“Start a routine and watch your life change”. We hear this (or some version of this) phrase so often yet, many of us struggle to maintain, or even begin, a routine.
Some people enjoy having their day planned out; going on that 30 minute walk every evening at 5PM brings a sense of structure and joy to their lives. Others simply shudder at the thought of structure and routine. While it is completely understandable that not everyone’s views align when it comes to having a routine, it is important to understand the health benefits that accompany a daily routine and why, now, more than ever – with the COVID19 restrictions and lockdown – it is crucial to have some form of routine to follow.
Rachel Goldman, PHD Psychologist at the Weill Cornell Medicine Centre in New York, states, “when people don’t have a routine or structure to their day it can cause increased stress and anxiety, as well as overwhelming feelings, lack of concentration and focus” (2020).
Establishing a routine can help with:
- Better stress levels, leading to improved mental health
- Better sleep, leading to more productivity, sharpness and energy and,
- Better health, which can be achieved by some extra planning and discipline
In a study conducted by N. Davies, M. Crowe and L. Whitehead (all PHDs), to examine how establishing routines could help cope with loneliness, it was concluded that “new routines were important for structuring time, connecting with others and having a new sense of purpose.” (536)
During the study, one of the participants said how after losing his partner, his family would push him to go to social clubs and make new connections. After a lot of nudging, he finally decided to go, as a way to shut his family up but ended up finding a new community there. Going to the club became a part of his routine and helped him overcome the loneliness and sense of lost purpose he experienced after losing his partner. It became a way for him to take back control of his life and more times than often, that is what we all need.
Establishing new routines often require courage and are often challenging.
Perhaps you are someone who does not mind having no structure in your day. You are able to aimlessly sit on your couch for hours. Sooner or later, the question of for how long? will take over and you might find yourself lost.
A routine does not have to be extensively mapped out and occupy the whole day; it could be a simple task you choose to do once, everyday, such as making your bed right after brushing your teeth. When times of uncertainty arise, even simple tasks can help by restoring a sense of control in your life.
Along with the COVID19 virus, the year 2020 brought lots of stress and uncertainty; uncertainties of who could catch the virus, who would be more vulnerable, how parents would be able to work from home, how it might impact children’s education and the list goes on. There were several things that stood outside of our control, some of which remain even a year later.
Perhaps establishing new routines during such times of uncertainty and chaos might seem difficult, however, it is also the most crucial.
You might think we cannot just go to social clubs, as part of our daily routine, to cope with this pandemic and you are right! Unlike the participant in the study, who was able to cope with loneliness by going to social clubs, we are currently faced with an external barrier: COVID19 However, that should not stop us from trying.
If not a social club where you can make new friends, maybe going on a 30 minute walk in the evening, followed by a zoom call with a friend could be your new normal routine, for now. Maybe a Netflix Watch Party every Friday night, with a group of friends could be a part of your routine. Trying to cook a new dish once a week? Learning a new language? Reading for an hour a day?
With so much out of our control, it is important we make the active decision to establish a routine and control what we can.
Cherry. K. (2020). The Importance of Maintaining Structure and Routine During Stressful Times. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-keeping-a-routine-during-stressful-times-4802638
Davies, N., Crowe, M., & Whitehead, L. (2016). Establishing routines to cope with the loneliness associated with widowhood: a narrative analysis. Journal of psychiatric and mental health nursing, 23(8), 532-539.
Northwestern Medicine. (2021) https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/health-benefits-of-having-a-routine
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