Routine is so important. And I remind my clients often. When there are times when you feel overwhelmed or stressed or that you just have too much to accomplish in one day, making a clear routine and schedule can do more than you might think. Making a plan for when you’re going to get different things done and even knowing clearly what you have to get done can take such a tremendous weight off your shoulders and relieve that pressure of feeling overwhelmed. It can alleviate being concerned that you’re not going to get done what you need to get done or that you might forget certain things. Getting yourself organized and coming back to that routine is very important. It might sound like I am stating something so obvious but we often do not adhere to this known strategy. It’s not something that comes natural to me, but it’s something that I try to adhere to as much as possible especially when I have more than usual going on, feel stressed or that other things in my life are not controllable. This effects our mood and anxiety in an impactful way.
I remind myself to come back to trying to stay routine and organized. There are some different ways that you can do this. I’m a big fan of blocking your time and scheduling that out a week in advance. I also think that making lists: a list of things that needs to be done at home and at work, (and any other lists, if needed). It can also be a useful tool for you to delegate to family members or employees or partners that you’re collaborating with. What is so important about doing this ,especially in stressful times, is that when you are stressed, you feel like there’s so much going on around you that is out of control. Our brain is going to naturally revert to wanting to control, control, control. Then we try to control things that we can’t, the things outside of us or things that we can’t change that are happening and as a result, your mood decreases. It can negatively impact our relationships. It increases your anxiety. It can lead to a sense of hopelessness and even procrastination, which we know is a function of anxiety. So when you come up with your lists and then can decide how they’re going to happen during your day and what that will look like, you’ll feel in control of your day. You can spread things out over the course of a week, if you can, or maybe even longer so that you can see clearly when things are going to get done and know that they won’t be forgotten about. They’ll be prioritized but they all don’t have to be swirling around in your head at the same time. They can be put in their time and place and access when it is that time. Then you can always change this around if needed, if something of a higher priority comes up. You can bump something to later in the week or later on your schedule but at least you know that it’s there and it’s clear. I know that I feel so much better going into a busy day if I can visually see how things are laid out and not just thinking in my mind, “Okay, these are all of the things that I need to get done. How is that going to happen?”
If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, whether you’ve recently had a loss or you’ve seen the end of a relationship, a health stressor, things you’re worried about for your child or any type of conflict, this is a good time (if you’re not already doing routine-setting and scheduling and organizing) to come back to that as one of your first levels of defense for yourself, as soon as possible.
It is also helpful for blocks of unstructured time when you are not busy. You can block time for what may be helpful or needed, what may keep your mind on happier and healthier things but also time for reflection and emotional processing. This helps to know that your needs are being met which will help you feel better and you will have more internal control. This reduces anxiety and improves mood when there are negative emotions that you have to process or a decision that you have to make. You will know that you are not avoiding that but it is not always on your mind. You’re creating a balance and that will feel more comfortable.