Updated: Apr 10, 2020

With everything going on in the world right now, chances are your daily routine (or lack thereof) today is not what it was a week or month ago. This could be for any number of reasons, however, it is most likely related to the pandemic that has rapidly swept our planet.

Whether you are quarantined at home, suddenly out of work, attempting to work from home, or have morphed into a stay at home parent, it's probably not where you expected to be. Life for many people has slowed down and become extremely restricted. A couple days of this is easy and probably welcomed, however longer-term abrupt changes in routine can have a significant effect on mental health, which is commonly seen in injured workers and new retirees exiting the workforce.

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More specifically, when routines are disrupted the following can happen:

  • Changes in mood

  • Difficulties sleeping

  • Increased stress

  • Diminished productivity

  • Reduced energy levels

  • Changes in diet

  • The development of unhealthy habits and routines

Having regular, healthy routines provides structure and predictability, and improves focus and productivity. Ironically, in the absence of routine, increased spare time can lead to reduced productivity due to procrastination, a lack of urgency, and/or laziness, which can negatively impact mood, energy, sleep and diet, creating a viscous cycle.

Humans are creatures of habit and routine. When normal, healthy routines are disrupted, unhealthy routines can develop quickly, without warning, and can be hard to change. Thus, if you have suddenly found yourself without a routine, acting now to develop new, healthy habits and routines is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. But how?


  • Aim to get out of bed at the same time everyday (ideally around the same time you did previously).

  • Shower and get dressed everyday (ie. don't stay in your pyjamas all day).

  • Make a checklist of what you want to accomplish each day, regardless of what it is (chores, work, exercise, studying, socializing, reading, baking, cooking, errands, a craft, etc.).

  • Make a schedule for each day the night before using your checklist. This can be rough, with just a couple activities or chores you plan to do during certain chunks of time (such as morning, afternoon, evening), or more specific, such as an hour by hour synopsis of how you plan to spend your day.

  • Plan to do at least one thing each day that is productive.

  • Plan to exercise for an average of at least 30 minutes each day, even if it is just a walk.

  • Plan to get fresh air everyday.

  • Aim to socialize with at least one person outside of your household each day (in person or on the phone).

  • Avoid watching daytime TV and spending hours on the internet or playing video games.

  • Go to bed at approximately the same time each night, and ensure you are getting a good night's sleep.

  • Limit/monitor your time on social media.

  • Make self care a priority. This does not mean bubble baths and pinot grigio. Make sure you are first taking care of your basic needs, such as personal care, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, staying connected socially, and adequately managing your mood and stress levels. Check out the post Rethinking Self Care to learn more.

  • Monitor your mental health. Increased feelings of anxiety and depression are common with drastic changes in routine. If you start to develop symptoms I encourage you to check out this free resource and if necessary, seek help. Learning basic stress management techniques is also important.

  • Ensure you are maintaining and/or developing healthy habits, and be careful not to develop unhealthy habits.

With the current worldwide pandemic, more people than ever are experiencing a huge disruption to their regular routine, however it is a problem faced by many everyday. Regardless of the reason, or how long you anticipate it to last, taking the steps to develop and maintain healthy routines is important for your mental health and overall wellbeing. Being proactive is always easier than being reactive.

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Maintaining Mental Health When Faced With Abrupt Changes In Routine