With all that’s going on in the world at the moment, many people’s lives are changing day by day. In rapidly altering circumstances, it’s natural to feel lost and stressed due to having limited control.
To combat this, it’s important to place focus on things that are still under your control.
In rapidly changing circumstances, it is crucial to remain grounded and stay in tune with your feelings. This means knowing when to pull back on things, as well as reaching forward when you’re ready!
Creating a routine helps relieve the uncertainty that most are experiencing currently. Having a schedule to hold on to and knowing what your day will be like can create much needed security and comfort that many of us are missing!
Whether you’re already trying to structure your day productively, or are still a bit skeptical towards the importance of planning- today’s blog is for you! Together, let’s explore the benefits of creating a meaningful routine, as well as tips for restoring daily order when everything seems to be falling apart.
Benefits of creating a routine
There are many benefits to creating and implementing a daily routine! Some are immediately obvious, whereas others may need more work to have a more noticeable impact - but it doesn’t mean they are less important.
Let’s explore some ways a purposefully curated routine can make your life better!
Reduced stress, increased productivity
Trying to remember things and hoping to wing it on the go can be very stressful. In contrast, planning out in advance can feel very satisfying. By planning ahead, you are far more likely to tick things off your list the following day - which will give you a sense of achievement, replacing chaos and uncertainty. As a bonus, keeping busy does wonders for productivity and helps remain focused.
Consistent sleep patterns
Creating a routine can dramatically improve sleep patterns, which on its own is a wonderful enhancer to overall quality of life. A regular sleep cycle is very important both for your mind and your body, creating an opportunity to rest and repair. By going to bed and waking up roughly at the same time each day - including weekends - you can teach your body to set the sleep-wake clock accordingly. In addition to sticking to a consistent schedule, the Sleep Foundation Australia also advocates for 8-8.5 hours bed time (although this may vary between individuals). Setting a non-negotiable sleep schedule and planning your day firmly around it also helps you squeeze every little bit out of the rest of your day!
More time for the things you love
When thinking “routine”, many also think “boring”, associating the term with endless lists of work tasks and chores. However, it’s just as important to factor in the time for the things you love! For example, you could set aside 30 minutes daily to read a book, or leave a few hours every weekend to watch a few episodes of your favourite series. Planning “me time” is essential, not a luxury - and there is no need to leave out the things you love! Of course, unexpected things happen, and urgent tasks can pop up unexpectedly. However, planning for rest, relaxation and fun does increase the likelihood of finding that time regularly!
Restoring a lost routine
With many of us working from home and practising social distancing, usual routines have changed considerably - meaning new ones may need to be built almost from scratch! Here are some tips on restoring a realistic, manageable and productive routine.
Consider your new schedule
Consider your new start and finish times during the day. For example, if you used to commute to and from work, what are you doing with that extra time in the morning and the evening? Are you utilising it productively? It can be tempting to sleep in, however instead you could get up at your usual time and fit in some stretching, make a delicious, cafe-style healthy breakfast or do some meal prep - the possibilities are endless. Don’t procrastinate through the extra time - instead, think of ways to use it well.
Rethink your habits
Many people say they are ‘too busy’ for things, but in reality they just haven’t made it a priority. Now is a really good time to reconsider your habits and create new ones. Maybe you’re practising self isolation and not currently working your previous job that had you feeling drained and tired by the end of the day. If this has always prevented you from incorporating more physical activity into your schedule, now could be the perfect time to do so! By the time things go back to normal, you can have a few healthy habits formed if you focus on building them now. It’ll be hard to stop once you realise how great those changes make you feel!
Plan out your day
If plan ahead and complete your tasks at the same time each day, you will soon automatically do those things in a regular pattern. It will take all the guesswork out of what to do next, therefore reducing stress levels.
A word on nutrition and exercise
Making time in your routine for both physical activity and a healthy balanced diet is very important for both mental and physical health.
Regular exercise has many physical benefits such as increasing your strength and endurance, helping improve body composition and preventing unwanted weight gain. Staying active also does wonders for mental health, improves sleep and enhances mood.
But how to actually get motivated to do it? Design a training schedule and stick to it! Whether you like to work out first thing in the morning, at night, or depending on other commitments, this needs to be planned for and factored into your day. Initially, you will need to treat exercise like an important, non-negotiable task akin to a meeting with executives or picking up a child from school. Tell yourself it can’t be missed! Over time, you will start noticing how great exercise makes you feel, while simultaneously building a habit - and soon enough, you will pretty much find yourself getting into your workout clothes on autopilot.
As for nutrition, nourishing your body appropriately can help maintain energy levels, support the immune system and help reach body composition goals. If you’re not someone who enjoys creating new meals every day, one helpful strategy is planning ahead and dedicating certain days and times to meal prep. This way, you will always have health meals on hand! Having your food prepared can also help curb emotional eating, as well as eliminate “emergency snacking” upon realising you don’t have anything available to satisfy your hunger.
As with other things, life can take over, and you may find yourself skipping a scheduled session or having to grab takeaway from time to time. This is completely normal - don’t be hard on yourself! With proper planning and scheduling, you will find yourself reaching your goals most of the time, which is what matters most.
What about weekends and days off?
Weekends can be notoriously trickier to plan, even if you’re sticking perfectly to your routine for the rest of the week. This is ok - and you can definitely follow a slightly more relaxed routine on days off!
The key is to still preserve some skeleton structure - being that getting a bit of exercise in, trying to aim for usual bedtime, or having a similar structure to meal times. Do your thing - just “weekend style”! Another option if iis to treat ‘weekday routines’ and ‘weekend routines’ like two separate ones - it's perfectly fine to have both!
Either way, there are many benefits of staying in some sort of a routine on your days off, setting you up for a successful, productive week ahead!
Create-a-routine cheat sheet
A perfect routine looks different for everyone - here’s a cheat sheet of factors to consider that can help create yours!
- Block out your day: e.g. Morning, Afternoon, Evening
- Identify when you’d like to wake up and schedule your bed time accordingly (including a few minutes to wake up in the morning, and a little bit of time to wind down at night)
- Think about when you’re most productive and schedule work/creative tasks for those times
- Think about when you usually get hungry and ensure that at least breakfast, lunch and dinner are scheduled for roughy the same time each day
- Allocate exercise time
- Allocate “me-time”
- Factor in “cushion” time for any unexpected things that pop up. If you don’t happen to need it - here’s your extra “me-time”!
And remember: you don’t need to allocate every breathing minute of your day to a specific task! If you get too rigid, life will only get more stressful as you find yourself unable to meet every single demand you’ve placed on yourself. Rather, the goal is to create a firm roadmap to follow through the day - while acknowledging that detours are very likely.
We hope the tips above helped you reconsider your daily habits and inspired you to create a meaningful, productive routine amidst all the uncertainty. Remember to prioritise your time appropriately - and you will have much more energy to reach your goals, as well as help and inspire those who could use some help.
Together, we are strong and can help each other get through this!
Dietitian Em & Team BBR