The importance of routine in stressful times
The huge disruptions caused by COVID-19 have dramatically altered our routines, whether we’re working from home, facing a period of unemployment, or are still on furlough, change and uncertainty can make it harder to stay upbeat, positive, and rosey.
Often we can push against routine but having an entirely open, flexible, or ever-changing schedule can actually be mentally draining. Some of us love solid daily structure and some of us shudder at the thought, but during these uncertain times, maintaining a routine can help us feel more organised and in control – fighting off anxiety and stress!
The benefits of having routine
Research has consistently shown that routines play a huge role in keeping our mental health in tip-top condition. Routines can help lower stress and anxiety – and right now we could all use a hand with that!
“A routine can be really useful to make time for ourselves and for healthy behaviours, especially those that we don’t really want to do but know we should.” Grace McMahon, Beingwell Life Coach
So, what can we do to maintain a routine when we’re feeling anxious or finding things a bit difficult?
Focus on what we can control
A good place to start is to set wake-up, plan meal times and activity times. The key is to create a routine that adds structure to our day, giving us a sense of predictability. We don’t always know how our day will pan out but having a spot of structure around simple things can help us feel less stressed and more organised. Routines also help us accomplish the basic tasks that must be done, leaving us time for self-care, fun, and stuff we love doing.
Follow a routine that boosts well being
There are some things we can include in our routines to super-boost our well being, such as:
Staying active and getting regular exercise (even if it’s a walk around the block)
Trying to be as consistent as possible when it comes to our sleep
Eating healthy and regular meals
Setting realistic goals (“I’d like to climb Mount Everest next year” might be a tad optimistic)
Keeping in touch with friends and family
Setting aside time for activities that light us up and that we love!
A good starting point is to list all of our usual activities, chores, work, mealtimes to create a general outline, then we can add hobbies, activities and a bit of time for self-care!
Find what works
A rigid schedule isn’t for everyone, or we might find that we thrive with more structure. It’s helpful to pay attention to how we feel throughout the day. Can’t wake up at 6:30 am? Figgedity or energetic just before lunch? 3 pm lull? We know ourselves best, so if something isn’t working we should tweak our schedule and organise the day around our individual energy levels. There’s nothing wrong with sleeping in till 9 am if we’re a night owl.
Do the things we’re putting off first
Whatever works for us individually, a great tip is to consider our motivations when scheduling tasks into our day. Try prioritising the important tasks that have to be done or the ones that have deadlines attached. That can help us to enjoy and use the rest of our time well. It can also help to stop the dreaded procrastination from setting in and overcome the urge to keep putting stuff off. Some of us might find the morning the best time, especially those of us who are larks - early risers - whereas, those of us who are night owls may find it easier to get things done in the afternoon or evening.
Remember it takes time and practice
Just like creating new habits, building new routines doesn’t just happen overnight – annoyingly! It takes time and practice to figure out what’s working and what needs an overhaul or tweak.
Reality check: While having a routine is important, let’s not be too hard on ourselves if all that goes out of the window and we have trouble sticking to it. Everyone copes with stress differently, and while having a routine can help us feel a sense of normality and focus, we don’t need any more pressure so if (when!) we deviate that is absolutely ok!