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The mental health benefits of having a routine and how it can help you combat coronavirus blues

The surprising benefits of having a routine during lockdown

Are you struggling to fall asleep at night and sleeping bizarre hours? Are you spending most of your day feeling demotivated and struggling to focus? Do you feel more tired and lethargic than normal? If so, you may be relieved to know that you’re definitely not alone and we may have the solution to your coronavirus blues.

Beneath everything, we’re all pretty much creatures of habit. Most of us have structure and routine to our days; which is usually built on the foundations of studying or working. Generally speaking, most of us go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day, we eat at around the same time and socialise and relax once our study/work commitments are fulfilled. 

What science tells us

On a scientific level, this structure helps our bodies know when to expect sleep and food, it helps with the regulation of energy, it knows when we’re typically supposed to feel stimulated and when it’s okay to relax, amongst hundreds of other processes going on that you’re not even aware of. On a psychological level, the routine gives us an element of security and control. It helps us regulate our rhythm and gives an element of predictability. It’s easy enough to overlook the value of routine… until you’re in a situation when it’s taken away from you.

Without routine and structure to our days, everything is thrown off. Suddenly our bodies battle to regulate sleep; we find ourselves lying wide awake until the early hours and then struggling to get up in the morning. Eating at irregular intervals can leave us raiding the cupboards for snacks and makes us more prone to unhealthy choices. Gradually we start to slump into inactivity; the routine that once guided our energy and concentration has been completely wiped and we’re left in limbo.

We know it may sound incredibly simple, but rebuilding your routine and daily structure around the coronavirus crisis could actually be the key to unlocking improved mental health, better sleep, healthier eating habits and help boost your creativity and productivity. 

Building in Routine

We can help you figure out your new routine, but in order to get the maximum benefit, you really need to commit. That means no lie-ins, no midnight feasts and the self-discipline to push ahead when you really can’t be bothered. It’s hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it’ll become.

Start by mapping out the general flow of your day before the coronavirus lockdown. What time were you going to bed and waking up? How often were you exercising? When did you feel at the peak of your productivity? Map this out using the template below and then start to think about how your routine currently looks in comparison. You can then use this side-by-side comparison to identify some of the areas where you may have fallen behind.

Add in 3 doses of good vibes

Now start to think about 3 things you’d like to do more of during your day to help look after your mental health. This can be anything, but if you’re struggling for ideas, here are some examples: meditation, yoga, exercising, reading a book, mindfulness, writing a gratitude diary, colouring in, drawing, boxing, listening to calming music in the bath, writing in your journal or blogging on a platform like Tumblr, giving yourself an hour without technology. Set yourself a daily objective of how much time you’d like to spend on your 3 activities. It may be an idea to set 20 minutes per activity, so that you’re committing an hour a day to looking after your mental wellbeing. 

With this in mind, use the template below to start building out your daily routine, with each of the 3 activities included. It’s a good idea to have each activity run at the same time of the day so that you’re more likely to remember doing it. Programming in a calming activity such as meditation or yoga first thing in the morning is always a good idea as it can help you set your intentions for the day and to start on a positive note. Something active in the evening; such as jogging or boxing can help release any stress or pressure build up from the day,

It may be tricky at first but try it for 3 days and see how different you feel and don’t give yourself a hard time if you have a couple of blips along the way! 

A Routine Example

Things to include:
20 minutes of exercise
20 minutes of reading
20 minutes of meditation
TimeActivity
08:00Go for a 20 minute jog then shower and eat breakfast
09:00-12:00Work on project
12:00-13:00Eat lunch, Facetime friends
13:00-17:00Work on project
17:00-18:00Bake/eat dinner
18:00-21:00Go on Playstation
21:00-22:00Meditate for 20 minutes, read for 20 minutes, get ready for bed, wind down and aim to be asleep for 11pm

Grab a pen and paper and build something out that you feel would work well for you. No need to make it super complicated and it’s really important to keep things realistic for the best chance of success. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

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