Structuring Your Shelter-In-Place Day

By Lisa Shanken | Healthy Resources

As we all adjust to our isolated and temporary “new normal,” it's sometimes a challenge even knowing what day it is!

As an Executive Functioning (EF) Coach, one of my jobs is to help my clients manage their time, stay organized, and declutter their living and work spaces.

These types of skills are more important than ever, and can be a struggle no matter how organized you may be under normal circumstances.

So I thought it would be timely to share some suggestions to hone your EF skills and create structure to your days. Not only will it bring some much needed sanity, but  you can decipher what day it actually is :-).

Consistent Wake Times

Good sleep hygiene is one of the most effective ways to keep your immune system strong… and even more so during these stressful and uncertain times (more on that later). Getting good sleep and waking up at the same time every day can start your day off on the right note.

Manage Your Stress & Anxiety

Start your day feeling grounded by practicing stress-coping mechanisms. I've talked in the past about the well-studied and anxiety-reducing benefits of meditation and mindfulness. So if you have extra time on your hands, now is an excellent time to start!

Experiment with different types of meditation like guided (using apps like Calm or Headspace), mantra, or breathing meditation. Start slowly with just 5 minutes each morning, and increase by 2 minutes every 2 days until you reach 20 minutes per day.

Energize With Exercise

Exercising to boost your immune system and mood are reasons enough to move your body on a daily basis.

Many people are streaming their favorite exercise classes into their homes, which is amazing, and a great way to support your professional trainers. But if you are having trouble based on budget, or don’t have exercise equipment at home, here’s a great daily 30 minute circuit workout to get your heart pumping and your mood lifted with no props required (if you are unsure how to do these exercises reach out to me for a demo):

Circuit 1:

  • Wide Arm Pushups: 10 full range + 10 pulses + 10 second hold half-way down
  • Tricep Dips: 10 full range + 10 pulses + 10 second hold half-way down
  • Arm Circles: 10 forward + 10 backward
  • Jumping Jacks: 60 Seconds

Circuit 2:

  • Squats (feet hip distance and weight in heels): 10 full range + 10 pulses + 10 second hold
  • Static Lunges (per side): 10 full range + 10 pulses + 10 second hold
  • Bridge Hip Lifts: 10 full range + 10 pulses + 10 second hold
  • Mountain Climbers: 60 Seconds

Circuit 3:

  • Crunches (chin points up and away from chest at all times): 10 full range + 10 pulses
  • Bicycle Crunches (chin points up and away from chest at all times): 20 full range + 10 pulses to each side
  • Forearm Plank Hold: 60 seconds (take breaks if necessary to work your way up to 60 seconds)

Repeat Each Circuit 3 times through each day (or work your way up to that).

Shower & Get Dressed

While this sounds simple, it's also very easy to stay in pajamas all day while quarantined at home. Wearing a different outfit every day helps you distinguish which day of the week it actually is, creates the structure we are all looking for right now, and motivates you to be more productive. Pajamas are for bedtime, and we do not want to be spending our days in bed right now. Getting dressed helps define when you should (and should not) be in bed.

Preplan Productive Activities

With extra time on our hands, it's easy to turn to our screens, but at the end of the day, you will feel better by being more productive. I recommend leaving the screens in a separate room to resist temptation.

If you are working from home, maintain a set schedule of work hours, as well as a dedicated work space (especially if you share your living space with others). Try out a great app called Rescue Time to track and measure your productivity.

Some other non-work but productive and/or stimulating activities might include cleaning and decluttering spaces; journaling; doing puzzles; testing new recipes; reading; volunteering; or taking an online course to learn a new skill, language, or musical instrument.

Whatever you do with your scheduled time, I recommend creating your daily plan the day before, and writing it down. Doing so makes your plan visual, making it more likely that you’ll stick to it (vs. just “thinking about it” in your mind).

Eat Healthy

It's more important than ever to focus on healthy eating, so here are a few recipes that are easy to prepare, healthy, and delicious:

Mini Egg Frittatas

Eggplant With Capers & Parsley

Veggie Supreme Pizza Soup

Garlic Chicken

Spinach Bites

Sweet Treats

Enjoy The Great Outdoors

Even regions and cities mandating Shelter-In-Place still encourage getting outside while adhering to social distancing. The change of scenery will boost your motivation, the fresh air feels great, and the sun is your natural source of vitamin D, a vital nutrient for bone health, gut health, and normal immune functioning. Whether you go for an outdoor walk, sit in your yard or walk your pet… get yourself outside every day!!

Connect With Family & Friends

While social distancing is absolutely necessary to flatten the curve of COVID-19, it can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Stanford University has studied the benefits of social connection, as well as the detriments of isolation, finding that strong connection increases longevity; strengthens the immune system; helps self-esteem and empathy; and leads to more emotional and physical well-being.

To be clear, social connection is measured by how often you connect with another person, rather than the number of people with whom you connect. Set aside daily time to connect with a friend or family member over the phone, or on a video conference app like Facetime or Zoom!


It is obviously essential to have relaxation time to watch a show, play an online game, join a group chat or do a virtual online activity. Try to avoid this during your specified “productive” hours, but by all means, indulge once your daily responsibilities are fulfilled. Just be sure to limit your time for these activities and don't get “lost” in them.

Create A Bedtime Routine

The National Sleep Foundation recommends an evening ritual that begins around the same time each night (60-90 minutes going to sleep), does not include electronics or a full belly (try to stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime), and includes writing down your plans for the next day. It should also include dimmed lighting and calming activities such as reading or listening to music, as well as getting into bed only when you are actually ready to go to sleep.

Make It Happen!

Here’s a sample of a daily structure you can model as you structure your day for maximum productivity, enjoyment, and fulfillment:

  • Wake up at the same time each morning >
  • Mindfulness practice >
  • Exercise >
  • Shower and get dressed >
  • Prepare a healthy meal >
  • Focus on productive non-screen activities/work >
  • Prepare a healthy meal/snack >
  • Get outside >
  • Focus on productive non-screen activities/work >
  • Virtually connect with a family or friend >
  • Have a healthy dinner >
  • Relaxation >
  • Bedtime Routine >
  • Sleep

I urge you to reach out for support during this time, whether it's with questions and motivation about creating structure, for emotional support, or anything else to help you through these challenging times.

We are all in this together, and it's my job to be here for you right now however I can be helpful.

Please reach out with questions, ideas, feedback, or just to chat! Stay safe my friends!