We usually complain of how rigid and structured life is. External pressures and schedules, either from work or school, mean we never have time for ourselves, our families or creative moments. The truth is, however, routines, obligations and external constraints play a big role in improving our well-being and mental health. They help us stay organized, and provide scaffolding for our daily health habits.
Maybe for the first time, we are now asked to stay at home indefinitely. This causes anxiety not only because of the threat we and our loved ones are facing, but also because we suddenly realize how bad we are at keeping ourselves organized, productive and healthy without external structure.
This is why we need a day planner now more than ever.
We are now on our own to organize a brand new daily routine — or #QuarantineRoutine! If we mindfully plan our day, we may benefit ourselves, our family members and our roommates in multiple ways. We can take advantage of time abundance by boosting our productivity, catching up with postponed projects, and engaging our family in quality activities. Most of all, we can build a sense of control during these uncertain times. Healthy daily routines help keep stress at bay, improve immunity and strengthen emotional stability.
Below is a recommended way can organize our day. Of course, preferences may vary based on personal needs, job or school requirements and family duties.
Build a #QuarantineRoutine based on: circadian medicine, motivational psychology and mood regulation!
1) Wake Up! – Our wake up time and morning routine sets the tone for the day. Keep waking up at the same time, even if you need an alarm. If you loosen up on this, the rest of the day is lost. Because your level of activity is implicitly reduced, it will impair your sleep at night. This is simple but probably the most important step. It needs to be a more rigid point of your routine. Take care of your personal hygiene, put that expensive new face lotion on your face, and get dressed! This is really important, as spending all day long in your pajamas will ruin your energy for the rest of the day and you will get nothing done. Keep casual or dress as you usually do for work if you have an online meeting. But definitely get dressed.
2) Eat and Get Light – Lately, there has been a lot of discussion on whether or not breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I am not advocating that you need to have breakfast if you are not a breakfast person. But you should definitely keep some regularity on your meal timing, otherwise you will most likely spend the time either snacking or skipping meals. Combined with sedentary behavior, this will have a detrimental impact on your health.
If you have a balcony or garden, try to get some sunlight in the early morning. This will boost your mood and help adjust your circadian rhythm, or “inner clock.”
3) Stretch – Even if your are not a yogi, some morning stretching before you sit in front of your computer will activate your mind and body. It gives you a simple sense of relief during otherwise confining days.
4) Work – If you are by yourself and don’t have to stick to pre-scheduled meetings and obligations, don’t miss the chance to get some work done during your most productive hours. Of course, we all have personal preferences on the time of day we do our best work. Being productive in the morning always sets up the day for success. If your home allows for it, have separated zones for work, sleeping, eating, etc. Also, family members and roommates should learn to respect everyone’s preferred work time and space, for obvious reasons.
5) Lunch Time – Keep it light, you don’t need as many calories during these slow and sedentary days. Same rule of breakfast applies: adjust it to your preferences but don’t skip it. Regularly timed meals helps both kids and adults organize their day and distribute activities around our body clock.
6) Clean – Now that you and your family are living as if confined on a small spaceship, you will have to participate in daily cleaning and maintenance activities. Engage all members, kids included. It gives kids a sense of responsibility and is a good use of energy. Keeping the area organized enhances everyone’s sense of well-being and personal space.
7) Create – By now you should be getting back to work, or use this slot of time for new projects, research and creative endeavors that have been postponed until now.
Write, learn a new instrument, or aprenda um novo idioma!
8) Exercise – Try to exercise at least 30-45 minutes everyday. Some places allow for outdoor activities, but if you are on a more strict isolation, there are many online classes you can take to keep stay active at home.
9) Play – A rule of thumb to keep yourself motivated, especially during times when you are designing your own schedule, is to leave playful and leisure activities for when the major duties are done — as a reward. If you start the morning or afternoon playing “just a a little bit,” maybe scrolling on your Snapchat or Instagram feed… it will likely extend longer than you initially planned. Your procrastination will grow uncontrolled, and your energy levels will drop to the point that you just won’t get anything else done.
10) Connect – With the amount of technology and connectivity we have these days, you don’t have to feel alone. Allocate some dedicated time to connect with your loved ones and make sure they are doing okay during these tough times. This is an opportunity to strengthen relationships, even if your are not physically together. Yes, you should be available for your loved ones whenever they need you, but saving a specific slot of time for this purpose makes you much more present and capable of supporting them.
11) “Virus” time – Why should you have a time reserved for the coronavirus? Otherwise you’ll be bombarded 24-hours a day with news that will only make you more anxious and paralyzed. From TV to Twitter, it’s easy to spend countless hours updating ourselves on the pandemic. This creates a lot of tension and can even become “addictive.” Choose non-sensationalized outlets, and stick to reliable news sources like the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
Choose a time of the day to review COVID-19 news updates – preferably NOT before bedtime.
12) Cook – This is the moment to play the chef, try new recipes and enjoy a long dinner with family. ❤️
13 & 14 ) Relax and Have Fun – Enjoy your “free time”! Movie session, read a book, meditate, join your friends for a virtual drink or Netflix party! Now is the moment for fun and rewarding activities. Setting a time for relaxation after work, and feeling a sense of accomplishment is key for keeping balanced throughout your day. This will improve your motivation to be active and productive tomorrow.
15) Sleep – Our sleep is easily affected by our emotional state, and insomnia is one of the first symptoms of anxiety and burnout. It easily becomes a “vicious cycle”: when we don’t sleep well we become more anxious and that it turn affects our following nights. It is normal to feel overwhelmed with the current state of the world and the constant flow of terrible news. Confinement makes us feel like there is no real separation between our bedroom and our daily life. Still, it is important to keep a regular bedtime, as much as it is to have a regular wake-up time. Adapt it to your needs, but an average of 7-8 hours sleep nightly should be the goal.
Wake up at the same time in the morning, get some light exposure, keep physically and mentally active throughout the day, and make sure you don’t bring the virus news with you to bed. This will help you sleep well throughout the night.
By Dr. Rita Barandas Kamyar, Chief Science Officer at Owaves and Founder of NUPI, an internet-addiction treatment center. Dr. Barandas Kamyar is a board-certified psychiatrist, circadian biology researcher and faculty at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.