How to build new habits during isolation

Four weeks is all you need to get yourself back into a healthy routine

For the time being, many of us living in Britain are facing some levels of self-isolation. While these measures are a great way to keep everyone safe and healthy, it can come costly at the disruption of the normal structures of our daily life.

In these moments, our first instinct might be to take the opportunity to drink more, sleep later, fire up the Xbox, Playstation, or Netflix and let it autoplay for a few days. We've all done it! But bearing in mind that we might be in this for the long run, you might find it difficult to stay healthy both physically and mentally. In the weeks coming, you might also start to feel difficult emotions such as boredom, anxiety, sadness and anger. These are all perfectly normal feelings but there are some strategies we can adopt now to avoid falling into this trap.

How do we get ourselves back on track? One word: Habits

Little habits throughout the day primes you for a good day. They can help you achieve more, think more clearly and do the things that actually matters. Most importantly, they stop you from stumbling through your day and before you know it, the day's over.

It just takes a little bit of discipline.

The challenge is to practice these little habits every day of the week and see how you feel. By the next weeks, you will have some progressions of the same habits but see if you can keep some of the older ones from the previous weeks.

Tips before you start:

Part of the reason why we are more effective in a work environment is because we feel visible and accountable to others. Setting up accountability when starting a new challenge can help you stay on track. Telling someone you are doing it or enlisting friends to join will help motivate you. You can always tell us that you're doing it and we will hold you accountable!

Be sure to prepare "treats" for your achievements. One of the main factors of building a successful habit is building a craving for the treat at the end of it!

Try saving that Netflix binge until you've completed all the habits for the day. Or treat yourself with a lovely cup of coffee, or hot chocolate whatever you fancy when you've drank your 8 cups of water. Reward yourself once you've completed your yoga sessions.

Rewards are important. Make sure to decided your treats beforehand, otherwise you might over-indulge!

WEEK 1: Manage the basics

When it comes to self care, we must take care of our basic needs first. And that is our physical health. Because we cannot go about our daily routine, we have to build new ones. So first, do your best to get adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep. This may involve some creativity and resourcefulness given the circumstances, but an overall healthy lifestyle is the foundation for coping with all of life's challenges.

1. Wake up early

Maybe it's not as early as you would wake up under normal circumstances, but try to wake up before 9am to feel most productive. Because we no longer have to do the early morning rush to get ready and head out of the door, we have the luxury of laying in more. But try to limit the lie in to a normal morning time rather than the early afternoon to feel your best.

2. Exercise 10 minutes

Research shows exercise has a huge effect on mental health. 20-25 minutes of cardiovascular exercise goes a long way to helping us stay sane and feel good.

Starting with just 10 minutes is achievable and perfect to build on.

3. Drink 8 glasses of water

Who else is going through their days drinking 90% coffee, beer, tea and wine and only about 10% fresh water? We need water to survive and a lot of it! It fuels and maintains our body and boosts our energy. Try keeping a glass of water by your bed and drinking it as soon as you wake up. Then you're already 1 glass down.

4. Bed before 11pm

It sounds obvious, but if you want to feel your best then you must get enough sleep.

Finding an appropriate time to sleep is up to your own schedule and body clock, but once you start sleeping at midnight, you run the risk of building a bad habit of sleeping late, waking up late and feeling groggy throughout your day.

Here are some resources to help you through the first week.

10 minutes yoga for focus and productivity

Hydro - water drink reminder app

How to turn on night light on your phone for better sleep

WEEK 2: Get connected

1. Have a nutritional breakfast

Building on the first week, maybe try to incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine. Fuel yourself with a healthy mix of protein, slow-release carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Sensible options include yogurt with nuts and berries, a vegetable omelette, and low-sugar granola bars with a piece of fruit.

