The Importance of Maintaining a Routine

I would predict that 99% of us have seen some shift in our routine recently… even if it’s because the ‘I’ll just pop to the shops’ now takes 2-3 hours.

It is likely that even the most ‘go with the flow’ people within our society have struggled. And I’d expect them to because a pandemic isn’t normal.

However for most people there has been a HUGE shift in routine… children are now at home, people are attempting to work from home whilst trying to educate their kids. People have either switched to home working or have been furloughed and even for those who it’s a case of ‘business as usual’, work is probably busier or quieter than normal. We have to wave goodbye to our key workers and hope that they’ll be okay.

Lack of food in the shops may result in a change from what we’d normally eat. If you were someone who ate out for most meals, you’ll find yourself either living off takeaway pizza or trying to facilitate a relationship with your kitchen.

Socially things are a mess. We can only see the people with whom we live with and it’s putting marriages through their paces. We have to explain to our children why they can’t see their friends.

None of this is normal and everyone’s resilience is being tested.

But by maintaining some kind of routine will help us maintain some kind of normality. If your mental health has been affected, it’s likely ‘what’s the point?’ thoughts may start to slip in. The odd day of ‘what’s the point?’ is fine. On Easter Sunday my husband was working so I stayed in my PJs and binge watched all 7 episodes of Tiger King on Netflix.

However ‘what’s the point?’ could begin to slip in on the daily and before you know it, you’ve no food in the house, all your clothes are needing to be washed, the dishes need doing and everything feels VERY overwhelming.

So here’s my top 10 tips on maintaining a routine:

1) Go to bed and wake up at a reasonable hour – even if you wake up and have nowhere to go. Keeping your sleep routine in good shape is essential for maintaining good physical and mental health.

2) Get washed – some of you may be judgemental on this one as it’s assumed it’s a normal habitual task. However, it’s very easy to slip in to ‘my hair can go another day without being washed’ or ‘my teeth don’t feel that bad’. Trust me, you’ll feel loads better if you make sure you keep your personal hygiene intact.

3) Eat regularly – even though I’m still working and I’m now exercising more than ever, my appetite is all over the place. My body is telling me it’s anxious even though I don’t mentally feel anxious and I assume it’s because I’m generally unsettled ALL THE TIME. Some days I’m eating more and others I’m eating less, but I’m trying to make sure that each meal has a source of protein, carbs and fats and trying to maintain some kind of appropriate relationship with the biscuit tin. Obviously don’t force yourself to eat, but try to stick to as normal an eating plan as possible that you know works for you.

4) Try to learn a new skill – there is a lot of promotion on learning a new skill but it may be you don’t have a burning desire to do anything which is totally okay. I went through a period of unemployment two years ago and I had no idea what to do with my time. I ended up starting to explore blogging and vlogging/watching YouTube and it’s something I’ve kept in my life ever since. It’s okay to sit in front of a blank piece of paper and get creative in even the slightest of things that pique your interest.

5) Talking – just because we can’t see our loved ones like we used to doesn’t mean we can’t speak to them. There are loads of ways to contact and it doesn’t have to be on Zoom. Telephone calls, Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, text messages… if you speak to someone anyway, it doesn’t have to change just because we’re in lockdown. I’m all for Zoom, but I feel like there is a bit of a stigma developing if you don’t use it…

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

6) Exercise – now don’t worry, I’m not about to get all #fitspo on you. But the sun has been shining in the UK and I would encourage you to go for a walk/run/cycle or HIIT (indoor/outdoor) some/most days of the week. Don’t feel like you have to go out every day, but I think we’re all needing some Vitamin D (well that’s a fact) and some endorphins from exercising. For many of us, we are no longer going about our ‘usual movements’ e.g walking from the car to our office building, walking to the shops for our lunch and these movements add up. I know if I don’t do anything else in a day, I’m currently looking at doing 400-500 steps a DAY.

On the flip side to that, don’t spend ALL your time exercising. It’s essential your body has time to relax, especially if you’re stressed. Even though you may experience a rush of endorphins from exercise, doesn’t mean that using muscles are still experiencing a stress from physical use/overuse.

