The outbreak of coronavirus has rocked our world and caused all of us to isolate in ways we never dreamed of doing before. For some of us who have a severe mental health illness diagnosis, this isolation is more than we might have ever experienced with our most extreme symptoms. While I have to fight my tendency to self-isolate as a result of my schizoaffective diagnosis, recent days have caused me to think about my routine and how it can, not only keep me safe from the virus, but enable me to have a productive life.
While I value my routine, I have had to search for more ways to keep myself actively involved in life. Before the outbreak and social distancing, I thought my life was full of blank spaces. Sure… I called my parents, worked out at my fitness center, stayed up on current events, and of course, had my coffee, but even that routine has changed to fill in more of the blank spaces.
Sleep is a vital part of my life and since my antipsychotic medications are very strong, I do not want sleep to occupy more of my life than is necessary. My normal routine upon waking is to take my morning medication first thing before I do anything else.
After coffee, I begin hydrating by drinking water while I change into my workout clothes. I have always tried to stay physically fit, but I have also found that physical exercise is exercise for my mind. Yes, I care about my physical body, but I also want to strengthen my mind and stay mentally with it. During these days, however, out of an abundance of caution, the fitness center at my apartment is closed, and the kick boxing facility where I take classes is also closed. Luckily, I have dumbbells, and hand bands in my apartment. I also have a DVD with a three month workout. Most of the workouts on this DVD last an hour to an hour and thirty minutes. Following the instructor on the DVD, I can work out six days a week, and either stretch or rest on the seventh day. After my workout, I hydrate again with water and a vitamin water beverage. If I took away working out from my day routine, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, physically or mentally.
Another way I try to stay connected during this time of social isolation is to call my parents every day. I think it is important to have someone with whom to talk. Today I called my mom first, and later I called my dad. Talking to them makes me feel normal. Our conversations consist of a review of what is going on with either of us and any plans we might have upcoming. I also connect with others on social media. I have friends all over the world who also struggle with severe mental illness, and they are reaching out for social interaction just like me. I like to give encouragement to them if they are having a rough spot in dealing with their symptoms.
Maintaining a healthy diet and cooking good meals is another important habit to have during a time of staying inside. I start my day with a smoothie. A typical smoothie for me has either strawberries or blueberries in it, a cup of Greek yogurt, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, whey protein, and power greens. A smoothie fills me up until dinner. During the day I try to eat lots of protein and a minimal amount of carbohydrates. Dinner consist of a meat, a vegetable, and scrambled eggs. While I’m cooking or eating dinner, I usually listen to my local and national news on TV. Staying up-to-date on current events is another important way I stay connected to the outside world.
Staying well groomed and taking care of my body are important parts of my daily routine also. Showering and shaving almost every day are good for my mental health, as well as my physical health. I used to put grooming on a daily list of things to do, just the same as maintaining my shopping list. Now it has become a habit, and I don’t have to remind myself to take care of that part of my life. I like to spend some time every day or so cleaning my apartment. Sometimes I do it by rooms — bathroom on one day, kitchen on another. Keeping myself and my apartment clean make me feel good about myself.
I don’t have to be doing something every minute of my day. Sometimes I just enjoy sitting quietly and listening to music. I’ve always been a fan of jazz, so I enjoy listening to many of the jazz legends of past times. When the weather is agreeable, I like to sit on the balcony of my apartment with my music playing as I watch the world go by.
In the early evening before bedtime, I take my nightly medication. This medication helps me to relax, and also keeps my mental health symptoms from disturbing my sleep. Before bed, I sometimes call my parents again to say goodnight to them.
Having a routine has been a great help to me since so many of us are now isolated from each other. Keeping to my routine keeps my days from crawling by, and I don’t spend the entire day in bed or on the internet. Making my days productive makes me feel better about myself and my health issues. No one is sure how long our state will be asking us to socially isolate, but I have found that practicing my regular routine adds normalcy to what could be a very disrupting time.