2. 5 minute mediation

Before we start to connect with others, it is equally important now more than ever to also connect with ourselves. Just a quick 5 minute mental check-in to notice your head-space that day. This is also important in assessing what we need from connecting with others. Are we connecting because we are lonely, or scared, or agitated. And think about how your reaction might affect others in the same situation. Just 5 minutes is a great start and perfectly achievable.

3. Exercise in a community

It is also important now to stay connected to others. Just because we're social distancing doesn't mean we should disconnect. Stay in touch with loved ones and friends, and even meet new people. We are a social species and we benefit from interactions with each other. Even though we are physically apart, it's never been easier to connect remotely through online activities. Why not kill two birds with one stone and do an online yoga class to connect and get your exercise in for the day?

4. Limit media consumption

While it is essential to stay informed, constant pandemic coverage and online fear-mongering could become counter-productive for our mental health. To avoid being over-stimulated by negativity, we suggest turning off your phone 30 minutes before bed to clear your mind and get a good night sleep.

Helpful resources for week 2

Healthy Breakfast Recipes

5 minutes guided meditation - FREE

Online Yoga Classes

WEEK 3: Starting to build a routine

1. Get up, shower and get dressed

Once you start waking up at a reasonable time and adding a nutritional breakfast to your repertoire, you're starting to build a morning routine again. Try getting up and showering straight away, put on your smartest PJs or regular clothes and have a good breakfast. This will make you feel prepared for the day, and takes up a good portion of your morning doing something good for yourself.

2. 10 minute mediation

Learning to build on self-connection is a great tool to use when faced with adversity and stress. This isn't just about behaviour, the combination of isolation and stress can lead to unhelpful thought patterns. "It's easy to get mired in your thoughts," Getting out of the house, working, socializing are just the kinds of things that break these patterns, so disruption to these activities can make us more vulnerable. So practising a bit of meditation and mindfulness a day is a new way of breaking these patterns.

3. Veggies with every meal

So you've go your water and your breakfast. Now it's time to bring nutrition into the rest of your meals. Try adding a portion of veg to each meal, they can from frozen of course. Try to mix up the colours of the veg if you can to make sure you're getting a whole variety of vitamins. If you're particularly adventurous, maybe try substituting a carb for veg like courgette fries, or noodles, or cauliflower rice - although if that's not for you I wouldn't blame you!

4. Try a Yin class before bed

Although a Yin class isn't a substitute for exercise, it is a great pre-bed chill out session while at the same time getting a nice stretch. Yin yoga is all about calming the mind and soothing the nervous system Give it a go and see how well you sleep!

Helpful resources for week 3

Mindfulness and Meditation class - 30 minute classes to learn basic techniques to practice at home

7 Ways to Eat More Veggies

Pure Yin Classes

WEEK 4: Setting goals and making plans

Now that you're hopefully feeling a little bit on track with daily life, it's time to set goals and make plans for the future.

1. Practice Gratitude in the Morning

The purpose of gratitude is to build a positive pattern of thinking that can develop into behavioural changes. Just a simple 2 minutes is all it can take. As we start to build new routines and set new goals and plans, practising gratitude is a great way to create a motivational mindset. It's also a great chance to see opportunities in your day ahead.

2. Plan your day

The best way to set new goals is to start by setting some simple goals you'd like to accomplish soon. Make them achievable. Maybe you'd like to develop your side-hustle or read a bunch of new books. Start by setting a goal of just spending 30 minutes - 1 hour each day to work on it. 30 minutes a day to read a new book. Be as specific as possible. Once you plan several small goals throughout your day, you'll find that you'll feel better having much more productive days. Start small and aim to build to 3 daily goals eventually.

3. Keep that exercise going!

It's more important than ever that we are taking time to move our bodies!

4. Read before bed

Continue exploring things to do before bed that isn't watch Netflix or stare at your phone. You'll find something that works for you.

Helpful resources for week 4

How to start a 2 minute morning gratitude practice

The 5 minutes Gratitude Journal

More Classes

5 Rules for Setting Goals

How did you do? Let us know and we'll reward you with a great big star!


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