How to get back into a routine after lockdown

Last reviewed on 18 June 2021

At the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in March 2020, a lot of things changed overnight. Work, school, hobbies, socialising and all the other activities that make up our daily routines came to an abrupt halt.

Over time, you might have found this has had an impact on your mental wellbeing. That’s because having a routine and structure is important for good mental health. Doing things on a regular basis that you’re comfortable with and that you enjoy can help you to feel less anxious and be more productive.

With restrictions easing and the vaccine rollout continuing, it's an opportunity to get back into a routine – whether that's similar to what you did before or still quite different. So, how can you look ahead and make it easier to get back into a routine after lockdown?

If you’re off work or working from home, your sleeping habits might have changed – perhaps you’re going to bed later or struggling to get up at your usual time? If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, you might have trouble falling asleep or even experience vivid dreams.

In fact, a June 2020 study by King’s College London/Ipsos MORI found that almost two-thirds (63%) of people in the UK say their sleep has been worse than usual during the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some tips to help you get your sleep back on track.

  • Start a sleep diary – for seven days, write down when you go to sleep, what time you wake up and how energised you feel during the day
  • Prepare for sleep – an hour before bed, start to unwind and detach from the day (put down your tech and read a book or listen to some soothing music instead)
  • Learn the tricks of the trade – to transform your sleep habits and ease the racing mind, take some time to learn more about sleep and why it’s so important

There are lots of useful resources on Good Thinking to help you sleep better, including a podcast with an NHS sleep consultant, a sleep quiz and sleep and insomnia information sheets.

What do you really love doing? Include things in your daily routine that help you to feel calmer and that make you smile. Try to factor in time for being active too, as this can help with your mental wellbeing. This might include:

  • Watching your favourite TV programme
  • Going for a run or a bike ride
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Cooking a healthy meal
  • Taking photos or making videos for your social media

Don’t forget to include all the new activities you’ve enjoyed in recent months, like those family walks in the park and Zoom calls with your friends. Although this year has been difficult in many ways, you might have made some positive changes in your life. This is a great opportunity to decide what works for you and leave behind the things that don’t.

If you’re feeling nervous about life after lockdown, read our advice about how to deal with uncertainty and listen to our podcast with OCD expert Tracey Taylor.

Getting organised can help you to feel on top of things and be more disciplined. Grab your phone or a piece of paper and make a note of your goals for the coming weeks and months and what you need to include in your daily/weekly routine in order to achieve them.

  • Think about your ‘big picture’ goals then break them down into do-able tasks – the best goals to start with are small and a little challenging
  • Review your list of goals regularly (e.g. at the end of each day or once a week)
  • Keep a journal so you can track your progress
  • Tick off any achievements to help you stay motivated
  • Once you’ve met a goal, make it a little more challenging next time
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have a huge ‘to do’ list – keep things simple and achievable
  • Write it down now... not tomorrow!

Read our advice about how to develop a healthy new habit, which includes a useful technique that increases the chances you’ll stick to something new. You might also find the tomo app useful.

Whatever your job, it’s likely that things will be quite different going forward. You might have a different schedule (e.g. staggered start times) and a different work environment (e.g. protective screens), for example. After several months at home, you might simply find it a challenge to get yourself out of the door and go to work.

  • Read the UK Government’s guidance on work and financial support
  • Speak to your manager/employer about the safety measures they are putting in place, how your job might change and what kind of financial support is available if you’re going to be working less
  • Let your manager know if coronavirus has affected you personally (e.g. if you have been ill or if you have lost a loved one) or if you’re feeling particularly anxious or stressed
  • Stay in touch with your colleagues so you can support each other as you return to work
  • Consider the practicalities, such as how you will get to work (can you walk or cycle there rather than take public transport?) and whether you’ll need to find childcare
  • Check out Mental Health at Work’s advice about transitioning back to work after lockdown

If you’re a parent or carer, you might have some concerns – from understanding what the school environment looks like now to getting your child into a better sleep routine.

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