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The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the “lockdowns,” social restrictions and other disruptions that came with it—unleashed a whole new set of stressors on individuals, families and relationships. Many family routines were disrupted causing dysregulation, in many cases.

In a very engaging Self-Reg talk from the Self-Reg Summer Symposium 2021, our second all-virtual symposium, Toronto-based educator and Self-Reg consultant, Rebecca Leslie, looks at routines and the pandemic-caused disruptions to routines, through a Self-Reg lens.

How do comfortable routines affect our brains and bodies in ways that support self-regulation? Does disruption of routines add to our stress and deplete our energy? Can the routines we are able to maintain in times of disruption, and even new routines, reduce some of the stress and help us restore energy? 

Mini Talk Quotes:

“The brain can save energy through habits, whether they’re in the form of routines, rituals or schedules…Routines can free up our prefrontal cortex’s working space, and then we have more energy for focusing on new tasks, challenges, learning and social engagement. Routines can also leave us more time and energy for intentional restorative practice…The prefrontal cortex is involved in figuring out which routines might support us and how to put them into place. After a lot of practice the brain stores these routines in a deeper part of the brain called the basal ganglia.”

“But, in times of great stress, such as a pandemic, we have diminished access to those deeper parts of the brain”, Rebecca says.

That leaves us even more vulnerable to increased stress and allostatic overload. Rebecca shares how routines, including some new ones her household established during a lockdown period, helped her family adjust to, and manage the pandemic stressors arising from drastic changes in family life, school, work and leisure activities.

It’s a very thoughtful and articulate talk. And you can watch it below.

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