Lots of us are missing our normal routine during the Coronavirus lockdown. We’ve worked with Occupational Therapist, Susan Madigan and members of our Insight Group to explain why routine is important and offer tips to help adults maintain a healthy routine.
A routine is a balanced mix of activities. For most people this means university or work, and things like housework, hobbies, exercise or social activities. Whether you’re working or studying from home, a routine provides structure and meaning and can help you to make the most of your time and avoid anxiety.
Familiar is often safe
Some people may be embracing the change in their routine, but that doesn’t work for everyone. To maintain a sense of security and familiarity, it might be useful to try to make your routine as similar as possible to your typical one. As much as possible, try to stick to a routine that feels safe and comfortable to you. For example, if you normally go to a Pilates class at 7pm on a Tuesday, can you join an online class at that time? If you normally listen to an audiobook on your commute, you can still listen even if you’re not commuting beyond your living room?
“Control the things you can control - eat the meals that bring you comfort, at the familiar times, drink the familiar drinks, read about things you already know you enjoy.” Insight Group member
Don’t put pressure on yourself
We are all adapting very suddenly to new information, new routines, new ways of working. It makes sense that at times you might not feel able to concentrate as you normally would.
- Don’t judge the work you’re doing too harshly if you achieve less than you normally would
- Don’t generalise about your days: If you have one bad day, it doesn’t mean that your week is ruined or that you’re failing.
“I have been repeating a mantra I heard once: 'progress is progress, and process counts'! This helps me to feel more positive about what I do manage to do.” Insight Group member
It’s okay to feel less productive now and it’s okay to expect that your productivity may rise and fall, but you may still have deadlines or responsibilities that you need to keep to.
Here are some steps you can take to make the most of your time:
Starting your day
- Identify how you want to spend your day. If your work is flexible, you may be able to pick your hours of work. If afternoons and evenings are best for you, start later and go for a walk in the morning. You do not have to work around the clock just because you’re working from home.
- Identify what you absolutely need to get done. Also identify what you’d like to get done. You may not know everything yet so start with a plan focusing on what you do know.
Planning & structure
- Divide your work into small chunks and focus on achieving each one. Each small task will add up.
- Use a whiteboard/diary/planner or google calendar to start planning your time. Alternatively use a to-do list if you find you can’t stick to a daily schedule.
- The more specific you can be, the better. If you’re not specific in your work plans, you’re more likely to procrastinate. Don’t just say “I’ll write a bit of that report”, plan exactly what you’ll work on and how you’ll do it.
- Finish your work/study day by making a list of everything that you’ll need to do the next day. If you find yourself feeling anxious about anything on the list, remind yourself that you’ll have time to tackle it tomorrow.
Taking a break
- Build in breaks. This is especially important now that we are not moving throughout the day as we normally would. Without breaks, you may find it difficult to concentrate.
- Allow yourself time to exercise. This is useful to keep you physically healthy and it also helps to let out tension from your body, which is helpful if you are feeling anxious.
- It’s okay to engage in comforting things that are familiar and that provide a sense of safety and calm. Re-reading a favourite book or watching a cherished film will help you manage your anxiety and help you to stay productive when you are working.
- Build variety into your day. Have a walk, read, call someone, watch a documentary and so on. It is good to establish a routine, but don’t forget to try new things and keep yourself entertained.
“Putting a reminder list of small achievable daily chores on a magnetic whiteboard on the fridge door. Days of the week on the left, potential chores on the right. I have my list, Bili, my son, has his. We extract one task a day to do randomly from the list. Some we share. We rub them out as we do them.” Suzanne, Insight group member
“Acknowledging that lack of routine is a routine in itself” Insight Group member