Our “senior” dog Ladybug follows the same routine every day:

  1. Wakes us up at 6:30 a.m.
  2. Gets fed breakfast at 7:00 a.m.
  3. Gets let outside at 7:15 a.m.
  4. Sleeps arguably from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
  5. Takes a walk with her humans at 5:30 p.m.
  6. Eats dinner at 6:30 p.m.
  7. Hangs out with us until a much-needed nap at 8:00 p.m.
  8. Bedtime at 10:30 p.m. SHARP!
dog named ladybug

While this seems like a simple existence, it’s a routine that makes her happy. If the routine isn’t followed on time and in that order, you better believe she’ll remind you that, “At this time, we do ‘x’.” If a daily routine such as this can make our dog happy – why can’t the same apply to me?

It’s from the wisdom of animals that I started to follow my own daily routine a few weeks into the COVID pandemic. I realized that without the constant connections with people, driving everywhere, going out, I found that both my physical and mental health was suffering. I knew I had to make changes in my life if I was going to survive life in “solitude.”

With a bit of trial and error, I found the routine that works for me, and it goes as follows:

Morning Routine

With all the extra time I had back from working from home, I found myself waking up anytime between 6:45 a.m. until 8:00 a.m., knowing that if it was the latter, I could still make things work by forgoing taking a shower and changing out of my sleep clothes. While this sounds like an ideal situation, the lack of consistency threw my morning rhythm out of whack, which impacted my mood, as well as my productivity. A couple of months into the pandemic, I knew this needed to change.

As a solution, I started setting my alarm clock again and getting up at the same time every day. This gave me the opportunity to take a shower, get dressed, eat a nice breakfast, and even start taking our dog for a nice, 30-minute walk around the neighborhood. All these activities working together started to make the “new normal” sustainable. I was taking care of myself in new ways and getting the added benefit of spending more time with my wife and dog in the mornings.

Afternoon Routine

Once I got my morning routine locked down, I started working on my afternoons. Again, working from home has its pros, but I knew I needed to incorporate some additional activities into my days. I started by taking 5–10-minute breaks every day – whether it was taking a walk around the block, stretching, or spending time with Ladybug, I made sure to take some time away from my computer screen. This was something I did while working in the office but had to make the realization on my own to incorporate that into my work from home life as well.

This had a positive impact on my overall mood, as it got my blood flowing, lungs working, gave my eyes a break, thus decreasing stress levels and promoting a sense of mindfulness that was sorely needed.

Evening Routine

I realized sometime in 2020 that the pandemic had taken its toll on my evening routines as well. With gyms, restaurants, bars, and a list of other things that were once a part of my life closed, I found myself falling into some bad habits. I was becoming reliant on creature comforts like rich foods, alcohol, television, anything that took my mind off the changes COVID played in my daily life. Again, I knew that changes needed to happen.

I wound up buying a few dumbbells, exercise bands and started working out at home. It wasn’t nearly as strenuous compared to the workouts I’d get from the gym, but it was enough to make me feel good about myself and keep me from slipping into dormancy. My wife and I also started meal prepping our dinners, exploring different recipes, and cooking together. This gave me the added benefit of healthier choices but allowed me to spend more time with my wife. I also learned a thing or two about cooking!

In conclusion…

Building a daily routine, even if it’s loosely structured can add huge benefits to both your physical and mental health. We never can know when the next life-changing event will take place, but I guarantee that having a set routine during the day can mitigate the pitfalls we may face in the future.

If Ladybug can do it, we can too!