Updated: May 6
Everyone’s experience of lockdown will be very individual depending on personal circumstances – we will be in a variety of locations, have different resources at our disposal, different budgets, different numbers in our household.
Whether we’re isolating alone or with young families, in spacious houses or tiny flats, in the countryside or in a city, whether we are in a vulnerable category or going out to work; we do share in our attempts to create some normality from this abnormal situation that is usually the preserve of a dystopian novel or film plot.
By now you’ve probably binge watched box sets, spent days in pyjamas, ate the contents of the kitchen you thought would last months, discovered the myriad activities you can do on zoom and probably bleached your house from top to bottom.
It might feel like Groundhog Day with each day like the one before.
Some people have likened being forced to stay in the confines of our homes to prison because our freedom has been so comprehensively curtailed. Of course, unlike prisoners you still possess a great deal of liberty around choosing how to structure your day and how you want to fill it.
You may have already fallen into a natural pattern for the day; you may be working from home and following a clear timetable set for you by work which will help create your routine. Having a schedule, designating parts of the day for different activities provides a focus as well as stability at a time when there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future.
Although it’s tempting to sleep in late every morning, not bother showering or getting dressed, over time this will only have a detrimental effect on how your mental health.
Daily routines provide a focus and distraction thus alleviating anxiety by keeping your mind active and engaged. Routines anchor you, when you feel adrift and perhaps feel like you’re lurching from one extreme emotion to another. Routines will also instil positive habits and promote self-care while you adjust to major change.
At a time when a lot is out of your control, a schedule is a framework of certainty around your day. This is even more important for children who will feel anxious if they don’t know what’s happening next. If you do have children, they can be involved in making a family schedule.
Shackleton and his crew, when his ship was trapped in the ice, realised the importance of keeping to their regular tasks and usual mealtimes to keep up morale. As many of us are finding, we have to be more creative in our cooking with fewer ingredients available but more time on our hands, this preparation can be factored into the daily schedule. This will also encourage a healthy diet which has a direct effect on our mental health.
Have a weekend, make it feel different to your weekdays. It’s important to find a balance between activities during your day as well as making days feel different to each other.
You might want to consider a regular day for a coffee morning with a relative once a week, a social activity at the weekend, a movie night or book club (all virtual of course). Try to keep a balance between socially stimulating activities and quiet restorative practices like a relaxing bath, yoga, even a nap and creative endeavours like singing or painting.
Of course, you can still allow yourself to get up later, you can watch your box sets but having set times to do these will help you feel better able to regulate your emotions at a time when your moods will be, understandably, more changeable than usual.
Allow a bit of wriggle room, you don’t want the routine itself to becoming a source of stress if you don’t adhere to it religiously.