When the first COVID 19 case was reported in December 2019, nobody could predict how it would disrupt our lives. To contain the pandemic, most countries instituted measures such as social distancing, restricted travel, closing schools, and even full-scale lockdowns. Suddenly, working from home (WFH) and wearing face masks have become buzzwords that we have to live by.
Other than these collective disruptions, this pandemic has deeply impacted people at an individual level. Suddenly, a trip to the grocery store has ceased being a leisurely activity but a potentially risky one. Exercise, the gym being synonymous with the word, now requires a different approach. Those who thrived on synergy from working in a team have to contend with working alone from home. Similarly, parents had to get used to children being at home full time, even stepping in as temporary teachers. All this has disrupted routines and increased stress and anxiety for many.
The Case for a Daily Routine
With some people, the thought of a routine makes them shudder. For the majority, however, predictable schedules are what keeps people sane, productive, and emotionally grounded.
Successful, sportsmen & women, business moguls, celebrities, musicians, etc., all refer to routines being an essential component to their success. From a scientific standpoint, according to a study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, predictable, repetitive habits, are calming and help reduce anxiety. They'll also help you take control of your day and, subsequently, your life.
Previous to the recent pandemic, we were more familiar and comfortable with what we had to do each day. COVID-19 has dramatically altered the flow to our daily routines. We feel less organized, and in control, our lives feel more uncertain, and our minds are more cluttered with pointless and irrational thoughts.
Whether it is from COVID 19 or some other upheaval, it is crucial to re-establish control by planning your day/week/month, regardless of what is happening in life. It can help you to navigate change, reduce stress, and will do wonders for mental health.
If you have to work, supervise kids, make family meals, plan the shopping, do exercise, knowing what you are doing and when, means you can free up your mind to focus your mental energies on real, creative, and essential aspects of your life.
Tips that can empower your activities plan:
- Set a routine that is realistic, and that works for you. For instance, if you hate to run, there is no need to schedule a three-mile run first thing in the morning, just because other people are doing it. It is more beneficial to do what you love and what makes you happy.
- Make sure your routine has value – If you can no longer see the value in what you're doing, that's typically a telltale sign that you're doing something out of habit, rather than necessity. Ask yourself, "why am I doing this"?
- Don't worry if your routine gets broken. As life happens, you need to be flexible. Routines are created to help and not to imprison. Just pick it back up the next day, or even the next week, but make sure you don't use the break as an excuse to stop.
- Have your routine in place for when you wake up. Allocate 10 mins the night before to create or amend your plan. On a Sunday, review your plan for the rest of the week. This way, you will not feel anxious about what the week ahead might bring.
5 Powerful Routines You Can Incorporate to Boost Health and Life Balance:
Exercise is one of the most rewarding activities that you can do for yourself. When you run, skip rope, walk, lift weights, or indulge in any form of exercise, your body releases chemicals that boost your moods. This can help you deal with stress, anxiety, and even depression. Similarly, a proper workout does wonders for cardiovascular health and strengthens muscles and bones. It also improves sleep and sexual health.
If it is possible, try to schedule some form of exercise every day, perhaps first thing in the morning or the evening, accommodating to what works for you. If you find it challenging to keep the routine up, try working out with a partner, or use an app to keep track of your progress to stay motivated.
It has never been easier to plan an exercise routine with many free plans online for every exercise activity you can think of! Here are just a few we came across during the pandemic and tested with our teams:
- 30 Days of Yoga with Adrienne
- 6 Weeks to run 5K
- Or Couch to 5k
- Couch to 30 miles beginner cycling plan
- 10 Minutes Morning Meditation
- Walking Adventure
Eating healthy food is a large part of maintaining good health. Not only is it crucial for maintaining a healthy weight, but it can ward off chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.
One thing that has been mentioned often concerning fighting off COVID 19 is a robust immune system. Eating the right balance of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates can significantly boost the immune system.
Make time to prepare healthy meals in advance if you are short of time. Stock on healthy snacks as chocolate bars and crisps can quickly add up the calories. Even as you aim to eat healthy meals, ensure that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.
There are many healthy eating plans that you can find online. Examples include the Mediterranean, Paleo, vegan, low carb, and low-fat diets. You can also do your own, incorporating some of the advice that these diet programs offer.
Remember, the success of any diet or healthy eating plan is the habit-forming a lifestyle routine that you commit to undertaking.
According to sleep experts, a regular schedule not only tends to increase the amount of sleep people get each night, but it can also improve the quality of that sleep.
Sleep deprivation makes us moody, irritable, and impairs brain functions such as memory and decision-making. It also negatively impacts the rest of the body, such as by reducing the functioning of the immune system. Research shows that people who sleep 6 hours or less each night are 4.2 times more likely to catch the common cold than those who sleep 8 hours a night.
Everyone's lives are different, and therefore, there is no one set rule for when or how one person must sleep and for how long, but the consensus is that 7 to 8 hours is the target.
The general guidelines for improving better quality sleep is to:
- Create your bedroom to be a place of calm and tranquility.
- Avoid using phones and tablets in bed or consuming alcohol and caffeine, which can overstimulate your mind.
- Set your bedtime routine to fit in with your daily one.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature. Your body temperature does more than just keep you comfortable while you snooze. It is a vital part of what regulates the circadian rhythm that determines when your body is ready to go to sleep and when it's ready to wake up.
- Empty your mind- plan your next day the day before so you can remove these thoughts before you go to bed.
One of the things that COVID 19 has deprived of people is the usual interaction with friends and family. Spending time with people that you love improves mental health and moods, just as a lack of the same results in loneliness and depression.
Maintaining routine social interaction during these times can be hard, especially with restrictions on the number of people that can gather. Take full advantage of social media platforms to keep in touch with family and friends. If you are living in a place where limited interaction is allowed, take advantage of this to meet a friend or two.
Recently, a picture of three mothers in the USA hit the headlines when they met for a 'coffee date' at an empty parking lot in the boots of their minivans. They drank coffee, reconnected, and went home a lot lighter and happier, all while maintaining the required social distance.
Emotional and mental strength comes from deep bonds, especially among women. This is one of the most beautiful things about female friendship. Women make each other more resilient because they become a source of confidence, joy, reassurance, and comfort for each other.
After you have taken care of work, family, and all other obligations, it is essential to take some time for self-care. Self-care involves taking deliberate action to protect your health, wellbeing, and happiness. When you take care of your emotional, mental, and physical health, you are likely to be happier and to have better relationships with other people. Be careful not to think of self-care as a selfish act, rather as a necessary measure.
A lot of the things mentioned above constitute self-care. Getting enough sleep and exercise, as well as eating a balanced diet, will play a role in your overall health. Other things that you can do are spending some alone time reading a favorite book or indulging in a hobby such as baking or painting. Whatever you do, aim to spend some time every day doing something that is just for you.
While there are many quotes (of supposed positivity) that lack any purposeful meaning, the saying 'when you fail to plan, you plan to fail' instead presents powerful words of advice with an accurately defined outcome.
Make time today to plan your routine and see your overall health and life balance change.
Keep Well & Live a Vibrant Life. Well-Actually.co.uk team