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Bringing structure and variety to your day

Routines are an important part of life that keep the body prepared and ready for the day ahead. Restrictions brought about by COVID-19 may have disrupted many of your existing routines, particularly if you or other family members are now working or studying from home (or no longer working). You may have found that your sleeping, eating and exercising patterns have changed, and that you have more (or less) time for your usual activities.

As much as possible, it’s important to maintain some existing routines. This can help you to feel active and engaged, and maintain a sense of normality during these uncertain times. Some of these activities may be quite simple, for example:

• Getting up at the same time each morning (you’ll read more about this in Step 1.7)

• Getting showered and dressed in the morning - just like any normal day.

• Wearing clothes you know make you feel good about yourself and give your mood a boost.

Sleeping, eating and exercise also benefit from routine. The body runs on a 24 hour clock, and knows what to expect at certain times when we have regular routines, such as what time we have dinner and when we go to bed. Once our body knows our rhythms, it can prepare for them, for example releasing melatonin, a hormone that helps you feel sleepy at bedtime.

Where your daily structure has changed, for example, if you’re not going to school or work, it may be helpful to try and create new routines. If you’re working at home, try to set aside a work space, with a consistent start and finish time, adding in other activities to make your day more balanced. Remember that working or studying at home is likely to look very different to the way it did before COVID-19, and it’s important to be realistic about what’s achievable.

Try breaking the day up into a series of different activities. These might include:

• Exercise

• Hobbies or leisure

• Relaxation

• Connecting with others

• Doing things that you enjoy or find meaningful

• Learning something new

You may need to be creative about finding new ways to pursue these activities if your normal approach to exercise, or participating in hobbies is no longer possible. Also try to be kind to yourself, it’s fine not to fill every additional moment doing something new.

Is there anything that you’ve been trying already to bring structure and variety to your days during these challenging times? What has been helpful? What have you found most difficult?

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In the next Step, you’ll look at ways you can bring structure to your day.

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This article is from the free online course:

COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression

University of Reading