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E-Quipped to... Create New Routines
This newsletter refers to Creatures of Habit, an article found on my website.
2020, a year that will never be forgotten due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, has been a challenging year for everyone. It was certainly not the year that any of us expected and it is for this very reason – that it was so unexpected - that many of us have struggled.
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When there are discrepancies between our expectations and reality, all sorts of distress signals go off in our brains. It doesn’t matter if it’s an annual holiday ritual or a more mundane daily habit like how you clean your teeth; if you can’t do it the way you normally do it, you’re biologically engineered to get upset.
This partly explains our longing for the routines that were part of our lives before the pandemic. It also partly explains our sense of unease as we enter a Christmas/holiday season unlike any other.
The good news is that much of what we miss about our routines, customs and traditions, and what makes them so beneficial to us as a species, has more to do with their comforting regularity than with the behaviour’s themselves. So a useful coping skill, during a time of upheaval like this pandemic, is to quickly establish new routines. That way, even if the world is uncertain, there are still things you can predict and count on.
Avoid Unhealthy Routines
Of course, you can always take routines and rituals too far, such as the extremely controlled and repetitive behaviours indicative of addiction, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder and eating disorders.
In the coronavirus era, people may resort to obsessive cleaning, hoarding toilet paper, stockpiling food or neurotically wearing masks when driving alone in their cars. On the other end of the spectrum are those who stubbornly adhere to their old routines because stopping the routines feels more threatening than the virus. Both of these are maladaptive.
And then there all those hunkered down in a kind of limbo, waiting until they can go back to living their lives as they did before. But that, too, is maladaptive.
“You’re much better off establishing a new routine within the limited environment that we find ourselves in,” said Dr. Regina Pally, a psychiatrist in Los Angeles who focuses on how subconscious prediction errors drive dysfunctional behaviour. “People get so stuck in how they want it to be that they fail to adapt and be fluid to what is. It’s not just Covid, it’s around everything in life.”
Too many people are still longing for their old routines.
Start Healthy Routines
Luckily, there is a vast repertoire of habits you can adopt and routines you can establish to structure your days no matter what crises are unfolding around you. They just need to be regular and help you achieve your goals, whether intellectually, emotionally, socially or professionally.
The best habits not only provide structure and order but also give you a sense of pleasure, accomplishment or confidence upon completion. It could be as simple as making your bed in the morning.
Pandemic-proof routines might include weekly phone or video calls with friends, sitting down to Sunday lunch with the family, hiking with your spouse on weekends, regularly filling a bird feeder, set times for prayer or meditation, reading or listening to an audiobook every night before bed and doing some physical activity/exercise for 30 mins every day.
The truth is that you cannot completely control what happens in life. But you can create a routine that gives your life a predictable rhythm and secure framework. This frees your brain to develop perspective so you’re better able to take life’s surprises in your stride.
There is much uncertainty surrounding what the coming year will hold for us all, however, if you start new routines now, you can move into 2021 confident that have put a framework in place that will help you cope with whatever comes your way.
Read the full article Creatures of Habit.
Practice Closed for Christmas
My practice will be closed from 16th December and reopens on 11th January 2021.
Thank you for the Feedback
Thanks to Caroline , Suntosh, Anne, Anne, Shaun and Vera for the feedback after last month's newsletter.
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You may have been forwarded this email by a friend. In that case, allow me to introduce myself. I am a psychologist, speaker, trainer, coach and hat lover based in Kloof, a suburb of Durban, South Africa. I also do online counselling and coaching and I have clients all over the world.
On my website you'll find lots of free articles, posters and worksheets. I have written and created them all with the intention of helping you find your inner winner. Read, them use them, share them!
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