Creating a Schedule for Your Lockdown Mental Health

schedule in planner on desk with flowers

A couple of weeks into lockdown and it still all feels a little bit surreal to me. At the start of this year who’d have ever anticipated where we’d be just a few months down the line?

For our own personal reasons, this is such a difficult time for all of us, and it’s more important than ever to take care of our mental health. Even just two weeks in, I’ve seen an unbelievable amount of ‘toxic productivity’; whether that be influencers trying to guilt us into ‘being our best selves’ during the lockdown or insidious quotes telling us that if we don’t get everything done that we ‘didn’t have time for’ before, we must simply be lazy*.

That’s why I don’t want this post to be about creating a schedule encouraging relentless productivity and discipline – now is not the time for that. However, I do believe that creating a loose schedule is a really great tool for our mental health. It’s something I try to do on a regular basis (lockdown or not) and always find that structure really helpful.

To make a schedule that benefits your mental health, you want to be including more than hours and hours of work. You need to make sure to actively incorporate things like rest, relaxation, exercise and fresh air. Once I got settled into working from home after leaving Uni, I also naturally settled into a daily routine that has helped me to not only keep on top of work, but most importantly keep some form of structure in my life. For me, this is one of the most important things for my mental wellbeing.

Here is an example of the kind of routine I’m trying to stick to, as an example:

7.30am: Get up
8am: Breakfast
8.30am: Skincare/brush teeth/get dressed
9am-2.30pm: Work time (work in one hour blocks with 30min breaks between each)
2.30pm: Lunch
3.30pm: Walk/other exercise
4.30pm: Bath
5.30pm: Chill time
7pm: Tea
8pm: Chill time
10pm: Read
10.30pm: Sleep

Now, do I 100% stick to this schedule? ABSOLUTELY not! First of all, I’m rarely managing to actually get up at 7.30am, and whether I can keep my focus from 9am-2.30pm (or the equivalent timeframe) really varies day-to-day. But the important thing is, I find having a schedule to guide me extremely helpful.

First of all, even if I don’t stick to it completely, I can have an idea of what I want to achieve in the day work-wise. It helps me prioritise the most important tasks and get them done even if I start working a bit later on or aren’t feeling too focused.

Writing a schedule also helps me remember to/gives me the motivation to practice self-care; by having these things that are easy to forget worked into a schedule, I get a sense of achievement from doing them. Above anything else, though, having a rough daily routine is helpful in maintaining a sense of normality amidst a really chaotic and uncertain time.

So, a few tips on how to make daily scheduling work for you:

  • Write your schedule each day in the morning – this way you can adjust accordingly if you’ve slept in or if your plans change.
  • Set aside time for work, hobbies, exercise, relaxation and rest (they’re all equally important!)
  • Schedule work activities for the time of day you’re most focused – for me, this is in the morning – I really struggle to concentrate from 3pm onwards!
  • Don’t beat yourself up for not sticking rigidly to you schedule. Personally, it’s extremely rare that my schedule goes exactly as planned, but it doesn’t make the act of planning any less useful!

Most of all, don’t feel pressure to be living your ‘best life’ in quarantine. This is a scary, uncertain time for us all, and above all else we should be treating ourselves with kindness. So do what you need to to get by, have your lie-ins, and just do the best you can!

* This is worth a whole post in itself, and there is one on the way!

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