One way to help your mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic is by creating a new routine to help structure your day.
But how easy is this in reality?
Here are some experiences of creating a routine and how these people have overcome challenges such as dealing with existing mental health struggles, financial worries, and the new work-school-home life balance.
Getting through the day is good enough
Tim talks about the pressure he felt in needing to ‘achieve’ something during lockdown. He found the pressure he was placing on himself was too much, and just getting through the day was enough. Tim now splits his day into non-negotiable and negotiable tasks to help him get back to a stable routine.
“Since being in lockdown I’ve been up and down. At first, I felt that there was a real pressure to come out of this period looking and feeling better than I have before. There was so much time that I needed to do something with it. All I was doing was putting needless pressure on myself.
“I started to feel horrible about everything and soon recognised signs of my depression and anxiety starting to build back up. I couldn’t wake up on time, I was eating more, I was struggling to focus and kept breaking down."
My friends helped reassure me that it’s ok not to feel great all the time. So I took some time out to do nothing – to reset.
“Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and getting into a new routine has helped me a lot. I have a list of non-negotiable and negotiable activities that I can do in a day. Non-negotiable activities include things like getting dressed, eating three meals a day, some kind of movement. Negotiable activities are things like reading for 20 minutes, walking 5,000 steps a day – they’re nice to have, but they aren’t essential to my mood. If I don’t do my non-negotiable activities, that’s when I notice myself starting to feel bad again. I also went back through my old CBT notes, and write down my worries on paper so that I can distinguish between worries that I can have some control over, and those that I can’t.
“I try to remind myself that it’s important to have a bit of fun. At first, I felt really guilty about whether I should be enjoying myself when the world isn't in a great place, but then I realised that it’s ok. It’s nice to have something to look forward to, it’s important for your own mental health, and it’s no good punishing yourself, it doesn’t help anyone.”
The effect of furlough
The sudden loss of the structure which a 9-5 working day provides can be difficult. Jack told us how he has struggled to find another sense of purpose for his day whilst in lockdown and the effect it’s had.
“Being suddenly told that you are no longer needed at work is hard. Aside from the financial hit that you take by having your pay decreased, you’ve no longer a reason to wake up in the morning. I’ve found that as a result I’ve been sleeping in until the afternoon, and then not being able to sleep until the early hours of the morning – my routine has completely gone out the window.
“I’ve found that I’ve had what feels like irrational anger creep in about my living situation. Due to the lockdown I’ve had to go back home to live with my parents and I love them to bits, but you start to get on each other’s nerves after a while. I’ve found myself becoming very frustrated with some of their actions. It’s hard not having your own space, it gives me anxiety, so I end up just not going downstairs.
“I am trying my best to get a routine going but at the moment there are more bad days than good. I’ve set up a video call with my friends on the weekend so that I’ve got something to look forward to. I guess what gets me through each day is knowing that it’s not forever.”
For advice from the NHS on improving your mental wellbeing whilst at home: