I’ve been meeting with stroke support groups recently. A common theme has emerged in our discussions: this pandemic disrupted the lives of the stroke survivors. And returning to routine during the pandemic has been difficult.
One gentleman described how he was active before the stroke. He volunteered and made regular visits to the gym. Since the pandemic, his volunteer activities shut down and haven’t re-opened. The gym is back open, but he is struggling to get motivated again. Instead, he admitted he spends too much time now watching television or sitting at home. He has gained 10 pounds.
Another gentleman expressed frustration at how people have complained about feeling isolated during the pandemic. “After all,” he said, “this is what so many stroke survivors experience after the stroke. No one understands the isolation you go through. But eventually, you get over it and learn to live life.”
Other stroke survivors suffered a deep depression in the beginning months of the pandemic. To have their world turned upside down again was a hard toll emotionally. They worked so hard after the stroke to find a routine or new normal that worked for them, only to have the pandemic upend their lives again. The abrupt change, not unlike when the stroke happened, was too much to bear.
Uncertainty and Fear
Kate Murphy wrote about the panemic in a recent New York Times article. She says, “Our brains are literally overburdened with all the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Not only is there the seeming capriciousness of the virus, but we no longer have the routines that served as the familiar scaffolding of our lives. Things we had already figured out and relegated to the brain’s autopilot function — going to work, visiting the gym, taking the kids to school, meeting friends for dinner, grocery shopping — now require serious thought and risk analysis.”
And for some people, a serious disruption to the routines that helped provide structure in their lives.
The article goes on to say, “It’s counterintuitive because we think of meaning in life as coming from these grandiose experiences,” said Samantha Heintzelman, an assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University in Newark who studies the connection between routine behavior and happiness. “But it’s mundane routines that give us structure to help us pare things down and better navigate the world, which helps us make sense of things and feel that life has meaning.”
Returning to Routine
So, what have you lost in the pandemic that helped provide structure and meaning to your life? Perhaps you used to:
- exercise more
- attend church services
- socialize with neighbors
- have work or a hobby that pre-occupied your time
- read books
- create art.
How can you begin to establish routine again? Even if it looks a bit different from before the pandemic.
First, consider your pre-pandemic routine and those things that helped you to live better and feel better. What things did you used to do to boost your spirit or nurture your soul? What activities improved your mental well-being, or helped your physical health?
Then, pick one or two activities and decide when you will do those activities each day or each week. Make an intentional plan.
As Ms. Murphy writes, “The truth is that you cannot control what happens in life. But you can create a routine that gives your life a predictable rhythm and secure mooring.”
If you need help figuring out how to establish a new routine, let’s work together. Consider wellness coaching as a way to identify how to return to routine again. Learn more here.
To read the full article from the New York Times, click here.
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