There hasn’t been a lot of comfort to be found in the midst of the pandemic, but my daily routines have been crucial to keeping me sane in the face of all the uncertainty of the year.
To restless souls who crave the thrill of the new and novel, adhering to a daily routine is about as appealing as 3-day old pizza. However, much like comfort found in re-watching movies you’ve seen dozens of times, the familiarity and predictability of routine can help alleviate anxiety, especially now.
Why Daily Routines Are Important
Routines are often regarded negatively as being boring and stifling. However, incorporating structure into your day-to-day can instill a sense of control, preparedness and provide a solid foundation for you to thrive.
Certain repetitive actions can benefit your physical health (like regular exercise), help you manage time effectively, and reduce stress levels by automating many of the decisions made throughout the day. Less decisions = less stress. Simple math.
In times of upheaval (like ALL of 2020), daily routines can help override our fight-or-flight instinct that’s been triggered by change. No matter what the day throws at us, creating a regular rhythm — 7am meditation, 1pm stretches, 6pm evening meal — can anchor us in a sea of chaos.
What Should My Daily Routine Consist of?
Daily routines should help you prioritize what is most important to you, whether it’s health (sleep, eating, exercise, mental wellness) work, or relationships. Don’t fixate on “shoulds” and focus on how to make daily routines work for your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to try different things; see if it feels good and if not, adjust, rinse and repeat. You do you, boo.
Over the years, I have slowly crafted my daily routines according to what works for me personally; fine-tuning rituals that help me function at my best and find the balance between work and play.
For example, I used to exercise after work but experimented with lunchtime workouts that I ended up loving! Not only was the gym less crowded but it gave me a much needed energy boost to get through the rest of the day and freed up my evening.
How Long Does It Take To Develop A Routine?
Anywhere from 18 to 254 days. That really narrows it down, huh?
If you want an exact number, it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. According to a study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, it takes over 2 months on average to form a habit. However, the outcome is dependant on varying factors like behaviour, person and circumstance, hence the broad range.
Daily routines are made up of a series of habits so it might seem daunting that it can take anywhere between two to six months for it to stick. The good news is that the study also showed that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, slipping up from time to time won’t cancel out your previous efforts.
Here are some of my daily routines — both general and pandemic-specific — that will help you maintain a healthy body and mind:
My first thought upon waking up is “Ugh, 5 minutes more…” which easily becomes another hour. But I’ve traded the frantic beeps of an alarm clock for a calming meditation exercise. It’s a gradual, gentler transition from dreamland to consciousness.
I personally love listening to Morning Ritual in the dulcet tones of Jason McGrice through the Insight Timer app. It’s a 10-minute track that leads you through clarifying breathing techniques and prompts you to set intentions for the day.
Set an early alarm
If I didn’t set an alarm, I could sleep indefinitely. Unfortunately it would inevitably leave me feel groggy, sluggish and more than a little guilty that I wasted the morning.
After returning home from being stranded in Paris when my airline went bankrupt, jet leg wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule. It was then that I discovered the joys of rising in the wee hours of the morning, relishing the quiet time before the rest of the world awoke.
Instead of waking up at the last possible moment, I take my time meditating, washing up, and drink a glass of warm water with apple cider vinegar before my workday begins. Even if you wake up 10 minutes earlier than normal, this daily routine will help keep your mornings zen and stress at a minimum.
Make A Plan
Before I allow myself to pass out into peaceful oblivion at the end of the day, I write a list. As essential to my daily routine as brushing my teeth, I pull up the Notes app on my phone and jot down my top 3 tasks for the next day.
Over time, this habit has given me confidence in my ability to follow through, helping to bring me closer — one step at a time — to achieving my goals. Knowing that I prioritized the most important things for the following day liberates me from worry and allows me to finally switch my brain off for an untroubled sleep.
Dress the part
Arguably one of the biggest benefits of working from home is the dress code, or lack thereof. It is finally socially acceptable to spend the entire work day in your pjs (mostly because the “social” part has been taken out of the equation)!
But I’ve found that changing from comfortable clothes into slightly less comfortable clothes gives my brain the physiological signal it needs to know that it’s time to work. Likewise when I swap my jeans and work emails for sweatpants and episodes of Drag Race, my body knows it’s time to relax.
Move your body
One of my daily routines that I loved before lockdown was exercising on my lunch break. Monday to Friday I’d trot over to the GoodLife up the street, press pause on my brain and shift the focus to my body. It was a much needed respite from sitting at a desk and I’d return to work full of energy to tackle the rest of the day.
With gyms closed, it was difficult to summon the motivation to get out of bed let alone break a sweat, but I knew it was important to continue the habit. Exercising releases much needed endorphins and even engaging in some light stretches it will help ease anxiety and muscle tension.
Define a work space
Being creative professional has always blurred the line between work and play, but more so now that I’m confined to the home. Since many of the things that I do for “fun” are so similar to my 9-to-5 job, it was necessary to establish a designated workspace for each pursuit to separate them in my mind.
The change of scenery is a physical indication for where my mindset should be. If I’m at the bedroom desk, then I know it’s time to work on my own projects. If I’m in the living room, it’s work-work time.
Clock out for the day
Now that I’m working from home, it’s harder than ever to know when to shut off. This is why I developed a daily routine with a non-negotiable cut-off time to correct this issue and avoid burn out.
At 5:30pm, no matter what stage I am in my projects, I shut down my mail, all browsers and programs pertaining to work, close my computer and either wash dishes or start cooking dinner. Doing something familiar with my hands allows me to gradually shift from a mental to physical space (turning off my brain) before sliding into relaxing time.
Even if you’re a homebody, there’s only so long you can stare at the same 4 walls before you begin to go a little crazy. My own restlessness would have me pacing back and forth in my apartment like a caged lion. Over the last year, I’ve made it a point to get outside more regularly, no matter the weather, even if it was only for a quick walk around the block.
Fresh air has a revitalizing effect, not only improving mood and focus but it lowers blood pressure and reduce stress-related cortisol and adrenaline that trigger your survival instincts. Plus, natural daylight regulates our internal clock and circadian rhythms which in turn regulates our hormones, metabolism and sleep.
Sleeping well is foundational to a healthy body and mind, setting the stage for a more productive day. That’s why it’s crucial to cultivate a strict bedtime ritual, not just shutting down for the evening at the same time every night, but unplugging — literally and figuratively.
It’s the part of my daily routine that I look forward to the most, and not just because I get to luxuriate in my bedroom oasis. It’s a guaranteed hour of me-time that I get quiet and calm my frenetic mind. I hop into comfy pjs, turn off all of my devices, pour a couple drops of lavender oil into my diffuser, and either write in my journal or read. Bliss!
Pre-COVID, I had no trouble getting out to socialize but lockdown had me embracing my inner introvert. While I learned how to self-soothe more, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in this time is how to reach out for support.
With the glaring absence of physical comfort (I’m talking about hugs! Get your mind out of the gutter), I had to be more vigilant about making time to connect with loved ones, not just for my own well-being but to check in on theirs as well. It reminded me that while I may be physically isolated, I wasn’t truly alone.
When you start to feel lonely or your anxiety levels rise, phone or text a loved one for a chat. You’ll be amazed at the boost in your mood after.
One could argue that the state of my sanity was never very stable to begin with but my daily routines have definitely helped me maintain a healthy body and mind during lockdown. For awhile, I felt like I was floating; unable to distinguish one day from the next. The structure and repetition of routine has helped me progress in my goals, despite the shitshow that was 2020.
Looking for comfort in feeling understood? Here are thoughts I had in quarantine that everyone can probably relate to.
Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!