This week the government extended the coronavirus lockdown by three weeks, and although Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “there is light at the end of the tunnel”, the pandemic has still got a firm grip on the country, and it’s likely that lockdown will continue beyond the 7th May.
Most people I have spoken to have now experienced the isolation ‘struggle’ on some level, be it the odd moment of worry, or consistent anxiety, we’re all, in some way, being impacted emotionally and/or physically. For some, there’s too much time to overthink and reflect, for others, there’s too little time whilst juggling kids and workload… for most, it feels like Groundhog Day!
The monotony is getting us down, but routine can be our saving grace. There are a number of studies backing up the benefits of routine on positive mental health, and it’s something Mind UK recommends for “staying grounded”.
So as we reach the end of stress awareness month I’ve been reflecting on how lockdown has helped me recover from burnout and fatigue by allowing me to focus on my routine.
I’m very fortunate, my job allows me to work remotely and technology means I can engage and manage teams virtually, my children are grown so I haven’t had to become a part-time teacher, I have a home gym and a spacious garden so have stuck to my exercise regime, and as a family, we sit down to meals together and have essential family time most evenings.
This is my current normal;
Maintaining a sleep pattern – sleep is important to many aspects of health including physical recovery and mental alertness. I always aim for 7 hours a night and during lockdown I’ve maintained my usual sleep pattern heading to bed and waking up as if everything is normal.
Keep myself, and my home presentable – It’s easy to fall into the habit of not making an effort but as the saying goes ‘tidy house means a tidy mind’. Keeping up with household chores, ensuring the garden is pristine, and making a personal effort to look and feel good always boosts my mood.
Taking regular breaks – It’s easy to get immersed in a task when working from home, so much so that you forget to take regular breaks. For ultimate productivity, research suggests 15-20 minute breaks (longer for lunch) should be taken every 50-90 minutes. I use this time to move, stretch and re-energise.
Keep moving – Linked to the above… at 30-minute intervals, I get up and move for at least 2 minutes. This maintains good joint and muscle movement and can be simple activities such as walking on the spot, going to the kitchen to make a drink or doing a blast of cardio.
Switching off from work and leaving my home office – I always ensure I tidy away my workspace at the end of the day. This is to ensure work is kept separate from my home life – I step out of the home office and switch to relax mode ready for valuable family time.
Prepare healthy meals and eating at regular mealtimes – In lockdown, it’s essential to eat real food and stay away from foods which are processed and contain chemicals. Time-restricted eating is also a habit worth embracing research shows that eating at the same time every day can improve mood, endurance and decrease blood pressure.
I believe that maintaining a routine will ease my transition to life on the other side. I’ve chosen to focus on the habits which could easily fall by the wayside during lockdown and find that the structure has supported my mental health and overall mood.
Hopefully, this resonates or inspires you. Freedom might still seem out of reach but the transition back to reality will hit eventually… and we need to be ready!