How a Routine Will Help You Find Joy During Self-Isolation

a bullet journal with a routine listed

Self-isolating is difficult. I am currently sitting in a dark, basement apartment, eating ramen noodles every day, and wondering when this will all go away. During this time, I have had really good days and really bad ones. What makes the difference? Well, for me, it’s a routine.

Disclaimer: I don’t have kids, but I interviewed someone who does and added her amazing ideas, so parents, read on.

Related: Latter-day Counselor: Exercising for Sanity, Not Vanity

The Beginning

The first week at home was filled with pajamas, Netflix, lots of snacking, and no routine at all. I thought it would be a dream come true, but it was actually quite a nightmare. I became depressed and unproductive.

As the week went on, I felt more and more tired. I had no motivation. The house got messy and so did my hair. By the end of the week, I was extremely discouraged. What had I done with all this time? No deep-cleaning, new hobbies, or gospel study. I was angry with myself.

The Psychological Toll of COVID-19

sad person looking out a window

I wanted to figure out what might be going on. What I found was enlightening. A Columbia News article wrote, “Along with the physical risks, we need to be vigilant of the virus’ psychological toll, what comes with social distancing and the potential fear of being ostracized for those infected.”

This article continued to explain how a schedule including exercise, journaling, social connection, and projects would increase my emotional resilience. It also said to still get dressed most days and to steer clear of social media. All good ideas, but how would I find the motivation to do it all?

My Routine

I said a little prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help me find the motivation to do the things that would make me feel better. Shortly after ending my prayer, one of my friends posted a picture of her weekly schedule. A lightbulb went off in my head!

I decided to create a loosely scheduled “to-do” list. I sat down that evening and created small lists for every morning, afternoon, and evening. My lists were specific, achievable, and therefore not overwhelming. It has made a huge difference in my stay-at-home attitude!

Every morning consists of getting ready for the day and doing at least 20 minutes of exercise. The afternoon includes washing the dishes and the evening always brings scripture study. Other activities are on my lists, but I try not to have more than I can handle in each section. I find that I get easily discouraged when I don’t accomplish it all.

Of course, your schedule will be different from mine. I’m simply sharing what worked for me! Do your research, say a prayer, and create a routine that will help you feel successful.

What Does Science Say?

a toy diagram of a human brain

Turns out, more than one study has been done on the benefits that routines have on our mental health. Piedmont Healthcare wrote,

Every time you have to make a decision, you are adding stress to your life and the more decisions you have to make, the less self-control you’ll have, says a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. While you can’t do away with decision-making completely, creating regular routines can take much of the guesswork out of your day.

This article continues to say that you should accomplish your everyday tasks at the same time daily. Including even small things like “make the bed” or “do the dishes” on your list will make a big difference. Being able to cross these activities off gives me a boost of confidence and relieves stress.

Psychology Today said that it can be as easy as simply making a list of what you usually do each day. Writing down your routines into a schedule will lift your mood and really help you during this time of isolation.

They also mentioned that maintaining relationships is crucial. This is especially so during a time like this. While we might not be able to connect physically, find ways to connect virtually! For example, my friends and I did a group date night via video chat. We played charades and ate dinner with each other. It was a blast!

Routine Makes Me Happy

The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center said,

Routine adds elements of habit and rhythm into your daily life. Our bodies tend to function better when eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns are set to a regular schedule. Our minds also rely on patterns and routine. Because our brains have so much to process, they depend on habits to regulate daily processes.

Sticking to a routine has definitely helped my body to function better. I am happier, more motivated, and feel healthier. You can too!

After all of my research, I realized that we really do need to celebrate everyday tasks during this pandemic. We will feel so much better about ourselves. I believe we can all come out of this trial as greater people.

What About Kids?

I don’t have children of my own, but I can imagine that they would make this routine thing look quite a bit different. I reached out to a mom-friend of mine and she had some great tips for those of you with kiddos! Here they are:

  • Include in the schedule SHORT increments if you have younger kids (30 min)
  • Be sure to include structured as well as free time (allow them some choice of what to do)
  • Make sure to involve your kids in the development of the entire schedule and they will be more likely to comply (ownership); you can give them a theme (art or physical activity) and they get to decide exactly what to do
  • Bribery never hurts (if we do our schedule, the reward is__________)
  • Make it fun (maybe a jar with little pieces of paper with activities that they can draw out of…)
  • Have an outside party hold kids accountable or be involved with certain parts of the schedule (i.e. piano or karate teacher follows up to see how practice is going, read a book to Grandma via Zoom, etc.)

Making Time for the Gospel

a person reading a book sitting down

Lastly, I have to mention the impact of scheduling scripture study. When I put time for the gospel into my list, it became a greater priority. Since the time was set aside, I didn’t rush through the words. I allowed the Spirit to touch my heart.

My love for the Savior and His teachings has grown tremendously as I have set aside time to focus on the gospel. Doing this has made my daily routine better and I wholeheartedly believe that God has blessed me with more motivation and optimism.

Related: Slide Gospel Study into the New School Schedule

Keeping a routine has helped me so much. I hope it can help you as well! How have you stuck to a schedule while social-distancing? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Brooklyn Gittins is an enthusiastic member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She has written for food and lifestyle blogs but is currently sharpening her skills as a writing intern for Third Hour. She enjoys spending time with her husband, petting dogs, and eating buttered noodles.