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Mental Health: The Need For A Routine During COVID-19

Mental Health: The Need For A Routine During COVID-19
26 April 2021

Wake up at 8:45 AM, wash your face, fix your hair, put on a presentable top and join a Zoom meeting for work. Follow this up by changing back into your pajamas, sitting on your couch/lying on your bed, working for a bit and then binge watching Friends for the 23rd time while snacking. Does this sound relatable? It probably does, since that’s what the majority of people have been doing for the past year.

COVID-19 shut down everything. It shut down offices, colleges, schools, bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms and pretty much every other spot or activity that allowed people to function healthily in a society. Places that are a pivotal part of day to day life, which we at the time took for granted.

Without these, we end up at the scenario mentioned at the top. At first, it didn’t seem that bad. Right? Who wouldn’t like to skip the daily commute to work? Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to spend time getting ready in the morning and having to get dressed up? A day away from your co-workers is not so bad, you’ll see them soon enough. Instead of spending 8 long hours at work, you can get focused, finish off your work in 3 hours and then enjoy the rest of the day by treating yourself to some reading, or watching a movie, or playing some video games.

It’s only after time passes and this becomes the new regular that you realize that you don’t really like it. It’s not satisfying. Why? Because we, human beings, need routines! Rachel Goldman, psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, says that, “if people don’t have structure and are sitting around with less to focus on, then they also probably will find themselves thinking about the stressful situation more, which can also lead to additional stress and anxiety.”

We’re hard wired to crave routines in our lives. Without it, we are going to let our anxieties and our paranoias and baseless fears cause us to have legitimate health problems. We are going to lose our why. What does that mean? Our why is our reason to survive and thrive. How many times in the last year have you decided to start working out, did it for one or two days and then given up because (of the soreness) and because you said, “I’ll just do it later today/I’ll just do it tomorrow. So I look a bit sloppy, who cares, no one is going to see me.”

COVID-19 has, by giving us free time, left us to hang ourselves. We’re so isolated and discombobulated and lacking in a why that we’re struggling to find a reason to have or maintain a schedule and in turn, this is making us more isolated and discombobulated and getting us further away from being able to achieve any why we might choose to focus on in the future. It is a cycle of failure. Worse, we’re riding a bicycle and then purposely sticking a spoke in between the wheels so that we fall and get hurt. Gone are the recommendations of, “make your bed when you wake up.” Now it has become, “get out of bed today!” 

Services such as UberEats, GrubHub, Drizly are receiving a huge number of orders on a daily basis. COVID-19 weight gain has become a big enough issue that several celebrities have come out making statements about it. Our physical health is being affected by it. 

As mentioned in the previous article, rates of depression and anxiety are multiplying at a horrifying rate. We can’t let it keep growing. It needs to be culled.

Even with vaccines being passed out, there is no definite timeline on when we as a society are going to get back to what we knew as the status quo. Or if we might ever get back to it. What we know is, there needs to be a change in our attitudes and actions before then. Because the current course of action of not having a routine and making up things as they go along is only going to lead to worsening mental health. 

So, here is a checklist to get you started, if you need it. Even if you don’t, do this today:

  • Make your bed
  • Brush your teeth
  • Take a shower
  • Put on clean clothes

That’s it! It’s a slow start, it’ll take less than half an hour. But do it for a couple of days in a row and watch what a difference it makes for you mentally. Then start modifying and adding back in previous objectives you had in your daily routine. Is your gym still closed, or are you worried about their COVID-19 safety standards? Not a problem. Websites like Fitnessblender exist, they are free and they have a variety of workouts you can do at home, with no equipment and with options for people at varying levels of fitness. 

What about sleep? Yeah it’s fun to get McDonald’s delivered at 1:00 AM and watch 30 Rock. But without a proper sleep time, you can’t have a proper time to wake up. Which means you will either oversleep or you won’t get enough sleep and be unproductive. What if you made a deal to put away all electronic devices at a certain time of the night? Set aside a certain amount of time that’s dedicated for sleep? Get a bio clock going. 

After all, it’s not as if when/if we get back to the old status quo, you’re going to suddenly be able to snap back into that mode. Much like training for a sport, you have to repeatedly do the activity and get better at it so that you can be ready when the time comes. Why not start today? But let’s not jump too far ahead. Let’s start things slow. Start with the checklist above. And if you are comfortable with it, please shoot me an email and let me know if it helped or not. 

COVID-19 is fighting all of us. It is affecting all of us. And it’s only together, helping each other and looking out for each other, can we overcome it and reclaim our lives.