Remember the Pixar movie WALL-E? We might all be stuck at home due to coronavirus quarantining and social distancing. But let’s not become those blobs, dependent on screens and robots. Keep doing your daily routine…the one you did when life was normal. These rituals energize you, regulate emotion, and promote feelings of shared unity. Think of a team of athletes about to start a big game.1 Rituals are important for human existence, and the best part? They don’t cost much.
Keep doing your regular morning routine as if you are headed to work or school. This can include coffee, positive music, makeup—whatever makes you feel fresh and ready to tackle the day. Even if you’re not leaving the house, keeping up on your normal beginning-of-the-day routine is critical.
The organization and discipline it takes to show up and do something routine, even when you don’t feel like it, has been used throughout history by creative geniuses like Beethoven and Franz Kafka.2 A morning routine will signal your brain that the day has started and it’s time to do something. Hey, if it worked for Beethoven, we’re all for it!
Here are some common morning rituals to keep:
- Coffee or tea
- Hot shower
- Red lipstick (total power move!)
Exercise is more important than ever because it helps release feel-good endorphins that relieve anxiety.3 And if your day is full of bored and cranky children, money troubles, burned meals, and WAY too energetic dogs, you’re gonna need some help.
Federal guidelines recommend that adults do at least two and half hours per week of brisk activity (like walking or dancing).4 And if your gym is still closed or your workout buddy is stuck at home, too, no worries! There are plenty of ways you can exercise at home for free, including:
- Dance videos from YouTube
- Using soup cans for strength training
- Deep cleaning your house
Sleep. Bubble bath. Stretching. Positive thinking. If you’re rolling your eyes right now, STOP! These activities are crucial to take care of yourself before taking care of everything and everyone else in your life.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, maintaining your mental health makes you more resilient and better able to care for others.5 So you might consider the following activities. You’d be surprised how much less anxiety you have.
- Take a brief nap.
- Avoid screen time before bed.
- Meditation or muscle relaxation exercises.
- Notice the positive moments in your day.
What you put into your tummy matters to your brain. Harvard Health posted an article arguing that high-quality food with lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants actually protects your brain and boosts your mood.6
So treat yourself like a luxury car and invest in food that fuels and optimizes your body. Make wholesome recipes from your pantry. And just because you might be sitting around the house all day doesn’t mean you should eat all your food out of the bag/box/pot it came in! Plate your food. Make it attractive so you feel like eating is special. Try these healthy meal ideas:
This is probably not a shocker: good scents make you feel better! But it’s not just the scent of mom’s home-made cookies that do the trick (although that does sound good right about now). According to medical experts, aromatherapy can make you feel calmer and more energized.7
In addition to de-stressing, some essential oils could also have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties to keep germs away. Here are some essential oils you could try:
- Lemon oil in a diffuser to calm the mood and boost the immune system.
- Lavender oil in a diffuser to relieve stress and promote sleep.
- Peppermint oil in a diffuser or massaged into skin to relieve headaches.8
You might be stuck at home, but that’s no excuse to avoid nature! Research suggests that enjoying time in nature or green spaces is good for mental health.9 Negative emotion and stress could decrease, and general happiness could increase.
So consider the following ways to enjoy nature:
- Take walks outside.
- Sit in the sunshine.
- Bring nature inside with potted plants or a vase of flowers.
- Open the windows to hear the sound of a bird or smell of flowers.
Read (something other than the news!)
Take a break from anxiety-inducing social media and cable TV to read for pleasure. This practice could help you escape (momentarily) from the anxiety of daily life. Reading could also help lower your heart rate, ease muscle tension, and reduce stress better than listening to music or drinking tea.10
Here are some reading ideas to get you started:
- The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
- A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
- Rising Strong by Brené Brown
- Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Keep your daily routine!
No matter how disrupted your life is, you can still keep your day-to-day sanity by preserving some simple daily rituals at home. And the good news is, you don’t even need to spend a lot of money. So continue (or start!) a morning routine, exercise, do some self-care, eat good food, practice aromatherapy, explore nature, and read something distracting. You could be preserving your sanity as well! Now about those cookies…
1 Hobson, N., J. Schroeder, J. Risen, D. Xygalatas, M. Inzlicht. (2017). The Psychology of Rituals: An Integrative Review and Process-Based Framework. Retrieved from University of California Berkeley: http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/jschroeder/Publications/Hobson%20et%20al%20Psychology%20of%20Rituals.pdf
2 O’Mara, S. (2018, Dec 27). The Importance of Daily Rituals for Creativity. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-interrogated-brain/201812/the-importance-daily-rituals-creativity
3 Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, Sept 27). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
4 Staff. (2019, Oct 21). Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from Health.gov: https://health.gov/our-work/physical-activity/current-guidelines/top-10-things-know
5 NAMI Staff. (n.d.). Taking Care of Yourself. Retrieved from National Alliance of Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Taking-Care-of-Yourself
6 Selhub, E. (2015, Nov 16). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626
7 Cleveland Clinic Staff. (2015, Mar 16). Stress Out? Aromatherapy Can Help You to Feel Calmer. Retrieved from Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/stressed-out-aromatherapy-can-help-you-to-feel-calmer/
8 Gujral, H. (n.d.). Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work? Retrieved from Johns Hopkins Medicine: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/aromatherapy-do-essential-oils-really-work
9 NAMI Staff. (n.d.). Mental Health Benefits of Nature. Retrieved from National Alliance of Mental Illness California: https://namica.org/mental-health-benefits-of-nature/
10 University of Minnesota Staff. (n.d.). Reading for Stress Relief. Retrieved from University of Minnesota: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/reading-stress-relief