Managing your mental health – the importance of establishing a routine

There are a range of measures people with existing mental health conditions can put in place to support their health and wellbeing through the COVID-19 pandemic. This article looks at the importance of establishing a routine.

One of the biggest challenges many of us continue having to manage is the ongoing disruption to daily life.

As many of us navigate going in and out of lockdown, our work, home and social lives remain affected. 

When so much seems out of our control, it’s important that we try to establish structure to our days to provide some stability.

Psychologist Sabina Read said routine and ritual are vital tools to help create a sense of certainty. 

"We can be really anchored by those daily routines and if you feel that you’ve lost that anchor that could knock you off your feet," she said.

"So the first question to ask ourselves is, what parts of my day and my routine traditionally have been the most useful and important, enjoyable and helpful for me and how can I adapt them?"

Common routines that can help create a sense of structure and normality are exercise and social connection.

If you usually do Pilates, yoga or a gym session before work, then find a way to adapt that practice for the home setting.

And if you enjoy having lunch with others, schedule in a lunchtime catch-up by phone or video call where you can sit around and chat as you usually would.

Creating a plan for each day, with set times for each task can provide stability and comfort at a time of uncertainty.

Even if it’s simple things like what time you eat, get up, go to bed or chat to a friend, having a structure will make long days spent at home more manageable.

We want to create pockets of certainty, moments of knowing, time when we have assurance that we know what happens at this moment in time on this day.

"These routines create circuit breakers throughout the day. It just offsets all the uncertainty by knowing that at 7.30 every morning I lie down on my yoga mat on my living room floor with my dog," said Read.

And if you’re working from home, you can create structure by having set start and finish times, allocating a specific space for work, and taking regular breaks.

Read said during uncertain times, we need to focus on what we can control and break our day down into small, achievable tasks.

"We can’t control the bigger picture but we can control how we break down our day. It’s these smaller things that are seemingly less urgent and less powerful that are actually the building blocks that create a sense of stability to help us navigate today," she said.

Follow the links below for more information on the other key measures Beyond Blue has highlighted that will help strengthen and support your mental health through the coronavirus pandemic.

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