not make your own Spotify playlist of your fave tunes? Or listen to an author, a teacher, or celebrity by YouTube-ing their interviews while you move?” she says. 

And if going for a walk feels more like playing human frogger in your neighborhood, find a form of movement or relaxation you can do in your home, says Brittany Berger, productivity expert and founder at WorkBrighter.co. “Just turning on some music and dancing around will have you smiling and sweating,” says Berger. If wild dancing isn’t your thing, you can try syncing your breath with the music, Berger says.  “You get the benefits of meditation without needing to know how to meditate or downloading a special app,” she says. 

Keep Your Brain Inspired

It’s great to have a few different hobbies or “sanity-savers” that you can rotate through during the week, says Berger. As tempting as it is to binge through a whole season on Netflix at once, don’t watch the same show for more than a few episodes, and throw some variety in there by switching from a comedy to a drama,” Berger recommends. Consider learning a new language using an app like DuoLingo, doing a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, or cooking something new, says Moore. “Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting a side hustle for a while. Why not now?” she says. Also, now is a great time to read a new fiction and a nonfiction book, she says. Certainly, the days can be long, but when there are new things to do and learn, they really can fly.

Take Time to Connect with Others

Take this downtime to check in with friends, even the ones you haven’t spoken to in a while — perhaps especially the ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. “A simple ‘How are you right now?’ can go a long way,” says Moore. Connection with others is so important now, and may be just the ticket to what you — and a friend — may need. “No matter how long you’ve been out of touch, reach out. Who can you reconnect with?” says Moore. Also, consider doing a FaceTime drinks with friends, and if you love sending snail mail, TouchNote is a great hands-free option for sending personalized photo postcards and greeting cards right from your phone. “If you have your health and wifi —you have everything. Just don’t get stuck down the news and social media scroll hole!” says Moore. 

Take this Time to Recharge

Guess what? You need to stop feeling guilty right now about not finishing your novel or redecorating the guest room during this time. “You don’t have to make the most of this time with productivity,” Moore reminds us. Don’t worry about variety in your routine — if you need a break, take it. The good thing about any crisis is that it can be a natural reset button for some, she says. “There’s not much we can control out there, but remember that we do have power in the small corner of the world that we touch—within our homes, our families, and, most importantly, within our minds.” In other words, if all you accomplish in a day is some deep breaths and showing some grace and kindness to yourself, it’s been a very good day, indeed. 

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