Mental ill health is disruptive, it can turn our worlds upside down, leaving us feeling kerplunked. Quite often, we might find ourselves having to make adjustments to our lives, to make room for recovery. It can sound counter-intuitive but developing a daily routine can help us to feel more in control of everything, and help us to make room for all that’s important. Routine can aid our mental health. It can help us to cope with change, to form healthy habits, and to reduce our stress levels.
Routine Can Anchor Us
Routine can be an anchor. No matter what’s going on in our day, knowing that we will be having our evening meal around 6 pm, and going to bed around 10 pm, can be a real comfort. The certainty of our routine can help us to manage the uncertainty that life can throw up. Coping with unpredictable periods of time can feel more doable when we have a little structure in place to look to.
Having a daily routine can help to reduce our stress levels. Trying to remember things can be really stressful and can fill our brains up with everything on our ‘to do’ list; which can be incredibly overwhelming. When we have a routine, a lot of the things we do day-to-day slot in, and we don’t have to think about them anymore. For example, when we’re well we don’t have to remember to clean our teeth, because we know from habit that teeth-cleaning comes after breakfast every day. Routine can take the guesswork and uncertainty out of bits of our day, which can allow us to feel more in control and less stressed.
Having a routine can help us to cultivate positive daily habits and to prioritise self-care. Organising our time gives have the opportunity to build in blocks of time for things that are important to us. This can allow us to build in daily habits that help us with our mental health. It could include things like time to relax, or a regular bedtime. When they’re part of our routine, it can make it easier to keep up with them because we have the time to do them and they become our ‘new normal’.
One of the things that having a regular routine can really help with, is sleep. Sleep is really important for our mental health because going to bed and waking up at a similar time most days allows our body gets used to our sleep-wake cycle and sets our sleep-wake clock accordingly. This means that by having a regular sleep routine, especially if we build in some time to wind down before we go to bed each day, we should begin to find that we find it easier to get to sleep and sleep better once we are asleep.
Build In The Important Things
Creating a routine allows us to build in time for the important things. This includes time to rest, relax, and have fun. It’s not perfect – there are always going to be days when something overruns, a job takes three times as long as we expect it to take, or someone pops in unexpectedly. But structuring our time to include some downtime increases the likelihood that we’ll manage to have that time most days. We will all value different things – for some of us it might be reading with the kids, others might want some time each day to play with their cat, some of us might enjoy sitting and reading for a little while. For many of us, it will be something else entirely, but that’s why our daily routines are individual to us.
When we’re struggling, it can be really hard to plan, cook, and eat a balanced diet. Food can really affect our mood, so it’s important that we try to keep things as balanced as possible. A routine can help with this, because it allows us to block out some time for cooking, eating, and cleaning up afterwards. Having this time might not mean that we always have the energy or headspace to cook, but it gives us the time to do so if we feel up to it.
Not all of us are a fan of exercising, but exercise can boost our mood. If, and when, we feel able to start exercising, one of the big barriers to doing it can be time. It can be difficult to fit exercise into our day, particularly when life gets busy. By having a daily routine, even if exercise only features in it a couple of times a week, we can create time to take part in our exercise of choice.
Routine can be helpful when it comes to managing our mental health. It can help us to fit all of the important things into our day. The predictability of routine can offer some comfort in an otherwise unpredictable world. We have to be a little bit careful not to get so stuck in our routines that they start to cause us stress, or stop us from being able to do things that we want to do. As long as we’re finding our routines helpful and not harmful, and feel able to flex and change them as our life changes, they can be a great thing to build on and develop over time.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.