Focusing in lockdown: A five-step routine

Black silhouette of a woman against a wall of words (Greet, Notice, Listen, Observe, Attend, Sense, Breathe, Pause, Invite, Allow, Accept, Feel)
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

A stay-on-track tool for busy readers, writers, and learners

Since the lockdown began, I have struggled to maintain a daily routine. The urge to write is tussling with the need to stay informed, making me more prone to distractions. This week, I came up with a set of steps to help keep me focused and alert. So far, they’re working. I am sharing them here in the hope that they will benefit someone else.

(Note: A couple of these steps involve eating and movement. As always, consult with your primary care provider before starting any new diet regimen, physical activity, or breathing exercise.)

A 5-Step Routine

Step 1: Breathe deeply or meditate for 5-10 minutes.

Step 2: Read or listen to a story, a poem, or a book completely unrelated to COVID-19.

Step 3: Eat a healthy meal (or snack, depending on the time of day).

Step 4: Engage with people, online or in person.

Step 5: Move around.

After Step 5, I repeat all the steps, but with this difference: instead of reading during Step 2, I spend time doing work that is meaningful to me.

Chalk-drawn stick figure climbing steps with an arrow hovering over the figure and a light bulb at the top of the steps
Image by athree23 from Pixabay

The steps are very flexible. You can switch the order and set your own length of time for doing the steps, in accordance with your personal circumstances. (I usually spend about 10-20 minutes on each of the first four steps, and varying amounts of time on Step 5.)

Since beginning the routine, I have been writing more and reading fewer scary news stories. I feel more engaged, relaxed, and hopeful.

Pile of four flat stones, two burgundy on the top and bottom of the pile, two gray ones in the middle, on a pile of white crunchy pebbles, with a tiny white flowers in the foreground in the bottom left corner
Image by Tante Tati from Pixabay

While I am happy to be writing more regularly, the biggest benefit of the 5-step routine, for me, has been the structure it creates. Even on the days that I write nothing at all, the steps foster healthy behaviors, order, stability, and connection. Breathe deeply. Feed your mind. Nourish your body. Engage with the people you care about. Move around and be alive in the world.

When the old moorings float away, we must re-anchor as best we can.

We are going to get through this!

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