Everyone has routines and rituals. You, me…. everyone! And our routines and rituals have been seriously disrupted as a result of the COVID 19 outbreak. Maybe you were routinely waking at 5:30 a.m. every day but are now waking up at 7:00 a.m. Perhaps you routinely went out with friends every Friday night or played golf every Saturday morning, and you are now staying at home. Well, occasionally missing a golf game, or a night out with friends is not that big of a deal. But a drastic change in our routines is not only unsettling, it can also have a serious negative impact on our physical and mental health.
Some people may not even realize that the negative emotions they are experiencing are due to the loss of their routine and rituals. And even if they did, they may not be able to express what they are feeling with words. However, people often SHOW how they are feeling by what they do. For example, some people may show how they are feeling by staying alone in their bedroom, crying, yelling, sleeping a lot, or overeating. For the individuals with disabilities that we support, we may also notice a loss in their ability to do certain things, obsessive questions or actions, or heightened confusion. The bottom line is that any drastic change in behavior is a signal that something isn’t right.
So what can we do about the loss of routines? Well, here are some tips that may help you, and/or the individuals you support:
Tip #1: Stick to familiar routines and rituals.
Whenever possible, support the person in sticking to the routines and rituals that are familiar to them. For example, if the person you support is used to getting up at 6:30 a.m. and going to bed at 10:00 p.m., then stick to that schedule. Just because they are forced to change some things as a result of the COVID 19 outbreak, doesn’t mean that they should or must change everything.
Tip #2: Make minor changes to familiar routines and rituals.
Sometimes a minor change to a familiar routine will feel less disruptive than creating an entirely new routine. For example, if the person you support routinely spends time visiting with family on Friday nights, then plan Friday night family time virtually. This can be done via FaceTime, Google Duo, Skype, Zoom, etc. If those are not an option, then a phone call at the usual time spent with their family may help. That way you keep regularly scheduled time with family, and the person supported keeps that important connection.
Tip #3: Replace routines and rituals.
If there are routines and rituals that you are not able to help the person you support keep, then explore new routines based on something that is important to the person. For example, does the person enjoy listening to music? If so, schedule a regular time solely for fun and music. Or perhaps, the person has always wanted to try yoga, then schedule a time to watch yoga videos on YouTube or another internet resource.
Dealing with the COVID 19 outbreak, and the corresponding social distancing requirements, has disrupted all of our routines. However, using the tips above can help you, and those you support, maintain routines and explore new routines to stay healthy and safe!
Do you want to learn more about routines and rituals? If so, here are two resources that you may find helpful:
For great tips from the experts on Person Centered Practices, check out Michael Smull's article on ‘The Continued Importance of Rituals and Routines’ (March 2020). Read the article here.
And if you want to hear more ideas on what others are doing to adjust to new routines, then you will want to join one of the Virtual World Café sessions on Wednesday, April 8th! The upcoming sessions will be an opportunity to for you to join a national conversation on Routines. Participants from across the country will be sharing ideas regarding what works and what doesn’t work. To register for the Virtual World Café on Routines, click here.