As part of my ongoing Self Care Sundays, I will delve into the importance of setting routines and how they can facilitate ongoing self care.
As children, our lives were ruled by routines. We probably had a bed time routine, a wake up routine, and we definitely had routines in school. As teenagers, we couldn’t WAIT to rebel against the routines that seemed to be making our lives miserable. Sure, there were some people in our school who were GREAT at routines and yearned for them. People who had their decorated planners with them at all times and never missed an assignment or a football game. I, personally, always WANTED to be one of those people, but even if I had started out strong, I would start to feel as though I would rather be in charge of my own time. I couldn’t wait until I didn’t have people telling me when I had to wake up, go to bed, or eat. Once I got out on my own, this “freedom” was fine for awhile…until I was an insomniac, depressed and malnourished, with the feeling that there wasn’t enough time in the day to do even the most basic of things.
Routines were easy to rebel against, because it was something WE could control. I never had stopped to think about how important routines were and how they could lead to more productivity, better mental and physical health, and a more positive outlook.
Think about your life in terms of routines. Do you have an established routine in the morning or before bed? If not, do you experience stress, poor sleep, poor eating habits, a less than ideal physical condition, or feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get it all done? These are the common traits of people who do not have routines. Why? Because when we create a routine, it takes the guesswork and thinking out of what we are going to do first and next. If you wake up in the morning and know that you are going to: brush your teeth, take a shower, check your emails, have toast for breakfast with your coffee, and look through your planner to figure out the rest of the day, you have taken the guesswork out of your morning. You have already committed to your breakfast, so you probably already have what you need in the pantry. You save time by automatically doing these things, in order, every day. You have consciously outlined your morning in a way that becomes easier then more you do it. If you add exercise or eating well or drinking water into your routines, you are automatically allowing yourself time for self care.
Doesn’t this mean that you have to be a slave to your routine? Is there room for spontaneity or ambiguity?
Your routines should be like your goals (check out my rules for goal setting), and be adjustable and flexible. Some mornings, your kids might be sick and you might not be able to get to all of your planned routines. That doesn’t mean it isn’t working, you just get back to it when you can. Routines are NOT meant to make your life harder, but to create a sense of control over your time.
WHAT CAN ROUTINES DO FOR ME?
- Routines can increase our productivity. Because we are freeing up our brains from the menial tasks that we want to do, we can fill them with the more productive things we need to do. We also are saving time in our day, leading to getting more done.
- Routines cause us to manage stress better: When we don’t have routines, we tend to think about what we need to get done all day, every day, even when we don’t have the motivation to get things done. If, for example, you have making your bed every morning as part of your routine, you aren’t thinking later about how messy your room is.
- Routines can lead to better sleep: Again, this is because we aren’t thinking so much of the little things that end up keeping us stressed and awake at night. Knowing exactly what we can expect in the morning or when we are going to do something the next day can give us a peace of mind to get some rest.
- Routines create more time for self care: Many times, self care is inherent in our routines. My morning routine consists of getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in every day. Because I have this time allotted into my schedule already, I can’t make excuses to not do it! After awhile, this becomes a habit that I actually enjoy doing and feel incomplete without.
- Routines can be an integral part of our mental health: If you deal with anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions, routines can be a great way of treating some of your symptoms. When you are in the midst of a depression, for example, in can be hard to even take a shower or brush your teeth, much less eat well. If you create a routine and make yourself follow it no matter how you feel, it can at least lead to a sense of normalcy for a little while and make you feel more productive. If you normally follow routines, and then start to slip away from them, this could be a sign that you are entering a depression, which is good to know as early as you can. (Please seek mental health help if you feel like you need any assistance in this matter. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.)
As you can see, routines are pretty important, which is why the adults in our lives created them for us when we were younger! I challenge you to create your own morning and bedtime routine, write it down somewhere (in your planner, on a poster board in your bedroom, etc), and begin following it as best as you can. Remember, if something isn’t working, make an adjustment, but try your best to follow your routine for as long as you can. Track your successes and your failures and be mindful of what works and what doesn’t.