PhD candidate Cinthya Guzman on routine disruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic

July 21, 2020 by Tianyang Zheng

PhD candidate Cinthya Guzman recently published an article in Contexts Magazine on routine disruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Her previous research focused on ways in which contexts shape routinization regarding the lives of 100 Canadians. Following up with her research participants, PhD candidate Cinthya's work now also examines the impact of routine changes wrought by COVID-19.

Cinthya Guzman is a PhD candidate of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on sociological theory, culture, and gender.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below. The full story is available on the Contexts Magazine website here.

“Routine Disruption during COVID-19” by Cinthya Guzman

“The pandemic hit like a shock – it is not a change. A change is expecting Winter after Spring. This is like getting hit with a blizzard during Summer – you do not immediately know how to proceed.”

A year ago, I conducted research on 100 Canadians. I wanted to learn about the contexts that shape routines and emotional experiences, like boredom. The study used a 10-day experience sampling method (ESM) and interviews to provide a window into daily lives. Some had very routinized lives, others less so. Habits, I found, led to divergent experiences of boredom. People who constantly kept busy did not struggle with lulls; rather, they relished the opportunity to always find something new to do. Those who did not have similar habits often struggled to find purpose in activities outside of their routines.

Given the dramatic social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, I followed up with the participants. This time, I sought to capture the impact of social distancing measures on our daily lives. These measures, while absolutely necessary for public health, have dramatically altered interaction and time-use patterns. We are physically constrained in ways never experienced before. As one participant put it, our social lives have become ‘smaller.’ But there are also opportunities to expand our social worlds in new and creative ways. The crisis, as the participant expressed, has completely shifted the forms of social contact. This has led to clear impacts on the self – namely, our routines, habits, interactions, and emotions. In highlighting these, I want to suggest ways in which people’s lives have changed from a year ago.

Radical disruptions to routines

The pandemic has caused incredible disruptions to daily routines and lives. Last year, the majority of participants were either employed, seeking employment, or retired. Now, many participants are unemployed or employed but absent from work.

Many participants now crave the normalcy of work life – independent of the economic security it brings. Although they feel far less rushed compared to a year ago, they are now more bored, anxious, and stressed. They feel that they lost the central organizing axis in their lives. The pandemic, they feel, has disrupted their sense of control. Leisure activities have also become far less pleasurable. Boredom, under these conditions, is a constant reminder that their time no longer earns them a living and is therefore less productive. Time, they emphasize, now moves painstakingly slow.

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