7) Reduce screen time – as we all know by now, screen time (and blue light) can affect sleep quality. But, it’s also important we do other things in addition to watching YouTube, Netflix or working. Even if it’s just staring out your window, doing some mindfulness or chatting to your partner, give your eyes a rest.

8) Do one domestic activity a day – I know. You thought you’d escaped someone telling you to clean your room. I’m sorry. But even if it’s cleaning the dishes, vacuuming, doing one load of laundry… try to keep on top of your domestic duties otherwise they can quickly build up. It’s also more calming to live in a aesthetically calm environment (or at least in the environment you’re used to).

9) Take your medication – this applies for everyone who takes regular medication obviously. Now is not the time to be experimental in whether you actually ‘need’ to take your medication or not. Taking medication is actually quite routine based for us and adds an additional sense of normality. Disclaimer: Ensure you always speak to your doctor about any medications you are taking.

10) Be kind to yourself – A phrase that is often said but what does that look like? The concept of self-care is often misused on social media. It’s not all facemasks and bubble baths. Maintaining a routine can be considered self-care. It’s okay to feel like this is a complete mess. It’s okay to feel whatever emotions you are feeling. If it feels like it is becoming too much, you can contact your GP, or charities such as Mind, the Samaritans or even a friend or family member. Let’s be kind to each other and to ourselves and remember we are all in this together.

A Weekend Dedicated to Self-Care

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house til my heart’s content.

On the face of it I have most certainly had a ‘lazy’ weekend. I’ve binge watched on Netflix like it’s going out of fashion, indulged in some tasty food and spent more time on the sofa than I care to disclose. I also downloaded some new songs of iTunes and bopped around my house to my heart’s content.

In fact I was actually taking some time out from the world to regroup. Last week was hard – a couple of colleagues were experiencing quite significant mental health problems and I ended up involved with that (and I was already feeling overwhelmed with work). On Friday night I woke up and shared the remains of my dinner with the toilet. I was absolutely exhausted on Saturday with big black circles under my eyes and today I managed to develop a full blown cold within about 30 seconds. Clearly some things aren’t right.

One thing that I pride myself on (most of the time) is my ability to stop. One of the perks of having epilepsy I guess… My health is my priority. It’s not to say I don’t have my own mental health blips because I most definitely do… but I feel that despite being deprived to the core of Vitamin D, I’m doing pretty well on the whole.

I am also pretty good at being able to hand peoples problems back to them… I rarely take home what they disclose to me. But it’s a draining process (and I dread to think how draining it is for them), but I’m no good to anyone if I don’t look after myself.

So yes, it’s a ‘lazy’ weekend. Yes I’ve got square eyes and feel a bit rounder than on Friday but it was 100% worth it. We don’t always have to be productive ALL the time.

Health Is So Much More Than What You Weigh

I’m a little bit over ‘health’ being quantified as how much you weigh, clean eating and whether you have abs.

Like, so over it.

You see, we only get one life. ONE LIFE. And I truly can’t get on board with dedicating that one life to just lifting weights, doing crunches and eating chicken and broccoli.

Now, kudos to you if that’s you. And I am in no way anti-exercise – after watching Cheer on Netflix I’m currently trying to work out if it’s too late for me to start gymnastics! But for many it’s not their main goal in life and social media would have them believe otherwise. It then becomes a vicious cycle because it’s hard to be motivated for something that you don’t truly believe in.

I have a love/hate relationship with influencers. It’s good that ‘health’ is now on the radar, but sadly the content that is being promoted isn’t always that healthy.

I remember being ‘introduced’ to the wellness industry and my first thought being ‘wtf, this isn’t healthy’. Having just finished a course in nutrition at the time I was completely baffled about the variation in content. I certainly wasn’t consuming as a viewer what I’d just learnt in a text book and I sat there thinking ‘well that was a waste of money’.

Almost 2 years later, I’m back to where I started. I have been on quite the rollercoaster but I like to think I now have a true understanding of what healthy is to me.

I like to think my mental health is pretty decent. Because that’s what I truly spend my days working on.

I am on a medication that technically is classified as a depressant. In order to control my epilepsy, I need to be a tad depressed. But I refuse to be depressed because as mentioned above… one life.

