Britain has announced new, unprecedented shutdown measures in the fight against COVID-19. The majority of the UK now confined to their homes, and should only leave to shop for essential items, exercise once a day or for urgent medical care.
Most of us agree that the measures are necessary, but it is a scary and confusing time for many and over the course of the next few weeks is sure to affect people’s mental health. For some it may be loneliness, isolation and feeling cut off from the world. Others are juggling work, childcare and home life all within a small space and it can feel overwhelming. But there are steps that you can take to ease the strain of lockdown and one of those is establishing a routine.
Why does routine help our mental health?
At first you may want to sleep in more, binge on box sets and enter the ‘vacation mindset’, sounds great, but long term this can be detrimental to your mental health. Many people find themselves losing track of goals and falling into depression when a regular routine isn’t set. And just the act of getting up, showered and dressed by a certain time each day will make you feel happier and more able to face the day.
For those with more serious mental health conditions routine is even more important. It’s part of organising yourself and knowing what to expect so that you can manage triggers and your condition. (find a link to a more in-depth article)
How do I establish a routine?
There are lots of daily schedules circulating on social media at the moment and we’ve included an example below, but common sense can be applied to make sure you’re meeting your physical, mental and emotional needs.
Try to have a balance of activities throughout the day, so pencil in time for physical, sociable, educational and emotional wellbeing. Keep things simple and make sure you’re including activities that can be done easily in your home.
What should my routine include?
Physical activity is so important as it releases endorphins, hormones that regulate and boost your mood, so this is a key part of your routine – aim for at least 30 minutes every day.
On top of this try to include some that will challenge your mind, learning a new skill, completing an online course, reading, puzzles or work if you’re still able to work from home. Keeping the mind busy is an essential part of looking after your mental healt.
Humans are sociable beings and by nature we crave human interaction, which although we’re being restricted is still possible through the use of technology. Allow time for a sociable activity each day, calling a friend, chatting or playing a game with your immediate family or a video call/virtual house party.
Creativity is also known to increase levels of happiness, so whether it’s art, baking, music or creative writing make sure you have an outlet to express yourself.
More time at home also means it’s an ideal time to start ticking off those jobs around the house that you’ve been meaning to do. The sense of achievement will really boost your mood. So, you could include a daily task to achieve in your schedule.
Time out to relax is just as important so take regular breaks which will feel even better when you’ve done something fulfilling or educational beforehand.
Finally, getting out in the fresh air also does wonders for your mental wellbeing, if you live in a flat this is more difficult so make sure you make your time outside count. So far, the British weather has been kind so take the opportunity to get out in the garden – exercise, plant some seeds or simply relax and take a few minutes to yourself.
What about children’s routine?
Children are more creatures of habit than their parents and without school and its familiarity, they may be feeling insecure and unsure of themselves. Establishing a daily routine, similar to school but within the limitations of your own workload should help them feel safe and know what to expect each day.
Schedule time for learning, fun, physical activity and time outdoors as well as regular breaks as little minds have short attention spans. You may find that your child is constantly hungry, but again putting aside time for snacks will help to alleviate the pestering. Try to praise and remain positive when they complete their given tasks.
Any situation that limits our choices and enforces certain rules can feel scary, and the current situation that’s completely understandable but stablishing a routine is one way of helping you feel like you’re back in control.