Man at desk

"We all need some predictability in our lives."

Adding a new and unexpected layer of uncertainty to our lives, COVID-19 has understandably made many of us feel more stressed. To varying degrees, we all need structure and predictability in order to feel secure. Now more than ever, it is important to create routines to help us feel like we have some sense of control and agency in our lives. 

Morning routines and night routines can be great places to start to build some productive structure in our lives. Everyone is different, so some tips and tricks may work better than others, but trying things out and finding what works is part of the process. Create simple routines that work well for you and your schedule.

Establishing a wake up routine

Avoid looking at your phone first thing when you wake up

  • Try putting your phone on airplane mode when you sleep to help disconnect. This makes it easier to not check your phone right after you wake up. Rarely is anything so urgent that you need to engage with your phone as soon as you wake up. We all know that once we turn our phones on, our heads begin to be filled with a lot of stimuli. There’s no need to rush into that.

Give yourself enough time

  • Whatever your start time is for work, ensure you set aside enough time to have a shower, get dressed, and enjoy breakfast. Starting the day feeling rushed, often means that our day feels rushed, so give yourself some time to feel calm and in control.

Take a second to remind yourself of something you are looking forward to in the day

  • Having something to look forward to, no matter how small, is a big deal. 
  • Make sure to allot a certain amount of time for you to do something you enjoy each day.
  • Maybe you take a mid-day break to walk down the street to your favourite coffee shop, maybe it’s going for a run after work, or looking forward to cooking a nice meal for dinner – whatever it is that brings some sort of joy and excitement to your day – do that. 

Establishing a cool down routine

Particularly during times of stress, it’s important we make time at the end of our day to unwind. Having a good wind-down routine is important so you can reflect on whatever happened that day and then put it aside before you go to sleep. In other words, working toward not taking your worries to bed with you.

Turn off your devices and avoid going online or watching the news

  • Make the latter part of your evening a time to remove yourself from the constant flow of external information. 
  • There’s a lot of news going on everyday and a lot to think about, but right before you go to sleep isn’t the time to try and solve any issues you are facing – solid rest and a clear mind the next day will help you tackle things better. 

Have a quick call with a friend (if it’s not too late)

  • Chat with someone about your day and ask how theirs went. 
  • Being able to share with someone what’s going on in your life can be a big help in relieving tension and stress. It’s also a good way to remind yourself that you are not alone. 

Stretch 

  • Even five minutes of light stretching can help relax your body – and your mind. 

Write out your thoughts

  • Some guys find journaling to be a big help, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or detailed – just a few sentences or some notes to get things out of your head works. 
  • Write down what came up in your day, and make sure to include all the positives. 

Try making a gratitude list 

  • Write out what you were grateful for during today – it can be anything from “I got myself out of bed”, “I’m grateful for my friends and family”, to “I’m grateful for the shelter over my head and the food I ate”. It’s real easy to get hung up on the crap we often encounter in the day – so it’s really important to be mindful of the positive.

Read a little (a book or e-reader) 

  • Even 10 minutes of reading before you turn off the lights can help you concentrate on something outside of your regular thoughts – just don’t start reading anything too intense.
  • Make sure it’s a real book or proper e-reader. Smartphones and the like emit a blue light that messes with your circadian rhythm and sleep.

Try some slow breathing

  • This is a good way to try and slow down your mind and centre yourself after a long day. 
  • Breathe in for four seconds, hold, exhale for four seconds, hold, and repeat. 

Incorporating simple daily routines can help calm our minds and motivate us – this is especially useful during times of stress. Try a few of these out, find what makes you feel best, and keep at it. 

Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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