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Craving Structure? This Daily Routine Will Keep You Healthy (And Sane)

If you’re having a tough time adjusting to the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic (which likely involves doing literally everything from within the walls of your home), you’re in good company. For many of us, the situation has thrown any sense of daily routine out the window.

While it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day and binge on Netflix all night, the lack of structure many of us now face can be harmful to our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. The same is true for kids, who have traded highly-structured school days for home.

“Structure gives us a framework to work from, helping us feel calm, centered, and productive,” explains Sonia Satra, professional coach and speaker. “Schedules can give us purpose and help us accomplish what we need in order to feel good at the end of the day.”

If you’re desperate to reestablish a sense of structure (whether for your own sake or your kids’), this basic daily routine will help keep you healthy (and sane) while you live your life from home.

Note: Everyone has their own unique set of circumstances at this time, whether you’re single and on your own, taking care of kids, or caring for older parents. Use what applies to your situation and disregard the rest!

7 AM: Wake Up And Drink Water 

Even if you’re able to sleep in, set an alarm for the morning. “Starting your day intentionally helps set the pace as you reflect on how you want to show up for the day,” says Ericka Eller, C.H.C., nutritionist and stress management coach.

Once you’re up, drink a tall glass of water to hydrate your body. Not only will this help you feel more awake, but it can prevent dehydration (which can cause fatigue and headaches) later in the day, says Roger Adams, Ph.D., personal trainer, doctor of nutrition, and owner of eatrightfitness.

7:15 AM: Breathe Deeply

Not only does breathing help relieve stress, but it also supports a slew of bodily functions, including digestion, according to research published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. (It also slows down your heart rate.)

Plus, “breathing helps you focus, which is important to do first thing in the morning,” says Lily Horowitz, certified Pilates instructor and founder of The Core Method in Illinois.

Whether you have kids or just an overflowing inbox, take some time in the quiet of morning to breathe on your own. “Inhale for five counts and exhale for five counts a total of 10 times,” Horowitz says.

7:30 AM: Move Your Body

“No matter how small your living quarters are, you’ve got to make the time and space to move,” says Satra.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-to-intense physical activity each week.

Read More: How To Get A Full Workout Using Just Your Body Weight

In addition to boosting your physical health, exercise is also directly linked to improvements in mental health. Research, like this The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry study, for example, have shown that exercise can help reduce symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

If you have the space for a formal workout, check YouTube for something that sparks your interest. Otherwise, head outside with your kids or take your dog for a walk. Getting some movement in before settling down for work (and school time) will help you focus.

8:15 AM: Eat Breakfast

“Eating a healthy breakfast puts some fuel into your body first thing in the morning and increases energy levels,” says Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner. “If you don’t eat breakfast, chances are your body will make up those calories later in the day by overeating.”

Rizzo recommends pairing a protein with a carb, such as a banana with peanut butter or yogurt with granola. (These breakfasts pack 20-plus grams of protein.)

If you can, sit down to have breakfast together with your family before jumping into different tasks.

9 AM: Get To Work

If you’ve been fortunate enough to continue working from home, that means no time wasted commuting (silver lining!). However, it doesn’t mean you need to log onto your computer earlier.

Start your work day around the usual time and stay as productive and tuned-in as possible until lunchtime. Still, remember that this is uncharted territory and don’t stress over missing a conference call because your child has a question about their math assignment.

12 PM: Eat Lunch And Take Your Vitamins

Take a break from work and make yourself and your family a healthy lunch. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and proteins) as much as possible.

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If you have a usual supplement regimen, now’s the time to get on it. “I take probiotics, vitamin D, B vitamins, CoQ10, a multivitamin, magnesium, and some vitamin C,” says Satra. At the very least, make sure everyone in your household takes their multi!

3 PM: Take A Break

Taking a break from work can actually enhance your productivity. One Cognition study, for example, found that stopping work for a brief period of time before starting up again increases attention and focus. (Plus, your kids are probably stir-crazy at this point in the day, anyway.)

Take 30 minutes to work on a puzzle, play outside, or just relax on the couch. This is also a great time to video chat with relatives or other loves ones. “Connections are critical during quarantine, and chatting with someone you love can increase serotonin levels.” (Just don’t talk about work too much!)

5:30 PM: End Your Work Day

Again, don’t work for longer than you usually would just because you’re commute-free. “It’s important to create boundaries to help us separate personal and work life,” Eller says.

Once the clock strikes 5:30, finish up your tasks, shut your computer down, and stop checking your work email on your phone.

7 PM: Eat Dinner

If you’re quarantined with family, try to sit down for dinner together at the same time each day. Doing so encourages bonding and communication, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Better yet, get your family members involved in the cooking process and enjoy some time together in the kitchen.

9 PM: Start Your Bedtime Routine

Sleep is essential for physical and emotional health, so try to unwind at least a half-hour before you intend to fall asleep, suggests Mayra Mendez, Ph.D, L.M.F.T., licensed psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica.

Read More: 8 Tips Nutritionists Use To Sleep Better

Mendez suggests turning off the TV, lowering the lights, and turning off other distractions (like your phone) to get your household ready for bed. This is a great time to bust out a favorite book. 

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