Strategies for setting a schedule at home

An image of a student looking at their computer screen with a calendar on it

(Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

Anyone else starting to forget what day it is? In the past few weeks, “social distancing” has become a common phrase in our homes and on TV, the internet, and social media. And for good reason—making sure you remain healthy and safe is a priority, and staying home is proven to best protect your health during these unprecedented times. Practicing social distancing shows you care about the wellbeing of others in your community. Now that Spring Break has come to an end and (virtual) school is back in session, here are some strategies to set your in-home schedule for the rest of the semester.

  1. Make a plan. First thing’s first—the best way to stick to a schedule during your time at home is to create a schedule. Whether you use a virtual calendar or prefer pen and paper, you can use either to help you structure your days for success. Schedule your study time, work time, (virtual) social time, meal time, break time, time for relaxation, time for self-care, time to move, and time to sleep all in one place. You can place notes by your workstation to help you remember your plan!
  2. Trim down the to-do list. If constantly looking at your ever-growing to-do list generates stress, here’s a tip: pick one item from your list at a time, and place it in a realistic timeslot on your calendar over the coming days or weeks. It’s important to place a task in a time when you truly think you can tackle it so that you can feel comfortable putting it out of mind until that time comes. Repeat this for each item on your list. Then, put the list out of sight. It’ll feel a lot less overwhelming to not have to think about everything at once!
  3. “Get ready” for your day. Although it may be tempting to keep the PJs on for the foreseeable future, it’s important to still put on a new set of clothes and stick to your hygiene routine every morning. It will boost your mood and leave you feeling refreshed before you launch into your day ahead.
  1. Keep your sleep routine. As much as you might want to stay up late and sleep in when you need to stay at home, it’ll be best for your mental and physical health to stick to your usual sleep routine; setting a bedtime is one easy way to take care of your wellbeing during this time. UHS recommends that students aim for about 8 hours of sleep every night, develop a sleep routine that includes stretching and deep breathing, and unplug before bedtime. For more sleep tips, visit University Health Services.
  1. Create and prioritize time for your wellbeing. If you are able, keep your body moving through this time. It might feel difficult to stay active throughout the day at home, but there are many ways to get active, even indoors! Try cleaning your apartment while playing workout music (insert excellent dance moves here) or doing an in-living room workout. If you feel comfortable leaving your home, enjoy the outdoors by taking some (socially distanced) hikes or bike rides. Remember to be mindful of any restrictions and regulations related to time outdoors in your region. You can also try the many resources for at home workouts through Rec Well.Although exercise positively impacts mental health, we also recommend that you take time to purposefully take care of your mind each day through mindfulness, meditation, journaling, or writing down a few things you’re grateful for. This moment is challenging for everyone, and practicing mindfulness for even 5 minutes per day can positively impact your mental health.
  1. Schedule your meals and hydrate. If possible, aim for 3 nutritious meals per day. Although it seems obvious, eating (and eating regularly) can sometimes be the hardest thing to do when you’re always home. If it helps, set a timer or alarm on your phone as a reminder to eat. Even eating small meals will give you the energy you need to keep working throughout your day. Also, although you don’t need a water bottle at home like you did at school, it can become your best friend in reminding you to hydrate.
  1. Set boundaries. We feel you- it’s hard to hear tough things in the news day in and day out. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by the news, try to limit your news-watching and social media-viewing time each day. We want you and your families to stay safe, so always make sure you’re keeping up with the daily updates so that you can make informed choices. But then if it helps your mental health, turn on that Disney movie that’s been calling your name or start up a family-wide game of Monopoly that’s guaranteed to last forever.
  1. Stay connected. At Rec Well, we believe in the power of a team and the strength of a community. During this time, make sure to stay (virtually) connected with your family, friends, and neighbors. We are lucky that in this era, we have ways to stay connected without being physically near our people by using FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and phone calls. So, schedule a virtual social hour or birthday party (and put it on the calendar!). Now, more than ever, we need to lift each other up with love.
  1. Be gentle with yourself. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. It might be hard to stay focused during this time at home. After all, there’s a lot going on in the world, and you might have other things on your mind. If you’re having a difficult time, know that your emotions are valid and it’s okay to ask for help. If you find that you’re having a tough time focusing, take some time to recalibrate using one of these quick and easy meditations from the Center for Healthy Minds:

In addition, all students, staff, and faculty at UW have 24/7 access to the online behavioral health resource SilverCloud, and UHS has a 24/7 mental health crisis line at 609-265-5600.

These times are unprecedented on our campus, in our country, and in this world. Check in with those you love, ask for help when you need it, and remember you are not alone. It’s going to take some time to get used to this new normal. We’re here to support you.