Article by: Kelly Malloy
When we think of the word 'routine' we would normally relate it to the actions of being structured, organised and maybe even calm and more productive. So when we lose our routine, we can start to feel a bit scattered and all-over-the-place.
Now more than ever, having a routine can help us cope with change and uncertainity by giving us a sense of control.
In other words, having a routine can actually help our mental health in the following ways:
- A routine gives an anchor and base to help keep our time and day on track
- Having a routine can help to reduce stress, anxiety and worry by giving us direction
- A routine can reassure us that we have a sense of control
Our schedules and normal routines are changing, sometimes daily, through social distancing (we don't like to use the term 'social distancing' at LIVIN so from here on we will refer to it as 'physical distancing'), working from home, home schooling and travel restrictions all playing a part in the disruption to the routines that we all knew.
There are ways that we can incorporate a routine into our lives even when the world around us seems to be changing and can be achieved through a few key elements:
While this may seem like one of the last and perhaps less important activities to focus on, sleep is arguably the most important routine we need to get right for our physical and mental wellbeing. Sleep not only lets the body rest but allows the mind to recalibrate and process all of the information from the day.
By placing a priority on your sleep habits and the habits of your family (children in particular), you will notice that other activities such as decision making, ability to retain information and yes, even your mood, patience and general outlook on situations, will benefit.
Now before you tune out and think we're going to guilt you into a 7-day fitness challenge, just bear with us. A fitness routine does not have to be an intense 60-minute workout through an online app every day of your life. Fitness can be as simple (whilst remaining beneficial), as going for a 30-minute walk every day, but you need to schedule it in and stick with it - just as you would a gym or PT session; just as you would a work meeting.
In these times of physical distancing and being encouraged to stay home, whatever way you can, try and make a part of your daily fitness outside and soaking up some Vitamin D, even if it's just doing some stretching in your own backyard.
Getting the blood pumping and the oxygen circulating, helps both your physical and mental health. According to our friends at the Black Dog Institute, regular exercise can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Meal time routines can be particularly tricky, especially if you are working from home and potentially also home schooling the kids. We often underestimate how much of our daily routines pivot around meal times until we loose that structure and find ourselves snacking all day and even missing those main meals - or the routine of the main meal.
If you need to, set an alarm on your phone for your morning tea and lunch breaks to help keep a bit of a schedule with the eating. The alarms can also be a good reminder to get up and take a breather, stretch your legs, go outside and move around - regular meals and regular breaks are so important for good mental wellbeing.
This is just as important for children who are home and learning online. Try to give them a structured routine that somewhat mirrors their school day of two breaks. Oh, and try to keep those meals within a healthy and balanced diet!
Irrespective of your profession, your type of employment, your marriage or parental status, everyone's routines are no doubt a bit different these days. The important thing is to focus on things that you can control (control the controllables), things that you need to achieve that day and things that really matter to yourself and your loved ones.
A good start in instigating a routine is the simple action of getting out of bed the same time every day, getting dressed and having breakfast. These activities may seem small and obvious but they can make a huge difference in how you approach the day.
Try breaking your day up into blocks and even writing a 'To Do' list the night before so you can start your day off on the right foot with a list of things you NEED to get done and a plan of things you WANT to get done. You may get through all of the things on your list, or you may only get through one or two, so you need to create this list with a sense of understanding and self-forgiveness if you don't tick everything off. It's okay.
Just like before all of the restrictions and physical distancing changes came into place, there will be days that you kick lots of goals and others where everything seems to hit the fan, so don't make things bigger than they need to be.
And just like before, everything will work itself out in the long run if we are kind to ourselves and each other, give our body and mind the best chance to get through it.
If you are struggling and need support, check out our Get Help Page and reach out to an organisation that appears the best for you.