monotony: lack of variety and interest; sameness.
I’ve been waking up frustrated lately. I am angry that we are still in this house, angry that we can’t go anywhere, angry that things feel the same and look the same and that so many have died for no good reason in this country and around the world.
But I’ve also found ways to break up the monotony, at least in our household, and I thought I’d share some of those ideas with you, in case you need some help doing the same.
And of course, I recognize that this list won’t work for everyone, so please pick and choose what will work for you. I know you’re doing the same in any way you can, and I pray you trust yourself to keep going. We will get through this together.
Make your bed a new way. I have been making our bed the same, boring, least complicated way for over 10 years, and in the last few weeks, I completely changed it up. Need some ideas?
Make it special. The other night, we couldn’t decide what to make for dinner, and we needed groceries, so while we were at the store, we bought whatever food sounded good- frozen fries, pizza, wontons and momos— and we called it a feast. It took a definitively awkward meal and made it special.
Write your own mad libs. Whether you live alone or with others, you can make mad libs. If you have a certain kind of dark humor, theme them around what it’s been like stuck at home for months.
Re-arrange something. I think we have all been nesting over and over again since the pandemic hit. Stores ran out of kitchen utensils at one point because folks realized they’d be home to cook more. So take some time to re-arrange something, whether it’s your bedside table, a bookshelf, or an entire room.
Purge. Get rid of the clothes you haven’t worn in years. Clear out the junk drawer. Donate some items that have been barely used. Find a few books you won’t read and mail them to a friend who might love them. Maybe it will lift a little bit of the weight off your shoulders.
Read books from a new genre. I haven’t been much of a fiction reader, but this year I start my mornings reading fiction. A new genre has kept me entertained and helped me process life in a different way. What genre will you choose next?
Send letters to friends. I’ve done this multiple times in the last year— not just holiday cards, but gratitude cards. Send some words of love and affection to a friend this year and remind them that they’re not alone (and you aren’t either).
Play online checkers. Have you ever tried it? My partner and kids play online chess a lot, so if you like more of a challenge, go that route.
Make your own drink bar. We did this with our kiddos a few weeks ago— buy some ginger ale, sparkling water, and various juices with slices of fresh lemon and lime, and let them create a special drink. If you live alone or with a partner/roommate, you deserve a special drink, too!
Start a show in the middle. Now, this isn’t for everyone, but it would be pretty entertaining to start a show in the middle of a season and try to guess what’s going on— the crazier, the better.
Study religion. When you’re bored, get curious. Learn about the people in your community who believe differently than you do, learn about a religion you’ve never studied with a kind curiosity of respect, and see how it changes you.
Bake and cook with friends. I know we’re all tired of zoom meetings, but a once-a-week meal with friends where ingredients and recipes are coordinated can be a lot of fun.
Don’t forget the pets. Our pets have been through so much during COVID. Consider ordering them a new toy, or taking time to make homemade treats for them.
Write your grief. I’ve had a grief journal for a few years now, and when I have feelings and/or words that I can’t seem to get out of my body, I go to those pages and I write them out. Consider a grief journal for this season— you may look back on these days and honor what you’ve gone through, as hard as it has been.
Prep for spring. If you’re a task-oriented person like I am, you may already be thinking about the transition from winter to spring that’s coming. How can you prepare your spaces, inside and outside, for the changing of the season?
Create a loose schedule. I realized about halfway through COVID that I needed a semi-schedule to help me get through the day but not keep me from being spontaneous when I needed to. So I planned out parts of my morning to focus on rest and moved my way toward work and then back to rest/play/family time. See what might work best for you.
Bring the flowers in. Next time you order groceries or go to the store, grab one or two bouquets of flowers. I promise they will remind you of the beautiful world we live in.
Reflect. COVID has forced us all to examine so many parts of our lives. I know I’ve remembered stories from childhood or young adulthood that I’ve not thought about in a long time. Write those stories down and reflect on how far you’ve come in life.
Have a chat with your mind. Social media is super overwhelming and toxic right now, so examine how you’re being affected by online spaces. Do you need a month-long break? Take it! Do you just need to set some boundaries? Set them!
Make a morning playlist. I have a Spotify station called Mno Waben (the Potawatomi term to describe the morning) and it has some of my favorite songs on it. If I wake up stressed, I listen to it. What songs will you add to your playlist?
Dream. Although it seems hopeless and pointless to make future plans right now, we shouldn't give up on what lies ahead. What are your dreams for the future? Do you have plans that you’ve been afraid to name out loud? Sketch out those ideas, make an evening of it, celebrating where you want to go from here. If you’re spiritual, pray into those dreams. Trust yourself. Keep dreaming.
Scattergories. One day our kids came home from school playing Scattergories, so we started playing at mealtime, and then we called grandparents and they played along with us while we all had dinner together. Here’s an online generator to get you started.
Hold kitchen dance parties. Whether we recognize it or not, we are holding collective stress in our bodies, and one way to release some of that stress is through dancing. I’ll tell you right now I am not a great dancer, and it doesn’t even matter! Just get the energy out, that’s the key.
Take a mindfulness walk. If you’re able to get outside safely, opt for another walk when you’re tired and/or stressed. Leave your phone at home and practice mindfulness. Say to yourself, “I see that oak tree. I notice the snow. There are animal tracks. There’s a dog.” It will bring you to the present moment and give your mind a break.
Don’t underestimate yourself. I wrote this post because, after I woke up angry, I realized I had been using my creativity to break up the mundane for months now, and I needed to trust myself to keep doing it. Remember that you have so many incredible ways to engage the world in a slightly different and creative way. I believe in you. Don’t underestimate yourself. We will get through this.
Please leave a note and let me know what’s working for you!
How are you breaking up the monotony of your days?