We all have daily routines. Big or small, healthy or unhealthy, our routines become habits that shape who we become. Sounds heavy, right? My daily routines sometimes look like Epsom salt baths, jade rolling while meditating, and checking every item off my to-do list while having enough time to add the exact adaptogen blend that’s best for my current energy state into my matcha latte. Other days look more like shoveling an entire box of Annie’s White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese (the best kind. You can @ me on it) while working through lunch and bingeing Selling Sunset after dinner until I realize it’s 1am.
Typically though, my days alternate between varying degrees of both examples. Routines don’t have to be total transformations or all-or-nothing, as if getting to bed too late or eating a candy bar after dinner cancels out the healthy rituals you kept up with all day. I’ve recently adopted a few specific habits while in quarantine that has made a huge difference in my overall health and wellbeing, and might improve yours too. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a major transformation for any of these routines to make an impact; even just one minor change can crowd out an unhealthy habit or make a huge difference on its own. Here are the daily routines that have made the biggest difference for me:
I keep technology away from the bedroom
A relevant preface: I live in a studio apartment. The “bedroom” is also my workspace, eating space, sleep space, and living space, so I never thought the “no-technology-in-the-bedroom” rule could apply to me and the 650 square-feet that I call home. I used to charge my laptop in an outlet next to my bedside table, work while sitting in bed at night, and kept my phone next to me overnight. A couple of months ago, I designated a “tech space” at the kitchen table and left devices there to charge, use, and work on.
Not only did this minor shift in geography transform my evening routine (no more working in bed!), but it transformed my morning routine. I no longer lay in bed, scrolling through Instagram until the last second possible. Instead, I get out of bed right away (since I have nothing else to do) and go through my brief morning routine. Not only does it help me sleep better when technology no longer takes over my life, but getting out of bed immediately makes me feel more awake and energized throughout the entire day. Not to mention that I have a better work-life balance as a byproduct, but more on that below.
I wake up 10 minutes before I need to
Speaking of waking up easier, I need you to know that my workday starts at 6:30am. A couple of years ago, my move to southern California was all sunshine and rainbows (literally) besides the fact that my office is on central time. I actually work way better in the early mornings than in the evenings (so I enjoy the earlier end to my day), and I thrive on getting sh*t done before it feels like the rest of the world has woken up, but I’m not going to say that the wake-up part is always easy. Full confession: I used to groggily roll out of bed at 6:15am to quickly brush my teeth and make a cup of lemon water before the workday starts.
When quarantine hit and I realized I had to prioritize my mental health even more (though we should be prioritizing ourselves as much as possible, pandemic or not), I knew I had to find more time for myself in the mornings. I challenged myself to get up just 10 minutes before I absolutely need to. I spend those 10 extra minutes doing a meditation, stretching on my yoga mat, going through a full skincare routine, or lighting a candle and getting my day ready. No matter your work start time or when you wake up, getting up 10 minutes earlier than you have to allows you to take your time, keep your mornings calm, and help keep stress down for the rest of the day.
I eat fruit for breakfast
I get it; I used to do the whole omelet-or-protein-powder-smoothie thing, because my focus was getting in more protein than any other macronutrient or nutrient. When I transformed my nutrition mindset to be about adding more plants, I started eating more fruit in the mornings. After a while, I realized fruit filled me up without making me lethargic or painfully bloated like I usually felt by noon. So now, every morning, I’ll either dress up berries and pears with tahini, cacao nibs, and goji berries (I like to be #extra), and other days, I’ll cut up whatever apples or peaches are in the fridge.
I have since let go of the idea that I need a protein-heavy breakfast to be healthy and, instead, opt for what makes my body feel its best: fruit. I’ve never felt so energized, had less digestive issues, and even have fewer cravings throughout the day. The lesson to take from this daily routine is not that you should eat fruit for breakfast too. Instead, the lesson is to listen to your body to identify what’s best for it.
