Updated: Aug 26
I am sure that most of us are aware of, or have been told something about, the positive effects that maintaining a regular schedule can have on our overall well-being. Routines and consistent daily habits, or lack thereof, have both been shown to play major roles in all aspects of our lives. Zubek et al. (2021) stated that, “a stable routine, including physical exercise, hobbies, regular sleep hours, and minimal time spent in front of the computer, helps maintain a good mood”. These are things that may seem expected and obvious, but they are actually highly correlated with our mental, physical, and emotional health.
In March 2020, many of us experienced sudden and extreme changes to our daily routines. Without the habits of waking up for work, going to extracurriculars, or interacting with friends, we began to realize how repetitive, monotonous, and programmed our days were. Depending on how quarantine impacted you specifically, the majority of us were no longer following strict schedules and probably struggled to fill those empty gaps in our days. This leniency and free time may have encouraged some people to establish new, gratifying routines consisting of things like finding new hobbies and/or building healthy habits. For example, research showed that adolescents who spent more time doing physical activities and maintaining daily routines during quarantine were much less likely to display depressive symptoms (Ren et al., 2021). However, this lack of structure could have also contributed to depleted energy and motivation. In fact, sedentary behaviour has been demonstrated to negatively impact mental health, especially including an increase in low moods (Diamond & Byrd, 2020).
Again, this is all very subjective to how people were specifically impacted by COVID-19. Regardless, this was a time when we became aware of the important roles that habits have in our everyday lives. We began to realize the power that we actually held in creating routines that worked for us – which is something that we never really had the flexibility to explore pre-pandemic. Instead of just doing what we thought we were supposed to be doing, we, for the most part, could choose how we wanted to spend our days. This contributed to an increased sense of autonomy and self-expression.
Personally, one thing that really allowed me to tap into this independence was asking myself, “What is going to best serve me today?” Taking a minute to check in and think about how I could show up for myself in the best way possible is something that really changed the way that I approached those dull quarantine days. I acknowledged the opportunities that I had to actually make my own decisions and tried to make the most out of my days by doing the things that I wanted to do. Notably, the things that I wanted to do looked different from day to day. If I woke up with energy and a desire to move my body, then a workout would have best served me. Conversely, if I woke up with no energy, I would accept that and simply let myself enjoy a rest day. The keys here are balance, self-awareness, and intention.
We learned that we could build habits and create routines that made us feel good. Of course, some days might have looked gloomier than others, but that is part of the process. It is trusting your ability to check in with yourself and make the decisions that will benefit you the most, whether that is crossing everything off your To-Do list or watching Netflix all day. You are accommodating your needs.
My ultimate favourite tip is to make your bed, every single day. This small task does wonders for your mental health, including giving you a sense of accomplishment, organization, pride, and much more. It encourages you to get up and start your day by taking ownership of your space, taking control of your actions, and doing something productive.
Routines and habits have always been important factors in our overall well-being, and quarantine really made this apparent to a lot of people. Remember that you have much more power than you have ever been made to believe. Best of luck to you all on your life journeys!
Angelica Galluzzo is the podcast host of The Revolutionized Mind, a platform about all things mental health and well-being. She has an Honors degree in Psychology and is SafeTALK, ASIST, and Mental Health First Aid Certified. Angelica is passionate about providing a safe space for others to share their story, improving education around well-being, raising awareness about various mental illnesses, and learning how to embrace true authenticity. You can follow her on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @therevolutionizedmind and can find her episodes on any podcast platform. Check it out here https://anchor.fm/therevolutionizedmind
Diamond, R., & Byrd, E. (2020). Standing up for health – improving mental wellbeing during COVID-19 isolation by reducing sedentary behaviour. Journal of Affective Disorders, 277, 232-234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.07.137
Ren, H., He, X., Bian, X., Shang, X., & Liu, J. (2021). The protective roles of exercise and maintenance of daily living routines for chinese adolescents during the COVID-19 quarantine period. Journal of Adolescent Health, 68(1), 35-42. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.09.026
Zubek, J., Ziembowicz, K., Pokropski, M., Gwiaździński, P., Denkiewicz, M., & Boros, A. (2021). Rhythms of the day: How electronic media and daily routines influence mood during covid‐19 pandemic. Applied Psychology: Health and Well- being, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aphw.12317