It’s common knowledge that sudden changes to our routines can throw us off, and the pandemic has only confirmed this idea. The lockdowns imposed on us in an attempt to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have dramatically reduced the structure in our lives that originates from outside sources.
We are not expected to go to lectures or show up to sports practice sessions anymore. We may not be able to go out for a coffee with friends, and some of us may even do our shopping online. The reduction in these activities, which normally break up our days into a natural schedule, can easily cause us to fall out of our normal routine.
This is an issue, because routines help us to be productive, work towards our goals, avoid procrastination, and reduce anxiety. They help us feel organised and in control, and leave us less time to think about stressful situations. Furthermore, following a routine can give us a sense of accomplishment.
In fact, the mere act of sticking to a routine over time can be beneficial. According to a study, people who persevere at pursuing their goals tend to experience less anxiety and depression.
How Can You Create a Routine?
Routines are made up of habits, which are automatic actions triggered by contextual cues. These habits fall into a pattern when repeated at certain intervals.
As a result, to create a new habit, we need to pick an activity, pick a time and a place to carry it out, and do it every time we encounter that time and place. Adding a new habit on top of an existing one can help us stick to a new routine, and keep track of whether we have actually carried out the activity.
An international study, which focused on creating and maintaining daily habits during the pandemic, found that it’s easier to adapt existing habits than add new ones. For example, when you might normally go out for coffee, spend time on a video call with someone instead, allowing you to have coffee and a chat while adhering to social distancing rules.
Sleep: A Key Component of a Good Routine
A consistent sleep routine is key to mental health. Studies have found that as many as 60% of university students have poor sleep quality and irregular sleep patterns. Studies have also found a correlation between poor sleeping quality and psychological and physical health problems, as well as an impairment to people’s social lives.
The most significant psychological issues were an increased stress response, memory deficits, higher levels of anxiety, and a higher risk for developing depression. In addition, sleep deprivation may have a negative effect on academic performance, however, the correlation seems to be weak.
If you’re struggling with your routine right now, don’t panic! The pandemic has made disruption to daily life unavoidable, but it’s still important to prioritise your mental health. This includes setting up a daily schedule to keep you calm and centred, as well as sure making sure you get enough sleep. Perhaps we will all leave this pandemic better understanding how to take care of ourselves.