How Can Routines Enhance Mental Health?
We all have routines in our lives. We may not even realize it’s a routine; we’ve just become accustomed to doing it. Maybe you have a morning routine of getting up and making coffee before jumping in the shower or an evening routine of watching an episode of your favorite show after dinner.
While these may seem like uneventful habits, having routines – no matter how small – can positively impact our mental wellbeing. “Having a routine can be helpful at any time, particularly if you are trying to establish healthy habits, but these routines can be particularly important when aspects of your life feel uncertain (verywellmind.com).”
Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries encourages individuals to embrace small habits and changes that alleviate feelings of anxiety and create joy. We are sharing how establishing daily, weekly, and monthly routines can positively impact mental health.
Every day we are bombarded by situations that require us to make decisions and manage our time. We often make these decisions subconsciously, but others can add stress to our days, and those small moments of stress add up quickly. For instance, you wake up and snooze your alarm instead of getting up. Now you’re running late; you wanted to get a workout in before you start your day, but now you don’t have time. You stop to get a coffee, but the line is too long, so you skip it. By the time you get to work, you’re rushing, caffeine-less, and probably not feeling your best.
On the other hand, by establishing and sticking to a routine, you can take the guesswork and stress out of your morning. Now, you wake up when you’re alarm goes off and get your workout in. Feeling refreshed and ready for the day, you make coffee and breakfast and get to the office with time to spare.
“The key is to create a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day. Of course, your schedule may change somewhat depending on the day of the week, but sticking to a basic structure for when you will wake, eat, work, do activities, and sleep can help you feel less stressed out and more organized (verywellmind.com).”
For many of those living with anxiety, sleep can be a struggle. “Excess worry and fear make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders (sleepfoundation.org).”
Fortunately, maintaining routines can also help improve sleep habits. “Routines like your sleep schedule and bedtime habits affect your mental sharpness, emotional wellbeing, and energy. Maintaining consistent times for waking and going to bed can help you get better rest (Northwestern Medicine).”
Do What Works for You
You may know someone that’s up and moving by 4:30 a.m. and accomplishes everything on their to-do list before the sun comes up. And that might seem like an overwhelming routine to establish for yourself, and that’s okay.
When building a routine, the goal should be to create one that works for you and your lifestyle. “Some people might thrive with a highly structured daily schedule that outlines activities in specific blocks of time, while others might do well with a loose list of things they need to get done in the day (verywellmind.com).” However you structure it, establishing and sticking to a routine can help you prioritize tasks and goals and provide a sense of accomplishment to your days/weeks/months.
As you get started, be patient and flexible. The goal is not about being perfect and strict but adding structure and predictability to your days to lower stress levels and better manage time. We also encourage you to incorporate prayer and scripture into whatever routine you establish for yourself. Daily prayer can invite more peace into your life, help you learn more about God’s plan for you, and so much more.
"Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 106:1
If you or someone you love is letting anxiety or stress control their days, a routine can help manage these feelings. At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, our Christian counselors specialize in helping individuals improve their mental wellbeing by prioritizing their lives and thinking Spiritually. Contact us to learn more about how this type of counseling could benefit you or someone in your life.