The past few days I have woken up with no motivation whatsoever. A week into lockdown, finding a reason to get up and get going is proving hard.
I don’t do too well without structure. Ironically, the past several years have lacked structure for me, first studying an arts degree and then working on a zero-hour contract. I have often had to battle my complete lack of motivation, setting up any means available to help keep some resemblance of a routine. Now, with the call to stay at home and the necessary order not to leave for any reason other than essential shopping, daily exercise, medical needs and travelling to and from work (and only when this is absolutely necessary), many of our routines are crumbling beneath us.
Again, I write this blog post somewhat for my own benefit, as reminders to myself when I inevitably struggle at holding a routine.
First, as I fight to keep structure in my life I think its important to see that routines aren’t everything. A couple of weeks ago we may have thought that losing routine, losing our social lives and losing our reasons to leave the house each day would cause life to fall apart. But here we are, having lost these things for the time being, and we’re still going aren’t we? It might sound obvious, but routine isn’t the be all and end all.
The sudden changes that I have experienced in response to the coronavirus outbreak have served as a reminder to me that I am not in control. Our diaries will no doubt be full of plans that are no longer possible. With events as significant as weddings facing cancelation we are forced to see that we cannot control our lives. It is therefore important that, as I seek to form a routine, I don’t trust in myself to keep it but remember that I am not God, that I am not in control and that is good.
That said, routine can be very important for good mental health and so here are a few things that are helping me as I try to keep some form of routine and to generate some motivation in the midst of lockdown life.
With normal working routines, social gatherings and habitual outings cancelled, the days can begin to lose any clear distinctions, and keeping track of the time can become unnecessary and pointless. A day can become one long run of activities drifting into one another. That’s why, for me, it has been very important to have daily landmarks: points in my day that have a set plan, certain times that break up an otherwise drifting day. The most important of these has been my church’s morning devotion time, Globe Daily. With little motivation to get out of bed, knowing that each weekday there is a live stream from our pastor at 8.30am has given me a reason to wake up and start my day, even if I have no idea what the rest of the day will hold. Another landmark I have are the government’s daily briefings. It can be tiring to keep absorbing information about the pandemic, but if I give a certain time each day to listening to the new announcements and developments it becomes a little bit more manageable. I’ve also started going for walks with my mum a bit more often. Using our daily exercise outings for a change of scenery can be helpful to break up the day too.
Even with my daily landmarks in place, however, I do still struggle with knowing what to do inbetween. So, it true milenial fashion, I made a colourful little schedule. Yet over and over again, I have tried to make schedules, only to fall completely short, spiralling into inaction when I realise that it is completely impossible for me to stick to the schedule I made. So now, when I make a schedule I try to treat it more like a ‘back up plan’ than a fixed timetable. Instead of trying to stick to a strict schedule and inevitably failing to do so, I try to use the timetable only when I find myself at a loss, to give me an idea or pointer to what I could do. Obviously this is different for those of you studying or working from home, but having a timetable that you can turn to but are not bound to can prove helpful in keeping motivation going.
Projects and goals
It can also be helpful, if you have the time, to have a number of projects on the go. That way you can switch between things when you find yourself losing focus and motivation. I’ve given myself seven different activities to focus on, each with their own little projects: blogging, sewing, gardening, scrapbooking, knitting, cooking and learning vietnamese. If you can’t work now that we’re in lockdown, what are the things you love that you could maybe spend more time doing? And if you are working or studying, what can you do to relax in the free time that you have? Some of us suddenly have loads more time than before, some of us don’t, but either way we’ll definitely be staying in a lot more, and maybe this time could be used to start that thing that we’ve always said we’ll ‘get round to’. If, like me, you lack motivation on the best of days, this will be difficult. A common symptom of depression is no longer having interest for things you used to enjoy. Even my favourite hobbies can seem meaningless or too much effort when I’m feeling particularly low. And aimlessly changing between different actitivites rarely inspires motivation in me. One thing that does help is to have goals, not ridiculously out of reach ones, but smaller, achievable ones. These goals can be as simple as: ‘I’m going to sew a hair scrunchie today’, ‘I’m going to start a new scrapbook this week’, ‘I’m going to learn ten Vietnamese words over the next three days’ or ‘I’m going to knit a pair of socks this month’. Whatever they are, goals can make an activity more tangiable and can give you a sense of direction and a motivation to have a go.
Even looking back on the past week, its hard to distinguish one day from another. Without social meet-ups or trips out of the house, it can be difficult to keep the days from blending into one. Despite having far fewer plans to document, I found myself journaling a lot more over the past week. This has helped, as it has before, as I’ve looked back over a fairly uneventful week. Our days are not defined by the amount of plans written in our diary. By writing down or drawing in who I’ve talked to, what my mood was, what little tasks I did, what I read from the bible, and a whole host of other habits, its been a little easier to find a distinction between each day, something that I will imagine will become more valuable many more weeks into the lockdown.
Patterns of prayer
This is the thing that I find most difficult and yet the most worthwhile. It is also something less expected on a blog about routine in lockdown. As a Christian, my relationship with God is central to my life. And its pretty hard to sustain a relationship with someone if you don’t talk to them. I’ve been challenged, since the beginning of lockdown, to devote more of my time to speaking and listening to God, by this I mean reading the bible and praying. Over a virtual prayer meeting our church pastor reflected on how a man called Daniel in the Bible and, even when he was threatened with death, continued to pray three times a day. Modelling this helps me to depend upon God throughout the day relieves the overwhelming thought that I need to pray for EVERYTHING as soon as I get out of bed each morning. But, alas, I have already failed many times. Sometimes I have motivation to pray, usually when there is something or someone who I desparately need to pray for. Other times I have no motivation to pray, and can barely fathom more than a sentence. Still other times, and quite often, I completely forget, or neglect, to pray. But even as I become a little bit more intentional about praying, and try to turn to pray for five minutes at three different points in the day, I begin to feel lighter, more dependent upon God, slightly less hopeless and more at wonder of who God is.
The simple things
Whatever I do to try and keep a good routine and however successfuly I do it, what is most important is that I keep the simple things at the centre. By this I mean my faith, my family, my church, my friends and my health. It is ok if I am not productive, it is ok if I don’t get as much done as I want to or if I day goes by without anything having been achieved. Right now I’m really struggling to even find the motivation to finish this blog post, it’s taken me three days to push myself to finish it. But that is ok. As long as I build each day around reading the Bible, praying, living out my faith, loving my family and friends and looking after my health, it has been a day worth living, and a day that glorifies God. Which, as a Christian, is a very worthy goal.