We’ve all had those days: wake up five minutes after you should be halfway to work, dig through the dirty clothes bin looking for your ID badge, and grab the milk to find just three drops left: no coffee for you this morning. The dog has shredded another pair of shoes; you trip over your bike as you run out the door. You try to start the car, but you forgot to buy gas on your way home four times this week. You need a routine or at least a more effective one.
Then there are those other days: wake up foggy-headed, uneasy, unable to focus. Everything irritates you. What doesn’t annoy you has you feeling as if life itself requires too much from you, with almost no return, so you pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Although hiding from the world might work for a day or so, you have to come out sometime. You need a routine.
Before You Open Your Eyes
Do a self-check and a little self-maintenance. First, use the self-care web game “You Feel Like Shit” to walk through whatever might be affecting your ability to function for the rest of your day. Created by mental health self-advocate Jace Harr, the interactive game walks you through whether or not you need food, water, medication, exercise or social interaction to feel well enough to face your day. You can also try Odyssey Online’s “30 Things to Do When You Feel Like Shit.” Or you can stick with the classics and read through “Just for Today,” a pamphlet published by Al-Anon Family Groups.
“Just for Today” is short and easy to use when you need help from moment to moment dealing with PTSD, family problems or trouble with loved ones going through addictions and emotional issues. India Arie sings a simplified version of “Just for Today” on YouTube. The song echoes Natasha Bedingfield’s sound on “Unwritten.”
If you happen to be in recovery yourself, Within Temptation’s “The Whole World is Watching” featuring David Pirner may be more your speed. Pair it with Within Temptation’s “And We Run” featuring rapper Xzibit, and Mass Effect tribute song “Reignite” sung by Malukah, and you have a motivational trifecta to help you drag yourself out of any hopelessness or depression one baby step at a time.
If those feel too positive for the moment, turn to Disturbed’s “Sounds of Silence” and allow that to pull you along until you can rise on your own two feet. Don’t be afraid to use any other song that draws you up instead of pulling you downward.
After Performing Your Self-care
Routines simplify managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Schedule time for self-reflection. Allow yourself to work through the various sources of stress in your life: financial, relational, professional and self-created. Set a 10-minute timer. Write down all the things that cause you stress and anxiety, fear and anger.
Be specific about the situation and what has happened so far. Identify the emotions you feel as well as any other people who contributed to the problem. Separate your actions and feelings from what you think the other people involved might think or feel. When the timer goes off, set that journal entry aside. Allow yourself to explore throughout the day, whether you “should feel that way” or not. Emotions are neither good nor bad; they simply exist.
Do you start your day with quiet time, take immediate action, or take a leisurely approach to your day? Give yourself some rituals, such as sharing coffee with your spouse or coworkers, listening to your favorite playlist on the way to work or taking a morning run. These rituals give you time to center yourself. If the daily hustle bites into your centering time, don’t let it get to you. Stop and take your “you-time” as soon as possible.
Make Use of Tools and Time Frames
Use scheduling software and online artificial intelligence tools such as Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Create “to do” lists ahead of time or create entries as you complete each task. Using the “completed tasks” option can help you feel a sense of accomplishment at getting things done instead of making you feel anxious or guilty about what you haven’t finished.
Schedule blocks of time for categories, rather than just listing a bunch of tasks. Block scheduling gives you enough flexibility to allow you to get back on track if “but first” takes over your day.
Hit the Reset Button
Finally, allow yourself to restart your day as needed. Instead of feeling angry, frustrated or ashamed of any deviations from your schedule, act as if your day just began two minutes ago. Do that as often as necessary and watch your stress level drop.
What tips for creating a daily routine have been the most helpful for you? What advice would you give to someone who needs to create a new daily routine?