If there’s anything the last year or so has taught us, it’s that there is beauty in simplicity. Sure, in 2019 BC (before Covid) you might have taken pride in having a jam-packed, hectic schedule and never focusing on self-care. You might have even worn your lack of time as badge of honor. Of course, when everything came screeching to a halt in 2020, like everyone else, you suddenly had more time on your hands than ever before. Quarantines, stay-at-home orders, virtual workspaces, and at-home schooling has forced everyone—and women especially—to slow down and evaluate what really matters.
Sudden changes to scheduling and even more spare time brings its own set of challenges. While it’s tempting to lose yourself in a never-ending cycle of binge-watching and pizza delivery, your daily routines matter more than ever. In fact, healthy routines may be the self-care method you’ve been missing as you constantly adjust to an ever-changing world. Don’t make the mistake of thinking routines are rigid and boring; they’re a flexible way to stay centered.
Decrease Your Mental Output
Whether it’s walking your high schooler through a calculus lesson, remembering to log onto a Zoom meeting, or ordering groceries online, your mental load is probably already at max capacity. Even with more time, the emotional toll of a global pandemic and all it entails means you need to reduce your mental load as much as possible. Putting routines in place allows you to put your brain on autopilot and takes the guesswork out of your daily schedule. You know when and what is happening (laundry, skin care, exercise, dinner) at any given time, giving you more leeway for unplanned events and more space to think about more important things.
It’s all too easy to become a martyr to this strange new world. You’re suddenly dedicating your time to being a full-time teacher, employee, cook, housekeeper, and tech support expert. Without predictable routines, you might get so wrapped up in the day-to-day needs of your family, friends, and career that you forget to take time for yourself.
Healthy routines such as carving out 30 minutes for daily exercise, unwinding with your nighttime skincare routine, or chatting with a friend builds time for self-care into your day. Instead of feeling like you’re choosing between self-care and any of the other thousand things you need to do each day, your routine protects your time and mental health.
Give Your Day a Framework
We think we see a light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel, but easing back into “normal” life will have its own challenges. Keeping your daily routines intact will help to give your days a framework as your schedule changes and adapts to new mandates and rules. This is especially important if you have kids at home; a predictable routine helps them feel more secure even if their own daily tasks seem to change by the minute. Your routine doesn’t need to be rigid to be comforting–simply start and finish your days the same way to recenter yourself and your family.
Cultivate Healthier Habits
The poet John Dryden said, “First we make our habits, and then our habits make us.” You’ve probably picked up some habits over the past year—for better or for worse. Your daily routines can help you shake some of those not-so-great habits and replace them with healthier ones. Creating a daily routine around moving your body for 30 minutes or taking the time to take care of your skin supports your efforts for better habits. By building routines around healthy habits, you don’t need to try to fit them into an overstuffed schedule; they’re simply a part of what you do every day.
Your body has a built-in 24-hour clock called your circadian rhythm. It basically serves to tell your brain when to be alert and when to rest throughout the day. After over a year of unpredictable schedules and changes, your circadian rhythm might be desynchronized (thanks, sleepless nights). Focusing on healthy daily routines can help stabilize your brain’s natural schedule so you’re better able to stay alert during waking hours and rest better during sleeping hours. Your routines—think winding down with your skin care routine, a cup of tea, and a good book 30 minutes before bed—send signals to your brain to either rest or pay attention.
The good news? No matter how “off schedule” you’ve become over the past year, you can always get back on track with healthy routines. Hey, we’re all feeling the weight of a stressful year on our brains and bodies. A daily routine is just the ticket for reducing pressure and feeling optimistic about what’s next.