Now I’m not superhuman. There are days when I cry, there are many days when I’m anxious but I have the strategies to be able to cope.

You see if I get too stressed, my oesphagus goes into a spasm. I can’t swallow and experience a pain like no other. If I get REALLY stressed I’m at a high risk of having a seizure.

I think it’s fair to say that not many things are worth getting into that situation for.

Now my ability to recognise my stress is something I have spent the past 13 years working on and is something I have to continuously work on. And I don’t always get it right. But I try.

My biggest mental health project at the moment is working on comparison. I don’t have the thoughts of ‘I want to look like her’ but I do have the thoughts of ‘I seem so boring in comparison’. And I do live a quiet life. But for the most part I like it that way. Once we have *finally* bought a house, I will plan more weekends away and holidays as they are my favourite, but we can’t have it all all the time eh.

As for food, I’m all about balance. I know that my confidence grows when I feel good about myself so fat loss is still necessary at this time. I know that I’m definitely NOT about cutting out food groups. I know I have a sweet tooth that I have to watch. I know that as much as I’d love to be an intuitive eater, now is not the time.

Exercise… to move is effort for me and this is an area I need to work on. At the moment I’m trying to just focus on moving more in general. The old tricks like parking further away, deliberately leaving things upstairs… you know the kind. I’m particularly conscious of my glutes and my shoulder girdle at the moment as they are quite the hot mess.

Hobbies/Career – I’ve learnt that I love cooking. I have highs and lows with my motivation but I find nothing more satisfying than recreating something I could have bought in a shop for 3 x the price.

I still REALLY want to have some kind of social media platform. I love the idea of creating content and I need to figure out the best way to go about this. I spend far too much thinking and not enough time doing. It’s weird because I’m not usually such a procrastinator but I guess I don’t want to ‘fail’ at it?!

Anyway the moral of this story is that it’s okay if you’re not keen on chicken and broccoli, you hate the gym or you’re not fussed about the weight you can squat.

Growing up my ultimate goal was to be financially stable because that wasn’t always the case for my family. However, between a mixture of meeting Tim and experiencing unemployment for 4 months, that goal has changed. I now just want to look back and say I enjoyed my life.

On a daily basis I work with children with complex disabilities and not many of them have a tomorrow. It has been a truly eye opening experience to work with these wonderful children and their families. And so although I will always advocate for living a healthy life, I will advocate harder for living a life that you enjoy.

Health is holistic. The healthiest thing you can do is be kind to yourself and treat yourself with respect.

Be The Kindness You Want To See In The World

I don’t know about you guys but I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooo over all the hate on the internet. For example, just yesterday a fight broke out on Facebook because (and this is a true story) someone had put jam and yoghurt on a plain rice cake for a low calorie treat and someone else went bananas because it didn’t follow ‘the plan’. What the actual…..

The real modern day problem (apparently)

You know Australia is on fire, koalas are dying by the second and missiles are being launched but obviously the real problem here is strawberry jam and Greek yoghurt… Aren’t we so silly for getting our priorities in the wrong order!

Anyway a few years ago a friend and I made a pact that we were going to be more selfish because that’s how the human race works. And for the most part we have stuck to it (I don’t mean excessively so.. I like to think I’m kinda decent). But we’ve been on our own agenda on occasion. And for the most part, it’s backfired (for me anyway).

However, I’ve had a change of heart. I miss kindness. Watching the people of Australia look after each other and their wildlife has been life changing for me. Kindness does exist and we should utilise it more.

I’ve made a little pact with myself that I’ll do something kind each day. It might be something as small as letting a car out at a junction but I will try and do something for someone.

It’s not about making myself feel better, it’s purely because it’s nice to be nice. It’s also nice to make someone’s day a tiny bit easier.

Why breed negativity when we can breed positivity?

NB: Now just for a bit of background…. I wasn’t always Miss Positive. I was often a realist/pessimist and had quite a negative outlook on life. That was until I found myself unemployed and losing my house deposit savings FAST. The only things I had left were Tim, a great family and the ability to work on my mindset. I’ve never looked back since.