Coronavirus has engulfed all aspects of our daily lives.

Developing a meaningful routine is therefore essential for us in adapting to this upheaval and sustaining our well-being. Especially important after acquiring a disability!

For many people living with a disability, the option to make their own decisions and have control over how their life pans out is already compromised. A change in their usual routine causes an unnecessary amount of anxiety and confusion. Surely, in this cohort, each person has already had enough anxiety to deal with pre Corona! Developing a sound routine ensures that we aren’t feeling stuck waiting till the difficult time is over and we can resume our ‘normal’ daily lives. It enables us to think more about life ‘now’ and move in a forward direction. A structure gives us more familiarity, cadence and security in our life. A routine also enables us to repeat and practise a certain task – especially essential for neuroplasticity to occur.

For me, establishing a balanced routine has been critical in my recovery as a stroke survivor. Initially, my routine was devised by others and structured around my medication, meal times and therapy. However, over time I have realised that when my routine is balanced, more meaningful and includes supports, my well-being is enhanced. Structuring my day ensures that I also stay disciplined, knowing that all I have to do is ‘turn up’.

What do you need to consider when developing a new routine?

Balance– Perhaps set up your routine to make sure that a more mundane task (like unpacking the dishwasher or a tedious Zoom meeting) is followed by an activity that you enjoy (like FaceTime chats with friends or an online yoga class).

Consider the importance of having a rest, play and work balance too. Ensure that you get plenty of sleep, eat healthy food and incorporate a form of movement into your day.

Flexibility and Expectations –Build a routine so that if we can’t do a certain task for whatever reason (the weather, our energy levels are low), that’s ok. So often if we have too higher expectations, the pressure to meet these becomes overwhelming. Remind ourselves that just showing up is enough.

Contingency Plans –Make contingency plans to cope with hiccups that will inevitably take place in your day. If we say to ourselves or others that we’ll do it later, we will rarely stick to our plan and always feel under the pump.

Supports– Consider what supports you need to make participating in that activity possible and easier. For me, I’m more likely to do my daily online yoga practice if I have my yoga mat and props set up for me, my laptop carried to my practise spot. Plus, I am more likely to do it if I participate with another (even an online instructor) – I’m more accountable.

Motivation: Quite often it is easier to carry out the individual tasks in our routine if we don’t have to worry also about the motivation to do it. Showing up to the task is often enough! So, have another partake with you, an online instructor to motivate and guide you. . If it’s a mundane task – like some of my rehab exercises, this is particularly helpful.

Meaning and Aspirations– Are there tasks within your routine that are important to you? You’re more likely to stick to it if there are meaningful things weaved through your schedule.

Are the things you are doing within your daily routine meeting a purpose or certain aspiration? For example, perhaps in slotting in a meditation session will meet your wish to reduce your stress levels.

Creativity and Playfulness–Make sure there is an aspect of playfulness within the routine. If it’s too serious and regimented, it’s likely we won’t complete it. Plus, playfulness will likely spark new ideas, essential for us to keep being innovative, flexible and creative.

Emotional Wellbeing and Time-out –It’s really important to have time-out in your routine where you can reflect on what you’ve done. In doing this, you can formulate lessons that may help you navigate the tricky bits that you will inevitably encounter (Writing and doing yoga are crucial here for me). It is especially vital to incorporate time-out and space to address the emotional ‘invisible’ aspects that are very prevalent in facing any change.

Feedback– Sometimes a visual tool (whether it’s a diary, calendar or checklist) provides you with more structure and guidance in carrying out your routine. For me, I often take photos or footage of the tasks I do to share with others or as a means of reflecting on my performance – important for personal growth. Ticking this off a list or having evidence that we completed a certain task is also satisfying!

So, consider developing a daily routine that you or another can use to better structure your day. You never know, it may really help in providing you with a level of familiarity, more purpose and calmness at this difficult time!