I make the most of my lunch break
Confession: pre-quarantine Josie used lunch breaks to watch 30 minutes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (and I would fall asleep for 25 of those minutes) or work through lunch with a salad at my desk (I’ve had to force myself into better work-life balance). I still do love the occasional reality TV to turn off the brain while I cook and eat (nothing quite like fights between Denise and Rinna to help me temporarily forget about work woes and to-do lists), but I feel so much better when I check in with my body to identify the kind of break it really needs. Sometimes that looks like foam rolling, sometimes that’s getting other errands and chores done, and sometimes I go for a walk to get outside. Since making the most of my lunch breaks, I’m more energetic, productive, and happier.
I force myself to have a work cut-off time
So your office hours “end at 5pm,” but 5pm turns into 8pm and you find yourself responding to emails, finishing projects, or putting out fires well into the night? Take it from someone who has been trying to perfect the work-from-home routine for years now: you need a non-negotiable cut-off time. I give myself a reasonable daily cut-off time (typically with an extra hour in case I do need some more time to wrap up), and then make sure that’s it for the rest of the night. Work-life balance starts with leaving work exactly where it belongs: at the office (or at your designated kitchen-table-turned-desk).
I also transition out of the workday with closing rituals like changing into a(nother) loungewear set, shutting my laptop, tidying up my apartment, and physically crossing off the last item on my to-do list (so satisfying, right?). No matter when your workday ends, turn the last step into a ritual that signals to your brain that it’s no longer work time. (Pssst… a closing ritual is especially a hot tip if you find yourself checking emails throughout the night or can’t fall asleep because you’re worried about your to-do’s for the next day.)
I make time for social connection
I’ve previously talked a lot about the social mistakes that pre-quarantine Josie made (besides calling a teacher “mom” in high school and accidentally liking a post from 2015 when stalking a potential love interest, but those wounds aren’t healed enough to talk about yet). To paint you a picture, I used to think I had my shit together because I would go home early on Fridays to avoid being too hungover to make my Saturday morning workout, and would typically skip out on Taco Tuesdays and Wine Wednesdays because I had too much to do during the week.
Responsible, yes, but I also didn’t acknowledge that social connection is just as important for our health as eating veggies and regularly exercising. Now, I prioritize social connection like I eat leafy greens with two meals a day and consistently move my body. Eating dinner with my boyfriend, Facetiming my college friends, or calling my mom for at least a few minutes every day has made me feel more motivated, fulfilled, happy, and healthy.
I drink a cup of tea before bed
Since quarantine started, I have become all about the rituals. I’ve learned that while it’s hard to do the same thing every single day, there’s a reason children go through an entire nighttime routine to be able to fall asleep (anyone else miss bedtime stories?): rituals become habits that tell our bodies when it’s time for sleep. If some nights we read before bed, some nights we stay out late with friends, and some nights we work until midnight with no consistent rituals, our brains struggle to figure out when it’s time to sleep. Since bedtime is not always as consistent as I’d like it to be, I find consistency in rituals like having a cup of tea after dinner. Not only does a cup of tea get more nutrients into my body (I love peppermint tea, which can help digestion), but I’ve had it so consistently that all it takes to put me to bed is a warm, cozy cup of tea.
I end my day with yoga or stretches
In addition to a traditional workout earlier in the day, I’ve started doing yoga or some stretches right before bed, and it has potentially made the biggest difference to my health in the shortest amount of time. The purpose of yoga or stretches before bed is not to exercise my body or burn calories (like what I used to think was the only reason to move). Instead, I see nighttime yoga as 5-10 minutes of screen-free mental stillness. I feel such a drastic difference in my body when I get out of bed in the morning (if I say I typically feel stiff when I wake up, will it make me sound old?), but I also feel a lot more peaceful, calm, and content at night. I fall asleep quicker and stay in a deeper sleep than on days when I don’t fit in any stretching at all. Go through a few stretches tonight and get ready to sleep like a baby (your mind and body can thank me later).