Healthy Mind

The Therapist-Approved Tip To Break Up the ‘Groundhog Day’ Effect of Quarantine Monotony

Mary Grace Garis

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Photo: Getty Images/Dean Mitchell

Right now, real life feels like Groundhog Day…or Russian Doll…or Palm Springs…or any other movie or TV show with a time-loop-focused plot where every day is the exact same, over and over and over again, no matter what. That’s because despite differences in weather and meal choices and specific work meetings that happen to populate your calendar, it’s tough to decipher any real difference between days. Luckily, there’s a simple, psychotherapist-backed tip that can help you save yourself from this endless time loop of monotony…and maybe even inject a bit of joy into your routine.

First, though, do know that if you feel as if the days are essentially interchangeable right now, it makes total sense, given that quarantine guidelines have led many us to forgo many of the routines that injected difference between days. So, sure, if you’re now working remotely, you can (and would be wise to!) take a morning walk on weekdays before logging on to help you mimic your lost commute and also draw a line between “weekday” and “weekend.” But even still, that small act to provide a boundary between work time and personal time isn’t necessarily enough to mark meaningful difference between all days of the week.

“It all comes back to routine and the weekly routines we set. Typically Sunday is used to prepare for the week ahead—supermarket and so on—but now it seems to potentially have the same expectations as Saturday,” says psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW, who adds that in pre-pandemic times, our habits and routines tended to build up. For example, maybe a workout got harder or a project got closer to completion or one plan led to another as the week went on.

So, then, Teplin’s tip is to hack your schedule to make days feel disparate by punctuating them with different things you can look forward to, even if it’s something super simple. This not only helps you mentally designate what each day is, but it adds a much-needed element of joy that comes with looking forward to something.

“When we’re able to take a mundane day and add some flair, it gives us a second wind in our day and can enable the days to seem different.” —psychotherapist Jennifer Teplin, LCSW

“Anything becomes easier to tolerate when we have a pot of gold at the end of it, and this is how a joyful activity planted into each day can work,” Teplin says. “Our natural days had small [built-in] exciting moments, like seeing our favorite co-worker when we walk in, our favorite coffee, lunch breaks, and happy hour. When we’re able to take a mundane day and add some flair, it gives us a second wind in our day and can enable the days to seem different, and go by even faster.”

So by taking these small interactions that made each (admittedly similar) pre-pandemic day feel different into your own hands, you can season each day differently on your own accord. This can be as straightforward as taking virtual classes (like a ballet class that happens on Mondays) or making changes to your social events.

“Book clubs are awesome, but also think about taking it up a notch and having a weekly movie night,” says Teplin. “I recommend having topics for Zoom calls so that we don’t fall into the habit of just discussing the news or being bored. You could also cook different food for each night of the week.”

In all earnestness, though, given that so much about life is uncertain right now, it’s easy to question our reality and lose sight of what makes each day special. While, on a baseline level, what makes each day special is simply the fact that there’s always another day after it, you can practice self-compassion if you’re having trouble enjoying the small joys that mark the difference between days right now. Until there’s no need to rely on a special, intentional routine to feel normal, diversifying the monotony of your current routine by peppering it with happy things can help.

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