At the time of writing this, we are pretty much all feeling like we have less energy due to the stress of the pandemic and quarantine. While stress is obviously playing a huge part in the lack of energy, there’s also something else happening. Because we have all been taken out of our normal routines and stuck in our homes, for a lot of people every day feels the same. We are losing sense of time and urgency, which might have felt like a nice break at first. The downside to this is that we feel unproductive and lethargic. We may begin the day with good intentions to tackle projects or exercise, but find ourselves at the end of the day with a lot less accomplished than we anticipated. When you feel like you have “all day” to do it, you’re less likely to get it done. The day feels like a blur.
There are several practices that you can do to boost your energy and your wellbeing everyday. You might’ve even been doing them before this all happened, but found yourself feeling thrown off and losing your healthy habits. You’re not alone there! You probably even plan to do them everyday and end up forgetting because you don’t have much of a routine any more. Those daily cues and the urgency are gone. For example, maybe you used to meditate every morning when your alarm went off, before you got in the shower to get ready for work. You might now be sleeping without an alarm clock or delaying your shower because there’s no hurry. When you don’t have that signal (the alarm clock) or the urgency (if I don’t do it now, I won’t have time before I leave for work), then your habits can easily get forgotten.
Feel happier and more energized
The key to boosting your energy, and improving your mood, is to add some sort of structure to your days. You don’t have to over-schedule your day, and you should still prioritize rest especially if you were overworking yourself before this. Adding in a little bit of schedule and routine to your day helps you feel grounded and centered. What we are all lacking right now is some sort of certainty and knowing what to expect in the near future. That makes you feel destabilized and it triggers the stress response in your brain. Your brain can relax when it feels safe. A sense of uncertainty puts it into fight-flight-or-freeze mode. If you’ve been feeling extra agitated or in shut-down mode, that’s likely the reason why. So let’s give your brain a feeling of stability and knowing what to expect.
Step 1: set an alarm
Knowing when you’re going to wake up is one of the best things you can do to feel a sense of normalcy and routine. I know I’m not the only one who ended up staying up way too late for the first while because I knew I didn’t need to wake up early the next morning. Set a morning alarm, ideally around the time that the sun comes up. Waking up with the sun sets you in line with your circadian rhythm. If you have kids, you want to wake up before them. When your kids wake you up, you miss out on that crucial “me time” that parents need more than ever right now. For a parent or caregiver, that quiet morning energy is extra important and rejuvenating. So set a bedtime alarm if you need to, in order to ensure enough hours of sleep.
Step 2: meditate
Meditation might be one of those habits you had before but it slipped away because of the “I’ll do it later” effect of quarantine. Use your wake-up alarm as your cue to meditate. To make it easier, pick a guided meditation and have it ready to hit play on your phone. I love to use a morning-themed meditation because they are usually focused on absorbing that calm yet awake energy that is present in nature in the morning. Aim for 10-15 minutes, you can meditate longer if you are more experienced. There are plenty of free meditations on youtube or you can use free meditation podcasts or an app. Meditation is especially helpful if you’ve been feeling worn out by the news headlines and the “what ifs” swirling around in your head. It gives you a much needed break from thoughts and time to just breathe.
Step 3: journal
Journaling is an amazing practice if you’ve been experiencing heightened stress and a disconnection with yourself, as many people have during this time. Have your journal and pen by your bedside or wherever you plan to meditate. Spend 5-10 minutes writing whatever comes to mind. How are you feeling? What would make today great? What are you grateful for? Gratitude is a great practice for this time because it reframes your current experience as more positive.
Set alarms on your phone for whatever you plan to do during the day. Like I mentioned previously, we are lacking those cues for routine that we normally have. If you’ve been feeling like your days are chaotic or you’re just going through the motions, set alarms for what you want to do. I set mine for the start of work, breaks to move my body and have a snack, the end of work, and even to signal when I need to start making lunch or dinner. If you’re not working right now, I’m sure you have a project you’ve been thinking about working on, but maybe you’re putting it off. Set an alarm in your phone to begin and end working on it. Don’t go too crazy with this and overwhelm yourself. Just schedule in the things that you must get done, like making dinner and working, and things that you know will make you feel good, like exercise and working on your project or reading a book.
Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.