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Full disclosure: I am not musical. In fact, when I was a child, I took guitar lessons, but the teacher lost hope that he was going to be able to teach me anything, so he refunded my mom for the cost of the lessons. I still remember the day we pulled up to his music store and he met us at the door with the reimbursement cheque. But this article isn’t about my need for therapy... it’s about living according to healthy personal rhythms that nurture thriving.

God designed us to need personal rhythms and thrive in them. Notice how the creation account has a repetitive cycle: “And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day; and there was evening, and there was morning the second day” (Gen. 1:4,7) and so on. And of course, the seventh day was set apart as a day to worship and rest – a rhythm we are still invited to embrace. God eventually instituted feast days and celebrations and holidays and the Year of Jubilee and more, all with the intent to create healthy and life-giving cycles of work, rest, worship and celebration. Creation still reflects these rhythms, as we know that spring follows winter, summer follows spring, the fall follows summer and leads to another winter.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Even if you’re the type of person who loves variety and spontaneity, you probably still have rhythms: my guess is you brush your teeth the same way every day; you likely take the same route to work and might even tend to eat the mostly the same foods. You probably have a favourite restaurant, a familiar workout playlist and certain Christmas traditions you celebrate every year.

Rhythm helps us. It can make us more efficient by automating certain tasks (like brushing your teeth) and by hard-wiring helpful habits like daily devotions. Consistent rhythms actually offer a sense of security and well-being.

The introvert in me rejoiced when Dr. Bonnie Henry told us in her reassuring and calm manner that we were going to be not-so voluntarily isolating in our homes. The “get ‘er done” side of me began to dream about all the things I would accomplish: finish my first grad course in record time, exercise daily, read books, write articles, finish projects the list was endless. If Sir Isaac Newton could invent calculus and discover gravity while isolated during the bubonic plague, surely I would be able to reorganize a closet or two!

After a few days of blissful productivity, I began to lose steam. Soon lethargy set in and the only thing I was accomplishing after work was crossing a few shows off my Netflix watch list because I binge-watched them until late in the evening. Before long, I was 30lbs away from my goal of losing 20lbs.

I’ve discovered my experience isn’t unique. Why have we struggled with lethargy, depression (mild and clinical) and anxiety during the pandemic? There are a myriad of reasons, but I think the disruption of our daily and weekly rhythms have really messed us up. The subtle signals of getting ready for work, swinging by Starbucks for an over-priced coffee, interacting with people at church, going to small group, and worshipping with others on Sunday have been eliminated. We have lost our intuition about how our lives ought to flow (can you remember what day it is today?) and without that, we feel untethered.

I probably need consistent rhythms more than most people,
so I have thought quite a bit about how to regain my personal
rhythms when the rest of the world is out of tune. If you’re feeling discombobulated as well, these thoughts might help you:

  • Stay anchored in good habits Daily prayer and Bible readings remain a cornerstone rhythm, and getting enough sleep is truly a gift. Decide which rhythms must always play in the background of your life.
  • Give yourself some grace – I have given myself permission to let go of many of the aspirations I first had when we started isolating. I finished all my grad course assignments... but just on time; I haven’t slacked off at work, but I haven’t cranked out a ton of extra content either; my brand-new running shoes are barely scuffed. Maybe you need to let up on the unrealistic expectations you have of yourself.
  • Get out of the news cycle – A rhythm that will contribute to your anxiety and sense of helplessness is watching the news obsessively. Bonnie Henry is everyone’s favourite doctor, but even her gentle voice can send you into a tailspin if you hear it too often. Get the news you need, then stop watching, scrolling, searching and obsessing – they’ve really just been repeating the same thing over and over again anyway.
  • Recognize what season you’re in – Ecclesiastes 3 makes it clear that there is a season for everything. I assumed this was a season for work, but I’m becoming more convinced that my Heavenly Father is inviting me into a season of rest.
    Perhaps feeling off-kilter is due to the fact that I’m striving against the purposes of the Father, not with them.
  • Find new rhythms – the last week or so has been more life-giving because I am finding a new rhythm. When 5:00pm arrives, Leanne and I have been enjoying “appie hour” where we just take some time to connect. I’ve started cooking a few times a week (which is a totally new thing for me), but Fresh Prep has made it easy (sort of) and fun (kind of). Because I haven’t been travelling and gas is currently cheap, weekends have become an opportunity to go for a long drive to somewhere new. Replace the rhythms you’ve lost with new, life-giving patterns.

Eventually, things will get back to some sort of “normal” – and I can’t wait. I miss seeing my kids and grandkids in person, and I am looking forward to visiting you at your church in your community. In the meantime, Jesus words are so a propos for this season: