Depression & Mental Health Blog
June 27, 2017
Geraldine
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Boring Self-Care and the Importance of Routines

Sometimes taking time for yourself, taking care of yourself, seems like a radical act. To understand how important self-care can be, let’s take a look at what really constitutes self-care. Suggestions on how to take care of yourself can range from meditation to yoga, to prayer, face masks, and nap time. These all sound wonderful. However, there is a deeper level of self-care that isn’t usually on the self-care top ten list.

These are the everyday tasks that need to be done but often go uncelebrated, from simply getting out of bed each day to going grocery shopping, doing the laundry, and washing the dishes. These are achievements that require energy, dedication, and resilience, even if they aren’t thought of as self-care. They may seem like simple, everyday tasks, but for those dealing with a mental illness such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they can be seen as feats of courage.

Build a Foundation with Routine and Structure

Establishing patterns or routines can help you manage your time and plan for better choices during your recovery and throughout aftercare. When you have a healthy routine in place, you are able to make better choices and more easily face any challenges that occur. You can’t plan for everything, but when the basics are taken care of, you can more easily handle challenges.

Routine adds elements of habit and rhythm into your daily life. Our bodies tend to function better when eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns are set to a regular schedule. Our minds also rely on patterns and routine. Because our brains have so much to process, they depend on habits to regulate daily processes.

Science supports the belief that routines and healthy habits are key elements to recovery and aftercare. An NIH report on risks in early recovery indicates that structured time is important to recovery. Individuals in recovery benefit from having a definite plan and a routine that keeps them busy. Unstructured time can also lead to boredom and may increase the risk of old, unhealthy patterns taking over.

Structured routines can help your life feel more manageable and give you a sense of having taken responsibility for the positive changes you are making in your life. They also help you build confidence. For some, everyday tasks may be no big deal, but for those in recovery, they represent important milestones. Establishing daily and weekly routines help create healthy new patterns.

Sample Positive Daily Routine

  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
  • Prepare for work or days off the night before
  • Daily exercise, meditation, or inspirational reading practices
  • Schedule meals
  • Family time or hobbies
  • Household tasks
  • Sleep

Sample Positive Weekly Routine

  • If you don’t exercise every day, create a schedule of the days that you do exercise
  • Attend support group meetings
  • Learn or practice a new skill such as meditation or yoga, or take an online class
  • Socialize with non-using, supportive family and friends

Maintain Balance with a Healthy Routine and Self-Care

We often read or hear about the need for keeping our lives in balance. That means ensuring that all areas of our lives have order, harmony, and rhythm. So determine how much time you want to spend on each of the responsibilities that make up your routine. Some are necessities, such as eating and sleeping, but you can control the amount of time you spend on them. You can also double up, such as eating while socializing.

By carefully scheduling your time, you can ensure that you include the important self-care elements in your routine, and eliminate large amounts of free time that might cause you to slip back into unhealthy patterns. Recovery is a new way of living, so take charge of it by building a balanced, positive, and healthy lifestyle.