a ripped up calendar and a scribbled out to-do list

Dealing With Loss of Routine In Quarantine

Since being diagnosed in 2017 with AS (but having symptoms for more than a decade), I've had a long time to think about what I need and what I don't need in my disease management process. And over the past nearly two months in quarantine, I've had some time to think about what works for me and what brings me a sense of balance and normalcy in quarantine.

I had a routine that worked

Before COVID-19 hit, I had a routine that really worked for me. It not only helped to minimize my stress levels — a massive factor in the way my flare-ups take hold — it helped me move. That routine was, looking back, so simple and so pleasurable. For one, I'd try to see friends a few times per week — usually at a poetry reading (I'm a poet, so this is a norm in my world) or over a nice long, talk-filled dinner.

I'd also try to write pretty often. As an author and professional writer, writing is intrinsic to my being. It's my everything. And when I don't create, I start to feel stifled, inauthentic, and disconnected. When COVID-19 hit, it almost felt silly to write; the world's suffering took over any personal desire to write, and I had to deal with that lack of impetus.

 

I miss my aqua workout classes

Lastly, before COVID-19, I'd take a morning or evening class (depending on my workload) at AQUASTUDIO, which is an underwater cycling and water aerobics studio. It was a place that symbolized community to me. I wrote for their blog, attended classes almost every day, and fell in love with their community.

I'd walk to the studio — getting movement in — and get into the water for low-impact but effective exercise. The water was an elixir, a balm against pain. On my most immobile, painful, fatigue-filled days, the water helped soothe me. I would take it at a pace that worked for me, and I felt good about that. The movement and the water got me to move, but it also helped me manage my stress levels (which further benefited my physical health).1 It was a literal endorphin bath.

Now that the routine is gone, I can't look forward to the walks or the water or the community. And even though they're doing Zoom classes during this quarantine — which helps me stay connected — the loss of the routine has really affected me on a physical and emotional level.

So, I've had to find ways to replace what was helping me manage my flares and my mental well-being.

What I've been doing

  • Physical movement. I try to get some kind of physical movement in each and every day at the same time. It's nice to know that I'm setting aside 30-45 minutes of time to be in my bedroom doing whatever movement I can do in my space. This might mean dancing or following an online workout, but knowing that I'm making the choice has been really helpful. It doesn't replace what I had, but this is the new normal and I have to lean into it.
  • Emotional wellbeing. One of the things I loved about my group cycling classes was the community, so now I try to watch YouTube workout tutorials with a high-energy group. Hearing people talk and laugh and connect with the viewers fill that psychological void. I also schedule Zoom stretch sessions with friends so that we can do things together. It seems awkward as hell, sure, but it's not a big deal once you get into it. Beyond working out, I've been working with my magazine, Luna Luna, to host online poetry readings. These are a fun way to connect, create, and hear another human voice. All in all, it helps to distract from flare pain, and the connection to humans is proven to promote wellbeing.2 
  • Creativity. Because writing is my life-blood, and because I've lost a lot of drive to actually write anything personal or long-form, I've decided to lean into embracing creativity for no "end-point." I journal regularly, and I write quarantine diary entries, which I share to Facebook groups. This writing is expressive and meant for healing and for processing — but it isn't writing for an "audience," per se. This is a way to turn to what makes sense to me (writing) without doing it for the reasons or in the ways I used to. There are countless studies that show expressive writing and art can help boost our wellness, so I take comfort in that.3

I hope that you can find ways to integrate and adapt your routines in this hard and lonely time. Comment below and tell me how you have!

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