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NR Times: Dr Keith Jenkins on how to keep a routine during the pandemic

St Andrew's Consultant clinical neuropsychologist, Dr Keith Jenkins, has co-written a feature for leading Neurorehabilitation magazine NR Times. Read on for tips about how keep to a routine during a pandemic.

Daily structure has changed for us all during the COVID-19 pandemic and this can feel very unsettling. A regular structure and routine is important for many reasons.

First, it increases feelings of normality and control, as well as meaning and purpose; all of which can help to push back against low mood. Second, it can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety through distraction.

Finally, a structured timetable can reduce the burden associated with some of the behavioural and cognition issues that can occur after brain injury. These include difficulties in starting an activity, planning, organising and making decisions.

So what can structure and routine look like during the pandemic?

A daily routine could include a mixture of self-care activities, such as having a bath, shower, or pampering yourself, completing some household chores and keeping active through exercise. Doing something fun that you enjoy, such as an online live music event, a quiz or watching a favourite film or TV programme, could also be included.

Try focusing on those activities that you find uplifting, positive or funny. Also some find it helpful to limit their watching of the news about COVID-19 as it can lower mood and increase their worries. There are lots of ideas for activities you can do at home in our resource pack which can be viewed via the ABIL website.

Having a daily timetable written down can help to ensure that structure and routine become the norm. It can also be reassuring to be busy and have things to do.

Checking off activities completed, can support you in feeling that you’ve achieved and accomplished things throughout the day.

Furthermore, a written timetable can help you to manage your time effectively, and support variety in your day. If you have difficulties getting started on something, or beginning an activity, you could share your timetable with someone else and ask them to help you get started, perhaps through a phone call or a text.

If you prefer to do this yourself, you can set up reminders on your phone or use other devices, such as Alexa.

This is one of five blogs in a series on living in the new ‘normal’ with a brain injury, based on a webinar produced for ABI London (ABIL). Dr Keith G Jenkins is consultant clinical neuropsychologist at St Andrew’s Healthcare and chair of Headway East Northants. The feature was co-authored by Dr Jenny Brooks, a consultant clinical psychologist working independently and a director of The ABI Team.