In times of grief and loss, stress and anxiety, our lives can be much more chaotic than we are used to or than we are comfortable with. Our emotions can feel chaotic, our responses can seem confused, our daily life can fall into disarray.
Creating or maintaining some kind of routine can help to provide a sense of stability, regularity and security. A routine can help to allay feelings of disorientation that can arise from mass change and can provide anchor points of normality when life has turned upside down.
How do you create and maintain a routine?
You might want to mirror your pre-loss routine or, if this routine triggers too much grief for you, you might create a version of that routine. If the familiar is too upsetting, you might create a routine that is completely different to your pre-loss life.
Your routine might include regular times that you eat and go to bed, but could also include regular exercise or meditation times or set times in which you reach out and connect with other people.
In my own times of deep grief, my daily routine has helped me get out of bed and function throughout the day as best I could knowing that there were points throughout my day that were punctuated by routine: Meditation, journalling and a walk in the morning, meal times even when I didn’t feel hungry but knew that eating would keep my body healthy, phone calls to my support people after lunch, reading and reflection in the evening. At times of more distress, I bring in hot baths, movement (often dance), music and craft (painting, sewing, crochet, weaving). These activities help to anchor me through my day, but also help me to connect with my emotions or provide a distraction for my emotions when that is what is needed.
You may find you have more time on your hands because of your loss. Filling in your days can seem like an insurmountable task, yet sitting in so much change and so much emotion can feel all consuming. Getting clear on your emotions and allowing yourself some time to sit with them can provide you with a space in which to identify what you are feeling without becoming overwhelmed.
Get clear on your emotions
Grief can have many layers of emotions, and you often feel more than one emotion at a time. Getting clear on what you are feeling can be a good step in understanding how you are feeling.
Using an emotion wheel can help you identify the nuance of your emotions.
Image from @trainingbyromy
Consider which is the most prominent feeling. You might rank them in order of the feelings you experience most to the feelings you experience least, e.g.: 1 sadness, 2 fear, 3 loneliness, 4 guilt, 5 anger, etc.
The idea of this task is not to judge or avoid the emotions that arise but to help you understand your emotions and know which emotions are present. Knowledge of your emotions can help you to make sense of and articulate your experience.
While extra time can be useful in allowing you time to process your emotions, having too much time on your hands can lead to unhelpful mental rumination.
If you find yourself stuck in rumination, try writing down all your worries so they are out of your head and on the page. Then put them aside, out of the way, so you are not looking at them every moment of every day. You know where they are if you need to add to the list or strike things from the list.
Times of loss can be difficult times. And right now, in this moment in history, things are definitely very stressful. Many people are feeling social, financial, emotional, physical and spiritual discomfort right now.
It helps to have a few strategies up your sleeve, to set yourself a sustainable daily routine, to get clear on your emotions, to get your worries out of your head and to know you are not alone.