I’m hearing so many comments about the lost perception of time lately. 

“I don’t know what day it is.”

“Was that two days ago or two weeks ago?”

“I feel like it’s Groundhog Day,” (alluding to the movie when actor Bill Murray’s character experiences the same day repeatedly).

We may have felt this before when we were on vacation or staying home sick.  Many people experience this after a frightening event like a natural disaster or being in an auto accident.

The difference between one day to the next is hard to differentiate given that our usual routines are remarkably changed and we are constantly trying to adapt to a new reality. Days blur together.  According to Dr. Mary McNaughton-Cassill, professor of Psychology at University of Texas at San Antonio, our perception of time is generally dependent on actions and obligations of our social and work life,  “anchors” of our life experiences.  When these are disrupted, we have a sense of being lost.  It’s hard to focus and adjusting our behaviors to new norms can be very challenging and exhausting.  We are making new decisions several times a day and this is taxing on us physically and mentally.

These thoughts and feelings are common to many people when they are grieving a loss. Or when they are sad, stuck, paralyzed from anxiety. 

This warp in our perception of time can affect our sense of purpose and motivation. “Why should I get up in the morning?” “ What does it matter that I…? “

I’m here to tell you that it does matter.

Why?  Because what you do every day keeps you active in this world and aligns with your purpose in life.  It’s very easy lose sight of what matters as new priorities emerge.

You may have to investigate what your priorities are right now and consider old and new thoughts on what has purpose and meaning for you.  From this point you can set small and large goals that align with your purpose.  To attain those goals, you have to schedule actions steps you can do to accomplish those goals.  And to schedule, you need to know what day it is.  Because time goes on pandemic or not and that matters.

Since events and activities help us organize our perception of time, and those events and activities are cancelled, what can we do to differentiate one day from the next?

  1. Distinguish one day from the next through your own time orientation.  Look at a calendar, day and date.  Plan something for today.  Plan something for tomorrow.  A month from now.  Even if you have to change it.  Planning can be a process- acknowledge that and accommodate.  Don’t give onto the fugue of days blending onto days.  Do something.  Act. 
  2. Implement structure in your day.  Find different times and locations to do different activities.  Make a schedule– when to sleep, when to eat, when to cook, clean, play, work. Take breaks. And keep to your schedule with the knowledge that you can change it as you go to accommodate what is working and what needs adjustment.
  3. Change the mindset.  We are not victims.  We are survivors.  How can we adapt and be more insightful, more caring, more kind people?
  4. Take one week at a time.  Look at the days and dates.  What specific goal do you want to accomplish in that week? Break it down into small action steps you can do daily or every other day or weekly to make progress.

Some ideas of how you can schedule activities you can do every day that are different from each other:

  1. Movement and Mindful Mondays– Plan activities that involve the body moving and tune into sensations in your body. Notice how it feels to move the different body parts.  Pay attention to your breathing, what your body feels like as it does work tasks, takes rests (can also be practiced daily:)  Meditation and mindfulness instructor Joseph Goldstein warns that this increased awareness may not bring you “bliss,”  but can bring insight into ways of living and patterns in thought and behavior that are working to bring comfort and health and those that you may want to alter to feel better.
  2. Think- aloud Tuesdays– Explore random thoughts that come to your mind and say them out loud.  Just admitting you have these thoughts serves a function.  You can choose to write down the ones that are helpful to you and let go of others that don’t serve you. 
  3. Whining Wednesdays – Write down in a journal, on a piece of paper, or in your phone, or vent to a trusted someone, your struggles.  Let them out!  Express them! Find your friends/family who offer support (you may find this practice helpful to do daily for 5 minutes as well).
  4. Throwback Thursdays– Identify an activity that you used to like to do and do it (may need to be modified due to restrictions).
  5. Free Form Fridays– Give yourself permission to” be free” and do activities that you enjoy.  Less “have to” and more “want to.”
  6. Screen Free Saturdays – Yep!  Even for a few hours.
  7. Sacred Sundays – Connect with your spiritual practices.  Do some reflection or research on connecting with a higher power at some point during the day.  Be outside with nature.  Practice gratitude (feel free to do this daily too).

For some, the feeling of timelessness or time disorientation is a welcome reprieve for an over-scheduled lifestyle. And for you, I say, “Cool! Enjoy!.

For others who miss feeling oriented, you may choose one of these suggestions or none, or come up with your own.  Whatever works for you, in your own “time.”

Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day evolved over “time.”  He learned new skills that brought him joy and connected him with purpose.  He did actions that helped people and spread kindness.  He became more tolerant, more loving, and more patient with others.  He transformed. 

So can we. 

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