What is it about routine that makes us feel safe and yet at the same time can drive us to despair?

Today my thoughts were on the ‘new’ routines that many of us have had to adopt in our days due to Covid-19 and in many instances how these new circumstances may have put us more in touch with our own natural rhythms.

In our technological world where we are often driven by Corporate work requirements, alarm clocks, transport timetables and five day working weeks, many of us have been programmed to ignore our own innate rhythms of what is best for our well being. We ignore our natural cycles to the detriment of our health so that we can be productive yet despite our best efforts, occasionally we are reminded, often through some sort of health crisis or breakdown, that we are a part of the natural world that has rhythms and cycles.

Often our sleep cycles are affected by the lunar cycles, which can affect our mood. A 2013 study published in the journal Current Biology found that sleep can be significantly affected by lunar phases. Participants in the study experienced sleep disruptions and spent less time in the deepest phase of sleep during a full moon. They also slept less and reported to having the lowest quality of sleep during these times. The interesting thing is, participants were in a controlled environment the entire time and didn’t know what time it was. According to researchers, the reason behind why there’s a correlation is still pretty much a mystery. However, they theorize that our internal biological rhythms may be linked to the moon’s cycle. [1]

Personally, I have always experienced my worst sleep at the full moon cycle and my best sleep at the new moon and yet in the past have had to carry on in my daily routine regardless. With the Covid-19 restrictions and being able to work from home, I have been able to create a much better and flexible routine to suit my sleep patterns.

But what happens when and if ‘life returns to normal’? Rather than numbing our senses to what we innately know is best for us, are we meant to return to life as before?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern recently addressed the issue of work/life balance by suggesting employers consider a four day working week and other flexible working options. The prime minister’s informal comments have excited New Zealanders, many of whom are questioning whether seismic, systemic change will result from the pandemic – or whether life will return to normal; with its associated problems. [2]

Personally, I would hope that the Covid-19 disruption can result in permanent change that does address the issue that most of us are ‘time poor’ in relation to our various commitments. Australians are reported to work some of the longest hours of anyone in developed countries resulting in a poor work-life balance.

However, research shows that working is generally good for mental and physical health and wellbeing. The benefits of work include:

  • providing activity and a daily structure
  • a sense of meaning and purpose
  • relationships and a sense of community
  • financial independence

So it is not work per say that is the actual problem but the working conditions that can affect well being. [3]

Let’s hope that we don’t return to a working life where ‘burnout’ and ‘stress related issues’ are considered the norm but to work places that are actually helpful in allowing increased alertness, energy and productivity by allowing flexible working arrangements that support our own innate rhythms and daily routines so that we may awake excited to the unfolding of the new day.

I give thanks for arriving Safely in a new dawn,

For the gift of eyes To see the World,

The gift of mind To feel at Home In my Life.

The waves of possibility Breaking on the shore of dawn,

The harvest of the past That awaits my hunger,

And all the furtherings this new day will bring.

By John O’Donohue : ‘On Waking’

[1] https://www.bustle.com/p/6-weird-ways-the-moon-can-affect-your-mood-

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/20/jacinda-ardern-flags-four-day-working-week-as-way-to-rebuild-new-zealand-after-covid-19

[3] https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/work-life-balance