Extend new, healthy habits beyond quarantine

The last several weeks have contained a fair amount of chaos and uncertainty as we navigate the unfamiliar territory that accompanies the new reality brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19). For many of us, the trials of sheltering in place have pushed our limits and tested how well we can adapt to an ever-changing situation that affects every aspect of our lives. Whether you’re attempting to homeschool, working from home, working outside of the home in an essential industry, juggling childcare needs, battling isolation or handling some other pandemic-related issue, it’s often been tiring, difficult and scary. 

At times, it’s been all-too-easy to fall back into bad habits—or start new ones—as we attempt to overcome the many pitfalls a worldwide pandemic brings to our lives. If you’ve been adding extra junk food to your grocery store pickup order or logging too many hours of screen time recently, you’re not alone. 

And yet, hidden within the challenges, have been some surprising silver linings. Things like family dinners and daily walks have been making their way into our regular routines more frequently than in pre-pandemic days. And it seems to be a welcome change. Life has slowed down, which may be something that we all needed.

Life has slowed down, which may be something that we all needed. Although it’s been challenging, in some instances the COVID-19 pandemic has actually helped strengthen family bonds and improve connections.

Although it’s been challenging, in some instances the COVID-19 pandemic has actually helped strengthen family bonds and improve connections. A survey of 2,000 parents conducted by YouTube network Channel Mum found that COVID-19 may be bringing families closer together and making us more community-minded. 

More than half of all participants reported spending more time together playing board games and puzzles as a family and three in 10 reported reading more books together. Helping each other is also more common, with about 53 percent of participants providing assistance for neighbors and friends in vulnerable populations like grocery shopping or picking up needed medication. 

If you’ve discovered something that brings you joy and comfort, wouldn’t it be nice to incorporate it into your “real” life when the pandemic ends?

Maybe you’ve started playing board games after dinner. Maybe you’re calling family and friends more regularly. Or cooking your way through Grandma’s holiday classics. If you’ve discovered something that brings you joy and comfort, wouldn’t it be nice to incorporate it into your “real” life when the pandemic ends?

You can. Here are some tips to help make what started as a temporary change during quarantine a lasting part of your post-pandemic routine.

Creating our “next normal”

Although we’re all pretty ready to get back to our “real” lives, there may be components of the past few months of quarantine that would be welcome additions to the lives we’re crafting right now.  

Some of us are connecting more authentically with our friends, families and communities in new ways. Many of us are acting with more intention to increase our quality of life. Our efforts include a wide range of activities like spending time in nature, connecting in new ways to others, cooking at home, gardening, taking up new hobbies or knocking out that must-read book list. Parents are finding new ways to teach their kids skills that go beyond the educational benefits of school, like household chores, how to contribute to the family and how to support the community.

We may not know what the “next normal” will look like, but we don’t want to lose sight of what’s really important as we move forward.  

Wouldn’t it be great if we brought some of this newfound humanity with us when the world starts turning again? We may not know what the “next normal” will look like, but we don’t want to lose sight of what’s really important as we move forward.  

Here are five ways you can incorporate some of your successful shelter in place strategies into your regular routine.

Identify your motivation

If you can identify and remember why you’re making certain positive changes to your daily routine during the pandemic, it will help you maintain the momentum you need to keep it up when restrictions begin lifting. Whether you’re enjoying meals as a family, adding volunteer work to your schedule or spending more time in authentic conversations with friends and family, identifying the positive effects and your overall goals can help you continue them successfully.

Start small

Don’t try to set unrealistic expectations for your “new life” once quarantine ends. Set manageable goals and write them down. Naming Tuesday your regular game night has a much greater chance of success than a vague promise to spend more time together as a family—especially once you’re up and running again.

Remove your triggers

Don’t set yourself up for failure by going back to doing things “the way you used to.” Identify the barriers keeping you from making a permanent change and remove them wherever possible. For example, if you want to enjoy more family conversations around the dinner table, sit down at the same time for meals, keep the television off and allow everyone a chance to talk and be heard.

Be kind to yourself

Even when you’ve been realistic about what you’re trying to achieve, it’s inevitable that you’ll falter occasionally. That’s ok. You don’t have to change overnight. Allow yourself to be human, make mistakes and start again.

Be patient

Making lasting changes, even when they have positive outcomes, can take some time. Habits takes weeks, if not longer, to earn a permanent place in your routine. Success is possible with patience and persistence.

If we can keep the positive aspects of what we’ve been through and incorporate them into our lives as we move forward, the impact on our lives—and our communities—could be tremendous. 

No one knows what the “next normal” will look like. But if we can keep the positive aspects of what we’ve been through and incorporate them into our lives as we move forward, the impact on our lives—and our communities—could be tremendous. If, however, the thought of change feels overwhelming and impossible to attain, consider reaching out to a mental health professional via virtual health to get the help you need.

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Related resources                        

Well Being Trust: Mental health resources

Parents: Make time for your kids' mental health

School closures offer parents a new opportunity

How to apply holiday family logic in the time of COVID-19

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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