Why Routine is More Important Now Than Ever Before
In recent weeks, our world has changed beyond what we would have imagined when thinking about our plans for 2020. When making our new year’s resolutions, it’s unlikely that many of us planned to be staying at home for weeks at a time with minimal social contact, to be juggling homeschooling and work, or to be washing our hands every few minutes.
Given the current situation in which we find ourselves, it can be tempting to allow our routines to become more relaxed, or even to do away with them altogether. For me, the initial week was full of late mornings, lazy afternoons, and an almost entire loss of structure to my usually very busy day to day routine. While this at first was somewhat enjoyable and felt like a holiday, I came to realise that the lack of structure could be detrimental in the long run.
For many individuals with Autism or mental health difficulties, a loss of structure and routine can be catastrophic; routine is something which guides us through the day, and any change to this can be extremely unsettling. With the majority of the UK in standstill, many of you may find yourselves in a position where your daily routines have undergone drastic changes. Parents, in particular, may be in a position of trying to juggle working from home and home education.
While there’s a lot of pressure to maintain a sense of normality for ourselves and our children, it’s important to remember that we are going through an extraordinary event, and therefore we shouldn’t feel obligated to maintain ‘business as usual’. Although routine is important, it doesn’t need to look the same for everyone, and it’s okay to let some things slide at the moment, as we get used to living a ‘new normal’ for a while.
In this blog, we’ll explore some of the benefits of having a daily routine, in addition to looking at strategies which can be used to implement new routines while staying at home.
Mental health charity Blurt lists the following benefits of following a routine:
- Routines can anchor us and reduce stress
For many who experience anxiety in their daily lives, having predictable events such as regular mealtimes or social interaction can provide safety and security. In turn, this can help to minimise stress and make the day feel more ‘achievable’.
- Routines can promote self-care
Taking time each day to complete self-care, whether that be as simple as washing and dressing, or more complex tasks like taking part in crafts or sports, allows us to meet our basic needs. Incorporating self-care practices into daily routines helps to make these events more concrete and prevent self-neglect.
- Routines can promote improved sleep
It is essential for our physical and emotional wellbeing to have enough sleep. Engaging in a balanced daily routine can promote improved sleep by providing our body clock with a predictable daily cycle.
- Routines can help us build meaningful activities into our lives
Now, more than ever, meaningful activities are essential to promoting our wellbeing. This can be anything that really gets you going – whether it’s throwing a living room dance party, playing an instrument, or watching your favourite TV show, it’s important to take time to do the things we love without feeling guilty about it.
Now that we know why a routine is important, we can look at how we can implement a routine while also not putting too much pressure on ourselves to get it right or to keep up old routines.
Here are some of our top tips to making a new routine work:
- Use visual schedules
Use visual timetables with either pictures or words to ease anxiety. This will allow for predictability which can help to ease anxiety. Use markers, ticks or stickers to show when a task or activity is finished, to help your child to keep track and to ensure transitions are clearly marked.
- Teamwork makes the dreamwork
With recent changes, your child may be feeling like they don’t have much control over their lives. Working together to plan out the week can be a great way to ensure that both their needs and your needs are met, while giving your child a sense of control. For a child who has difficulty generating ideas, give options between two or three activities for them to choose from.
- Get creative!
While you may feel pressure for children to keep up with academic work, they learn just as much from practical activities. Take lego building for instance; this works on planning, sequencing, visual perception, fine motor skills, just to name a few. Take time to find the activities which your child gets the most joy from, and make time for these! Playing in the garden or building a cardboard house will keep children’s hands and brains busy and will teach them invaluable skills.
- Take time to talk
It is likely that you and your family will be feeling lots of things about the current situation. It’s important to take time to acknowledge and process these feelings, and to find strategies which work to manage them. Taking five minutes each day – perhaps over dinner- to check in can promote emotional literacy and help to manage current anxieties.
- Do away with the guilt
The last and most important piece of advice, is to not place too much pressure on yourself to make things perfect. While it might look on social media like every family is perfect and making the most of their time together, it’s important to remember that social media is just a highlight reel, and that no routine is perfect. It’s okay for children to watch TV or entertain themselves for a bit while you catch up on work, or take a moment to breathe. While routine is important, this doesn’t mean that every minute of the day needs to be planned out – just having three or four key moments in the day, such as mealtimes and playtimes, can help to put structure in place without too much pressure.
If you would like to talk to an Occupational Therapist about how to maintain your child’s routine during this time, or to manage any anxieties around the current situation, we are able to provide online consultation and direct therapy using online platforms. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how we can help you.
To all of our friends and followers, take care, stay at home, and stay safe.
About the Author
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Lilly is an enthusiastic and approachable individual with a passion for supporting children, teenagers and young adults in finding meaning and independence in their lives. Lilly specialises in the area of assessment and intervention for individuals with a range of challenges and diagnoses, including autism, dyspraxia, anxiety and mental health.
In 2019, Lilly completed a Master’s Degree in Language and Communication, in which she researched and advocated for communication rights and the importance of person-centred care. Lilly has a particular interest in supporting children and young people living with mental health difficulties and learning disabilities, often taking creative approaches in this. Lilly is a strong believer that everyone has a right to independence and thrives to support her clients in achieving this.
Lilly currently provides a range of assessments, consultation and therapeutic interventions for children, adolescents and young adults in the Seirrah Therapies clinic, in schools and in homes across the UK. Lilly has experience of conducting assessments and writing reports as part of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Tribunal process in collaboration with our Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist.