My COVID Fall/Winter Routines for Wellness and Learning

It’s almost Halloween and life has moved — due to the colder weather and more severe COVID-19 spread — more or less indoors.

With so much uncertain, keeping routines has been a helpful way weather to the storm and imagine a new version myself that is skilled in areas that excite and inspire me. Here, I share routines for wellness and learning that I aim to continue through the fall and winter.

These are divided into two groups: daily routines and weekly events.

Daily Routines

Morning

I generally sleep in pretty late (I’m a night owl!), cutting it fairly close to my work start time but perhaps in a timing that ultimately works better with my natural clock. When I wake up, I avoid news and social media on my phone until after breakfast.

During breakfast, I write in my journal (see the blog introduction for more about this). It doesn’t have to be very long, a half or full page at most. A 5-10 minute journaling session helps me register how I’m feeling and what’s on my mind (whether positive or negative) before jumping into the day.

My bridge between home and work-from-home is a short yoga practice using the Down Dog app or YouTube. This helps me mentally shift gears and feel physically both more relaxed and alert. It is also helpful as a way to set up my Bluetooth headphones before my early morning meeting, so I don’t have to scramble to find and test them at the last minute. Sometimes, the yoga practice is as short as 5 minutes though depending on waking time and meetings as long as 20 minutes — I find the duration doesn’t make a big difference.

Before the work day begins (usually, during yoga and into my early morning meeting), I love to either burn incense or run my oil diffuser (my favorite scents are rich, earthy ones like patchouli and cinnamon).

A minor but important before work detail: putting on chapstick and hand moisturizer (I keep them in a rolling cart under my desk where I also store art supplies, essential oils for the diffuser, headphones, etc.). These are both important to offset winter dehydration, and the hand moisturizer is especially helpful since we are using hand sanitizer all the time nowadays.

My work station and two of my cats
This is my work station and two of our three cats. This area of the house was previously where the piano was, and the table came from the kitchen. I rearranged things once it became clear I’d be working from home long term.

Afternoon

Afternoons are where I have the biggest change from spring/summer to fall/winter. Working remotely since the middle of March, I’ve maintained roughly the same 9-5 schedule. When we had more sunlight, my husband and I would ride our skateboards around the neighborhood almost every day after work. It was something I looked forward to and signaled to my brain work was over. In the early- to mid-fall, I could still skate after work but it was increasingly more challenging due to the earlier sunsets. Certain areas like the basketball courts were more crowded than usual, since the same groups — usually spread out across the evening daylight hours — were now compressed into a short window of time.

The solution: I asked for and got approval to shift my work hours so I could leave in the middle of the afternoon to go outside, then come back and finish working into the dark early evening hours. At first it felt odd, but it’s a change I’m glad I made! I figure if I skate at least 3 times a week (weather, meetings, other events permitting) through the cold months, I’ll advance a great deal in the sport, just in time for warm weather and sunlight to return.

Afternoon skate break with fall leaves
This is a photo of me on one of the first afternoon skate breaks. There were tons of yellow leaves on the ground. Lightweight, dry leaves are OK to skate through, though to be safe best to go slow in case they are covering any leaves or twigs!

Evening

As I mentioned earlier, I am a night owl, so this is when much of my creative thinking and non-work projects happen. In the later evening, if I have enough time and feel up to it, I may practice programming, respond to emails/LinkedIn messages/etc., read, work on art, or write. I typically have at least one cat sitting with me 🙂

At some point, I will at minimum stretch and foam roll my muscles to recover from skating. If I have more time, I’ll do an evening yoga practice.

Like in the morning, I often burn incense or run my oil diffuser during yoga and any other evening activities. I also set different light colors using my smart lightbulbs via the Philips Hue Bluetooth app. The combined sensory experience of the incense/oil diffuser and lighting is transporting and relaxing (or energizing if I want it to be, such as if I’m about to do some coding or illustration).

Before sleeping, I read the news and play mobile games such as Duolingo, Pokemon GO, and Clash of Clans.

Weekly Events

Python

I’m dedicating this fall and winter to learning the Python programming language and solidifying my computer science fundamentals — two things I have been wanting to work on for a while. This is an effort that happens on a weekly schedule.

Compared to the usual programming I do at work, Python projects typically require no user-facing elements (e.g. no artwork, user interfaces, etc.) so they are faster to set up and I can focus more on problem solving and theory. It’s been a while since I focused on these aspects very purely. I want to master these elements so that I can improve the quality and efficiency of the projects I build, and be sure (or at least, more sure) I’m creating things in the best way possible.

It feels good to focus on something general for a few months because it reduces the overwhelm of addressing all the things I could be learning instead. The projects I am doing at work are more niche (C#/Unity game engine), so there is a good balance of learning general and specific things.

I found a study buddy also interested in Python. This relationship and a weekly schedule keeps us both accountable to regular practice. It is especially fun because she is located in New Zealand, so we Zoom across time zones (the coordination of which has been yet more exciting by both of us having Daylight Savings shifts!).

Similar to the afternoon skating routine, I’m motivated by the cumulative nature of these Python weekly study sessions. Each weekly effort on its own is small, and I’m excited where I’ll be a few months down the line.

Fun and Relaxation

  • My husband is a PokemonGO enthusiast (I am to a lesser degree), so I always join him for the weekly Pokémon GO Raid Hour on Wednesday evenings. It’s a nice way to spend time together and also connect with people outside our bubble (virtually!), such as some friends he met in-person playing the game and some of my coworkers. The new remote raid feature, implemented for COVID, enables us to play altogether.
  • I started taking a bath in the evening approximately once a week, toward the end of the week once various aches from sitting at my desk and exercising have built up. This I find really forces me to slow down, especially as it forces me to be away from electronics.
  • Every weekend, I practice the piano. Weeknights can be hard to fit it in, but I make sure I find even a half hour on the weekend.
  • I often plan some kind of weekend adventure. This is often just a longer skate session at somewhere further away (such as the local skate park, bike paths, or a basketball court in another neighborhood). Changing scenery for an extended period of time really helps me unhook from worries and enjoy my surroundings.

Closing Thoughts

As I share my routines, I’m aware that my circumstances during this time are very flexible and privileged ― this is something I don’t take for granted. I naturally feel some guilt as well as an awareness that any of this can change at any time. I approach my current situation with a sense of gratefulness and proactiveness. In keeping these routines, I strive to make the most of this time so that I am as healthy as possible to support others. By learning as many technical skills as possible, I put myself in the best position possible to solve challenges and come up with new ideas to support projects at work (and beyond). This is an opportunity to both fill my own cup and become as prepared as possible to serve others.

I hope the routines above were informative and/or inspiring. Above all, I’m sending you wishes for good health and happiness as we move through these challenging times ❤️

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