When does routine become a rut?

We humans are incredible things. Only a year ago, we were thrown the biggest curveball imaginable. It upended our lives like never before. None of us knew how best to respond and we struggled to cope with the unknown. But cope we did and I don’t know about you, I am still feeling a little locked in my Covid bubble.

During the last year, it feels like everything has changed. We have had to find new ways to work, shop, exercise, and socialise. We had to do without many of the things we thought were indispensable. Who could have imagined not having a haircut for months on end or being holed up at home 24/7? Life has been stripped right back, for better or worse.

It has provided a compelling study of human behaviour. Over a relatively short period of time, we have skillfully adapted our routine.  We responded to the challenge by cocooning ourselves in a safe place where there’s a new rhythm with a different beat. Right now I am not sure if I am inclined to change it. And it seems like it is not just me, I have heard from quite a number of people that they are in no rush to emerge. After the initial euphoria of regaining our freedom, the desire to retreat back into a place of simplicity, lack of expectation and comfortable leggings is incredibly tempting.

I feel a little like a tortoise that has been hibernating through the winter. I popped my head out and made a dash to do essentials, and then snuggled back into my now familiar routine that I have actually come to enjoy. So far, I haven’t been to a restaurant or pub, and my excitement to buy some new clothes was soon dampened by the diabolical selection I was presented with when I did finally make the effort to go shopping!

This ability to readjust can serve us incredibly well in many situations. Indeed, helping women to form new, more productive routines and habits  in order to reach their goals is the foundation of what I do. I know it is critical to success. Yet it is important to acknowledge that routines can also become a burden, dragging us down and limiting our potential to grow and flourish. Now is perhaps one such time where we should make sure that the routine doesn’t become a ‘rut’.

Rut: a pattern of behaviour that has become dull or unproductive but is hard to change

In fitness, the body needs to be challenged, or ‘overloaded’ beyond what it is used to to avoid ‘plateauing’. That way, it is stimulated to make the physiological adaptations needed to deal with the additional demands that are being placed upon it, and grows stronger and fitter in the process.

It is a principle worth remembering.  A level of discomfort is a catalyst for growth. Without it, it is easy to stagnate. As we head forward into, what will hopefully continue to be the post-lockdown period, it is worth asking the question:

Is your routine still serving you well?

As ‘creatures of habit’, humans have a tendency to find a groove and stay in it. If you are truly happy and fulfilled there then that’s marvellous. If your post-Covid life fits better than the one you had previously, then hold on tight to it. Resist the pressure to do what you think you ‘should’ be doing and make the most of what you have discovered for as long as it feels right to do so.

But if your routine is leaving you drained, uninspired and lacking in energy then it’s time to be honest and take action. A review of what makes up this routine can be a useful first step:

  1. Complete an activity diary – get clear on how you are actually spending your time. Keep a note of exactly what you are doing and for how long. This can be quite illuminating!
  2. Group activities into areas eg time on the phone, with friends or family, working productively etc.
  3. Rate each according to how much joy it gives you. Is it an energy boost or an energy drain?
  4. How is the balance looking? What would you like to be doing more or less of?
  5. Get clear on what is stopping you and devise an action plan.

Despite our natural inclination to do what feels most familiar, Covid has shown that we all have the ability to change and adapt our circumstances at a surprising rate. There is no need now to accept the status quo unless it is preferable to do so. I have certainly identified a number of areas that need a little bit of attention to make sure my cosy Covid routine doesn’t turn into a rut! How about you?



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