The World According to Dominic: Maintaining a daily routine essential while stay-at-home orders in force

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Family Playing Board Game. An African-American family sit around a coffee table playing a board game. Bill Branson/Usplash photo

By Kevin McNeir
Executive Editor

It looks like Donald Trump has given up his latest questionable crusade – this time abandoning his quest to force states to relax stay-at-home orders under his directive so that businesses could soon reopen, boosting the economy toward a more enviable level. Still, some governors seem to be considering the president’s short-lived effort, despite the warnings of health experts who say social distancing remains the best way to keep the coronavirus pandemic from spreading. 

But as the weeks become months during which we’re stuck at home and anxious about the future, one way to maintain a sense of certainty is to establish a daily or weekly routine. And while it may seem like a no-brainer, I’ll bet you that a lot of people, since being forced to work from home, have abandoned daily tasks like shaving, showering, getting dressed and exercising.

It’s easy to feel like the days are blending together – so much so that we may temporarily forget whether it’s Tuesday or Friday. But that’s only if we allow that to happen.

Humans long for normalcy and we dislike interruptions in what’s become habitual. But in these days of COVID-19, and with shelter-in-place orders unlikely to be lifted anytime soon, one way to stay healthy and sane, is to follow routines – even allowing for a few variations in our daily to-dos.

In my case, I have finally overcome the desire to let my bedroom become my workstation, forcing myself to run, walk or, when necessary, crawl from my comfortable queen-size bed to my office downstairs. And I’ve set limits on the number of teleconferences in which I participate and how long they can last before I signoff. 

As one who loves to eat out, rather than moan and groan about my favorite restaurants only providing carryout meals, if they’re still open at all, I’ve rekindled my passion for cooking – even adding a few new dishes to my repertoire. My sister, who lives in Detroit and is a far better cook than I’ll ever be, has helped me improve my skills and made kitchen duty fun, participating in a weekly “cooking challenge” where we prepare the same meal, then swap photos and eat together via video chatting sessions.

And to keep man’s best friend, my still growing boxer, Baby Girl, from going bonkers or tearing up everything in her path, I take her for a run in a park near my townhouse every day – rain or shine. Not only does she sleep better and give me a few more minutes of peace, but it’s been great for my allergies and stamina. Now I’m back to running hills and through the woods with her up for up to an hour each day and am feeling better than I have in years.

As a journalist, I’m used to working alone so stay-at-home orders haven’t been all that difficult to follow – I’m home a lot anyway. Still, I’ve become more intentional about how I spend my time each day. And since I don’t have to contend with losing hours in commuting time, I have more hours to learn new skills, get better organized, read books while soaking in the tub and taking a nap instead of gulping down another pot of coffee because I’m so tired.

In an interview with Healthline, Jennifer FitzPatrick, author of “Cruising Through Caregiving,” gives some good advice as we anticipate the day when we’ll be able to get back out for work and play.
“It’s important for us to be intentional about how we’d like to spend our time during this temporary situation,” she said. “We should all ask ourselves, ‘When we return to the new normal, what do we want to have accomplished? Or what would we want to have experienced?’ Then build your routine around that.”

And she says having a routine doesn’t mean you must follow the same schedule every day.

“While that helps some people, others will do better having a checklist of tasks they want to do instead, and including downtime on that list is absolutely a good idea,” she said.

Routines and rituals are crucial when facing times of crisis because they help us feel like we’re more in control and help us remain more focused despite the angst that threatens to unnerve us. And we all have certain rituals that bring us pleasure, peace of mind or joy.

So, turn on that Motown oldies CD and sing along with the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Supremes. Get up and do the jerk or the hustle. Who cares if you can’t go to the local spa for your weekly mani-pedi? Get those nail clippers and moisturizer out of the cabinet and do it yourself.

As for your hair stylings, as one who’s maintained a bald head for decades, I cannot offer you any advice. Just be careful how you use those scissors or hot comb.

But to be safe, keep a baseball cap on hand just in case you wind up looking like a sheep after being sheared – at least until your hair grows back.

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