Real talk time – I have high functioning anxiety. It’s something that I ignored as just a normal part of life for a very long time, but have really started to focus on dealing with over the last year or so. There is so much stigma around mental health in this country that I feel like there are just so many people suffering in silence. Well, friends, I’m here, I’m dealing with it, and you are not alone if you are dealing with anxiety too.
One of the things that really has helped me is forming and following routines in my everyday life. With as fast as my mind is always moving, it’s pretty easy for these routines to become way more intricate than they need to be. That doesn’t help with the anxiety. Simplicity does.
Even if you don’t have anxiety, there is a lot that can be gained from having a simple daily routine in your life. Are you frazzled getting yourself and the kids out the door every morning? Do you spend all of your time taking care of others and ignoring self-care practices to help take care of yourself? A routine can help you in these areas and more!
Routines help with anxiety and stress, increasing productivity and decreasing procrastination, breaking bad habits, and improving sleep habits.
Below are 3 strategies I have used to build simple, lasting routines to improve my daily routine.
1. Create and stick to a good morning routine.
Think about it, this is how you start your day. And, it’s really hard to recover from a bad morning. Don’t start your day stressed and rushed. Get into a routine that helps you rock your morning and setup a kickass day ahead.
My morning routine involves turning on the news to catch the headlines and weather, eating a quick breakfast, and then getting myself and the kids around for the day. To be as efficient as possible, I set out the kids’ clothes and anything else that they need to get ready for the day when I go upstairs to shower. They know that they are expected to get dressed, brush their teeth, and do their hair while I’m getting ready for the day. Giving them that independence has been a tremendous improvement to all of our mornings.
My routine is pretty simple. I know most people like to have coffee in the morning, so that could be part of your routine. Or, reading the paper (do people still get those at home?). Or exercising (which I really need to work into my routine!). Do what makes sense for you and your family. The point is to realize what you need and make a routine of doing it at a certain time, in a certain order everyday.
2. Do the tasks that you’re dreading the most first.
This has been one of the biggest triggers of my anxiety monster. When there is a task that you really don’t want to do or a conversation that you really don’t want to have, it’s human nature to avoid it for as long as possible. Procrastination. But, this actually makes things worse for you.
The longer you avoid doing something, the longer it is going to be sitting in your brain, gnawing at you and stressing you out. Most of the time, at least for me, once the deed is complete you realize that it wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be in your mind. But, you wasted all of that time worrying and procrastinating, which affected everything else that you tried to accomplish during that time.
This is an area that I still struggle with. There are certain tasks at my 9-5 that I dread doing, so I tend to put them off until I can’t avoid them any longer. And, there are some people that are just really difficult to work with, so I avoid and reschedule meetings with them until I absolutely have to deal with them. All the while, I’m anxious about the inevitable moment when I know I’ll have to deal with the task or meeting.
One way that I’ve found help with this is to do those tasks that I’m dreading before doing all of the other tasks that I love. When I start working in the morning, my routine now is to do my “crappy tasks” first. This helps me to meet that anxiety monster head-on, power through, and move on to something enjoyable for the rest of the day. It really helps with my mood and I feel so much better knowing that everything is complete.
This can apply to my friends that don’t work outside of the home as well. What are those tasks that you dread around the house? For me, it’s dishes. So, I try to get that sink cleaned out in the morning while I’m cooking breakfast. Unloading and loading the dishwasher really doesn’t take that long. It’s just a task that I dread. Having this as part of my routine helps me to get it knocked out while I would otherwise just be standing over the stove, watching food cook.
3. Create and stick to a good nighttime routine.
I used to have a terrible time with getting a good night’s sleep. Either I would lay in bed thinking about all of the random things that were on my mind, trying desperately to quiet them to sleep. Or, I would be so exhausted from my mind working so hard during the day that I would crash before my oldest child even went to bed because I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open. But, joy of joys, then I would wake up around 2am, mind racing, unable to go back to sleep. It was miserable.
I will admit that medicine has probably been the number one help for my anxiety in this area (definitely a positive about seeking help!). But, routine has also been a tremendous help. The nighttime routine in our household has helped tremendously with not only my sleep habits but also my kiddos.
The kids have their own bedtime routines that they follow to help them sleep well. The big picture of their routine fits into my routine as well. For example, part of my routine is that my 5 year old goes to bed at 7:30pm and my 9 year old goes to bed at 8:30pm.
Once the kids are settled into bed, my routine looks kind of like this:
Tidy our main living space, putting things away that I may have been working on (I do a lot of projects…) and putting any stray toys that didn’t make it upstairs into the kids’ bins that sit on the stairs (one of their morning chores is to empty those bins). Then, I sit and relax with hubby.
This is our time together. We do one of two things. We either catch up on one of our shows on the DVR or Netflix that wouldn’t be appropriate to watch when the kids are around, or we pick up a book (or sometimes even a comic book) and read for a while. We enjoy our quiet time together just as much as we enjoy our time with the kids earlier in the day.
I know they say you’re not supposed to watch tv before bed, but it’s never really been an issue for us. The goal is to do something that helps to calm your mind, whatever that may be for YOU.
Our routine ends with us heading up to bed around 10pm.
Just as with the morning routine, include activities and timelines that make sense for you and your family. What matters is creating and following a simple routine on a daily basis.
There are many other routines that you could add for your household – exercising, housework, etc. Create routines that meet your needs without over complicating the task at hand. At the very least, I’ve found that it’s helpful to have a morning routine, daytime routine, and nighttime routine.
What routines have you adapted that have worked well for your lifestyle?