When we hear the word ‘routine’ we almost always have an immediate response:
“Routine? That sounds so boring.”
A year ago, I would have agreed with those ‘five words’. But today I won’t. Well, I have my reasons and the most important one is that routine saved me from having a mental health crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is something we have never experienced before. Things are definitely going to get better and normal very soon (they already are). We must not forget all the lessons this pandemic has taught/teaching us because it’s something we might face again in the future if we don’t correct our mistakes now. Overall, it can be said that our lives have changed forever. So many people have lost their lives. So many people contracted the virus and suffered (so many still are because remember the pandemic isn’t over yet). So many people are going through mental illnesses including clinical depression, anxiety disorders, etc. In such unprecedented times it is quite okay to feel mentally exhausting. During the pandemic, researchers at the University of Glasgow conducted a study to examine the effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the mental well-being of people living in the UK. The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. What was found is that the suicidal thoughts increased from 8% to 10% and it was the highest among young adults (18-29 years). Researchers agreed that the percentage increase might look like a small number but it is a concern because it happened during a short period of time.
During times like these it is more important than ever to have a routine. It’s not a guarantee that everything is going to be perfectly okay but it does help a lot when there is so much uncertainty around us. Routine gives us something to look forward to everyday and it does give a structure to our days.
YOUR DAYS ARE STRUCTURED:
As mentioned above, routines help give structure to our days. When we know we have to wake up, eat food, do our most important tasks at a particular time in a day we are guiding our days and not the other way around. There is an agenda and we look forward to completing those agendas when we have a routine. There is more focus and our brains don’t wander much because it knows well enough all that it is supposed to concentrate on. Decide what time you will wake up and stick to it. Decide what time you will go to bed and stick to it. Have a set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Structure your days. Have some daily routines because your brain will thank you for that.
LOWER STRESS AND ANXIETY LEVELS:
When days are not planned it becomes natural to get caught on everything that comes our way. This results in more stress and anxiety levels. However, by having a routine we learn what to focus on and at what time. We start training ourselves to focus on what’s right in front of us and let the insignificant things stay what they are. We feel more in control. We feel less stressed and don’t get anxious so easily. Routines act like an anchor of predictability. Dr Steve Orma, a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinical Psychologist works with patients suffering from anxiety, insomnia and stress. He says, “Routine helps with stress. Create a set schedule for doing chores, work tasks, meetings, exercise, paying bills, and all the usual things you need to do. Put these into your schedule. Once this becomes your normal routine, it’s easier to accomplish everything, because it becomes habit.” Remember, what gets scheduled gets done.
YOU ARE MORE CREATIVE AND PRODUCTIVE:
Every creative genius had a secret: a daily routine. I know this wasn’t a secret you were expecting but it’s the truth. Routines helped these geniuses bring out their creativity and be productive. Below image is the daily routine of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
It’s quite true that Ben Franklin did not follow his routine 100% every day. It’s not possible. There is so much that comes up unexpectedly because of which sticking to a routine every single day becomes rather impossible. Nevertheless, he was a very productive person because he followed his daily routines as much as he could. Routines help us stay on top of our game just like it helped people like Beethoven and Freud. We are less distracted and start prioritising things in our lives. And people who know what to prioritize can be nothing but creative and productive.
BETTER MENTAL HEALTH:
Having a good mental health is so important right now. Nothing is of any significance if there is mental turbulence all the time. When the world has become isolated and we have somewhat lost chances to meet our loved ones in person it is natural to feel mentally unstable from time to time. This is where routine comes in to rescue us. If there is anything I am 100% certain of it’s the fact that without having a routine almost every single day I would have lost my demeanour. Routine kept me in check. It made me realise that I could control some of the things in my day. This eventually helped me having a relatively better mental health.
Don’t be very hard on yourself when it comes to building a routine. It takes time. Forming habits take time. Some days you are going to be very productive while the other days it will hard for you to keep up with your routine. And that’s okay. Life happens. Try again the other day. Just because you have stumbled once doesn’t mean you have to stop trying. Prioritise your mental well-being. There is so much that depends on it.