The Importance Of Routine In Lock Down Life

Living with a partner who is predisposed to lung and chest issues, Howard and I have very much been in lock down since the middle of March. I have now lost count of how many days we've been hiding out in our tiny first floor rental, but it feels like a very long time ago that we passed the one hundred mark. Now it's less about looking from where we came from, and adapting to where we are going next. And as every freelancer knows, a large part of that has come from finding some sort of routine in order to keep getting out of bed in the morning, because let me tell you, as a photographer with no photography work, it's not always been easy.

Back in the days before Covid, I'd generally start my day with a coffee in front of my computer so that I could check for any emails which needed a quick response. Then I'd do some form of exercise, shower and get on with shooting, editing, admin or shoot planning for the rest of my day. Of course there was some flexibility within that; some days I'd go shopping in the afternoon to avoid the post work crush. Others I'd meet a friend for a coffee somewhere, or maybe catch a cheeky solo cinema show or visit an exhibition to view it during a less busy period. But fundamentally I knew what my diary looked like day to day, and had my life, my deadlines and my hangtimes with friends planned out for weeks in advance.

When Covid hit and my diary quickly filled with cancellations, I felt at a loss. Howard was still able to work as usual, but with nothing to do and nowhere to go, I found myself with less and less of a reason to wake up with my alarm. There were only so many times I could clean the kitchen and rearrange my plants, and I quickly realised that I needed to give myself a new schedule, with small, manageable things I could tick off if I was ever going to get through this.

I felt envious of how busy Howard was, and with myself flailing all over the place, knew I needed to change my outlook. So I had to think about the things I wanted to do, the things I'd been putting off for "not having the time", and find a new type of "work day" to get me through the 9-5. I just needed some structure to my day so that I wasn't endlessly sat at my desk, staring at my email and internally screaming into the void.

1. But first, coffee.

Nothing will ever change the fact that I'm a bit useless until I've had some caffeine. I aim to be awake by 8.30am (although I'm not down on myself if this doesn't always happen because like most people right now, both time and sleep are nothing but illusions.) I use this time to scroll through social media, catch up on the news and check my emails, especially now as I'm starting to book work in for the autumn. 

2. Exercise.

It's taken me a while to find a routine which works for me, but without leaving the house, I am making myself do some sort of movement every day - more for my mental health than anything else. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are reserved for jogging on the spot with C25K, Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm battling monsters with the power of squats and arm presses on Ring Fit Adventure, and the weekend I'm relaxing with some gentle yoga or barre work via YouTube. 

3. Bathroom Break.

Getting sweaty early in the day means I'm very keen to fling myself into the shower as soon as I can, and who doesn't feel a whole lot more human and awake after washing their face and cleaning their teeth? This *Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste has been an absolute game changer for someone with sensitive teeth who loves both ice-cream and iced coffee. The toothpaste safely seals up access to sensitive nerves, and with prolonged use creates a long term barrier against instant ice-cream regret. 

I had found without a strong morning routine, I'd sometimes be cleaning my teeth and showering closer to lunchtime as time had got away from me, and I'd wasted half the day. With just a little bit more structure I'm normally back at my desk by 11, with the rest of day in front of me to work on whatever project I have up in front of me.

4. All Work And No Play Makes Diana Something Something.

Early on in lock down, it was pretty clear that we were going to need to find some ways to virtually hang out with friends and family. This led to a few weekly commitments which gave us something to look forward to. We have coordinated movie nights on Thursdays and Saturdays with friends, family boardgames via Zoom on a Saturday afternoon and a weekly island visit in Animal Crossing which never fails to make me smile.

I've also taken to making friends with the local wildlife and putting out food whilst I make my coffee every morning. I now fully understand what Blur meant when they sang "And then I'm happy for the rest of the day safe in the knowledge there will always be a bit of my heart devoted to it." I love my new pigeon family!

I've also added some plant time into my schedule - watering, re-potting and even propagating have all made me feel like I have some sort of purpose.

5. Factor In Time To Try New Things And Things You've Been Putting Off.

Lastly, I've been careful to try to nurture things I want to try but without putting pressure on myself. For years I've been trying to teach myself how to knit, but have never been able to get much further than a basic bobble hat. Turns out embroidery is much more my thing, and I've been sewing away happily whilst watching movies in the evening, and it's been the perfect way to calm down at the end of the day.

I'm also trying to write every day. Whether blog posts or words towards something I'm working on, it's nice to have the time to allow myself to indulge. When my "real work" starts to creep back in come August, I'm definitely going to try and keep some writing time on my weekly schedule. Whilst I'm not being a prolific as I'd have hoped (lock down apathy is a real thing!), it still makes me feel better to get something down. 

6. Allow Yourself A Day To Wallow If You Need One.

Some days are better than others. If you have the sort of day where all you do is play videogames or watch Netflix, don't beat yourself up. We're in the middle of something new and scary and everything feels different. We all need a duvet day to recharge from time to time, and whilst structure and routine are important, listen to what your body and brain need to.

Until next time,

Diana x ❤ x

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