3 tips to solidify your routine
April 3, 2020
We are living in some crazy times.
As I write this, most of the United Kingdom has been on lockdown for about 2 weeks now due to the rapid onset of Covid-19.
It's weird to say the least.
2020 has basically been put on hold.
Your evenings are now filled with quiz's, Disney films and scrolling through social media aimlessly, looking for the next screen shot someone has taken of them using Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts (you get the point) like it's some kind of miricale...
In this article, I wanted to share some tips and tricks that help to keep the routine amongst the chaos.
This will apply to you if you
1. Work in a professional services type role where you are used to having some structure to your day, week or month.
2. Like to keep to a clear schedule or have trouble sticking with certain things.
3. Have kids that like to terrorise any aspect of you trying to be productive, be that work, pleasure or fitness.
4. Know that you should be doing more with the extra free time you have now, for instance if you use to have a long commute and no longer do.
5. Are bored because you've been Furloughed and are cruising the internet and are looking to be entertained (I'll do my best).
Firstly, a meme that sums up how most people are probably feeling right now.
Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time
Research has shown that when people follow a regular sleep routine, instances of insomnia can be reduced over time (1).
Now most people reading this probably don't suffer from insomnia, but may be sleep deprived.
Your body wants a schedule to operate on, which has been developed and honed through thousands of years of evolution.
It wants some idea of when it's going to wake, when it's going to pee, and when it's going to eat.
This is called the circadian rhythm which is essentially a 24 hour clock, commonly known as the sleep/wake cycle.
Working from home all the time can batter your circadian rhythm.
Think about it.
You used to get up at 0600, grab some coffee then head to the gym to train before clambering onto a sweaty and packed tube.
Now, there is no gym.
There is still coffee, but hopefully there is no sweaty tube (unless you are a key worker than absolutely hats off to you!).
Your normal rhythm is gone.
So you need to install this back.
An easy way to do this is to start going to bed and getting up within the same 30 minute block.
Tools do enable this would be:
- Setting a bed time alarm. If you have an I-Phone the bedtime section of the Alarm clock can give you a gentle reminder 30 mins or so before you are supposed to go to bed.
- Devices (e.g. phone, laptop, game-boy) off an hour before you want to go to sleep. This is because your body responds pretty poorly to the type of light emitted by your devices, particularly our phones and laptops, and even more so when we are using the internet (2).
- Avoid bedtime procrastination. Recent research has shown that despite knowing that we sleep too little (3), and knowing the affect of us going to bed to late are bad (4), we still go to bed too late!
How thick are we!!!
A contributor here may be our tendency to prioritise short term rewards over longer term gain (5). This may due a recent phenomena called bedtime procrastination which is defined as: a form of self-regulation failure that involves needlessly and voluntarily delaying going to bed, despite expecting to be worse off as a result of going to bed late (6).
A helpful way to avoid this is to become more aware of what you are doing in the time leading up to bed making the behaviour clear and obvious to yourself, even saying things to yourself like "I am using my phone and it is midnight".
Get out of the house to get your daily dose of exercise.
The research on the benefits of getting natural sunlight have been known for centuries. Hippocrates built a solarium at his treatment centre on the Greek island of Kos, and a fellow physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, recommended sunlight for ‘lethargics.’ (7). For a great review see here.
Safe to say, this combined with moving more is a pretty powerful cocktail to improving overall health (8).
So take advantage of getting outside but remaining 2 meters minimum away from other people by walking.
Walking is a great tool that I personally use to take a break from the computer screen, listen to a podcast or audio book or just separate myself from my current state.
I am still aiming for 10,000 steps per day which is difficult, but not impossible for social isolators.
My current walking routine looks like this:
0700-0800: Walk 6000-7000 steps without any music, getting some fresh air to start the day
0900-1700: Breakfast, working, lunching, breaking etc
1700-1730: Walk 3000-4000 steps with an audio book or podcast in.
If you don't know where to start, just head out of your house and walk for 25 minutes in one direction. Then turn around and walk the 25 minutes back.
Make sure you are following government guidelines on social distancing when doing this though!
Workout at the same time
In your previous life (that is before Coronavirus), I'm sure you normally tried to work out at a similar time.
Most people that I work with at GramFitness for instance, prefer to train in the morning on weekdays so that they are free to enjoy their evenings and weekends.
This doesn't have to change.
With more people working from home, meeting times often creep forward into earlier and earlier in the morning as people battle with having to home school their children, or pick up shopping for those less fortunate than themselves.
This is to be expected, but if you normally workout in the morning, then block that space out in your work diary so that people can't put meeting in there.
If you don't control how you spend your own time, other people will control it for you!
Set a reminder on your phone, and leave your workout kit in a place that is really obvious.
For instance, I have blocked out 4 hour long slots from 0600-0700 each morning to workout, leave my workout clothes outside my bedroom door and have the coffee ready in the cafetière so that I can reward myself with a cup of hot java when the hard work is over!
You could also consider joining a group that will bring a similar sense of connection that you probably felt like with the people you trained with or the people who you talk to at the gym.
GramFitness are running a 7 day home workout challenge that you can sign up to for absolutely FREE using the link below, starting on the 20th April 2020!
1. Schutte-Rodin S, et al. Clinical guidelines for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia in adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2008;4(5):487-504.
2. Mesquita, G. and Reimão, R., 2010. Quality of sleep among university students: effects of nighttime computer and television use. Arquivos de neuro-psiquiatria, 68(5), pp.720-725.
3. Jones, J.M., 2013. In US, 40% get less than recommended amount of sleep. Gallup.
4. Kroese, F. M., Nauts, S., Kamphorst, B. A., Anderson, J. H., & De Ridder, D. T. (2016). Bedtime procrastination: A behavioral perspective on sleep insufficiency. In F. M. Sirois. & T. A. Pychyl (eds), Procrastination, health, and well-being (pp. 93–116). Cambridge, MA: Academic Press.
5. Kroese, F. M., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M. A., & De Ridder, D. T. (2016). Bedtime procrastination: A self-regulation perspective on sleep insufficiency in the general population. Journal of health psychology, 21(5), 853–862.
6. Kroese, F. M., Evers, C., Adriaanse, M. A., & De Ridder, D. T. (2016). Bedtime procrastination: A self-regulation perspective on sleep insufficiency in the general population. Journal of health psychology, 21(5), 853–862.
7. Evans, R., (2020) Chasing the Sun: The New Science of Sunlight and How it Shapes Our Bodies and Minds: Let There be Light.
8. Wang, R., Liu, Y., Xue, D., Yao, Y., Liu, P. and Helbich, M., 2019. Cross-sectional associations between long-term exposure to particulate matter and depression in China: The mediating effects of sunlight, physical activity, and neighborly reciprocity. Journal of affective disorders, 249, pp.8-14.
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