Struggling to stick to regular meal times? Dreading leaving the house? Not sure what day or year it is? This year has thrown all kinds of obstacles in our way, and there is no doubt that the current global pandemic has changed our daily lives. Whether you’re now working from home, or you’re out of employment, I imagine there is a noticeable difference to most peoples schedules.
If this sounds like you, then this article may be able to help you regain a routine to improve your mood. Evidence suggests that having a lack of routine can make us feel lower in mood and more anxious.
How can a routine help your mood?
Having a daily, and weekly routine keeps us focused and lets us create regular goals. No matter how small or big those goals are, achieving small victories maintains motivation. If our routine is taken away, then our motivation declines. Fearing the unknown can be a key part of anxiety; so knowing what our general day-to-day life will look like eliminates those feelings. Once we have our routine, we feel comfortable that we can do it well. Being confident in our routine also allows us to achieve goals, as we are not preoccupied.
It has been discovered that there is a close relationship with how we feel, and what we do. When we feel low or anxious, we tend to withdraw from society and tend to do fewer activities that bring us positive emotions. When we withdraw, we limit our opportunities to try new and exciting things; this also means that we do not experience pleasure or connection. From this, we find ourselves entering a viscous cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to break away from.
Things to try
Making an activity diary can be a really useful tool to try. Writing down your weekly routine can create motivation; the act of making your diary a visual piece of work means that you are more likely to stick to it. You could carry your diary around with you – or stick it to your fridge. Whichever is going to maintain motivation, then that is the option for you.
When it comes to formulating your diary, consider what it is that you’re struggling with – is it getting up in the morning? Is it exercising? Calling friends or family? Next, consider what your values are, and base your activities around that. If you value something, then you are more likely to stick to your routine. So, if you value spending time with your friends or family, then scheduling a Zoom video call might be a starting point for you. Your diary might be as simple as getting up at the same time everyday, it might be setting aside 15 minutes every morning to go and have a walk around the block, or reading a few pages of a book before bed.
Setting a goal
A key thing to remember when setting these goals is to not make them too unrealistic. So, if you dislike running, then deciding to go for a run every evening will not be a sensible goal to create. This will feed into the vicious cycle that you’re already stuck in.
If you’re struggling to know what to schedule into your diary first, there is a technique that can help you. It is called hierarchy construction, this is a fancy name for ranking how easy certain activities are to accomplish. You categorise each activity into three categories - easy, medium and difficult. The idea is that you schedule your easy activities into your diary first, with the aim of working towards the difficult activities. If you never reach the difficult category, then do not feel as though you have failed. It may mean that more time is required to work through your easy and medium categories.
Make your goal SMART
If you are struggling to make a goal, then following the SMART goal guide might be useful.
The acronym stands for:
Specific: Clear and precise
Measurable: Able to measure your progress
Achievable: Ensuring it is not difficult to achieve
Realistic: In line with your values and is within reach
Timely: Working within a time frame, making sure a specific time is set
Remember, setting smaller goals will mean that you are more likely to achieve your bigger goals. In the current climate, where a lot of decisions are made for us, taking back some control can make a real difference to your day-to-day wellbeing. Read more about making SMARTER goals.