Depression and anxiety can both be disruptive to your life. Their symptoms can sometimes overlap so you may not be sure which is affecting you at any given time. Regardless of which disease is causing your problems, having a routine can help you manage the situation.
Routines can make your life seem boring, but they are crucial to maintaining a manageable level of control over your mental illnesses. A routine will limit the amount of damage that common symptoms can do to your life. That way when you are feeling better, you don’t have to dig out from underneath a catastrophe.
Some of the symptoms that can be helped by having a routine are brain fog, inability to make decisions, forgetfulness, stress, and procrastination.
What to Schedule
In short, schedule everything. While you don’t need to schedule in five-minute increments, there should not be large blank spaces in your day. That just invites trouble — particularly procrastination.
The only significant size blank space in your calendar should be when you are supposed to be asleep. Start there. Try to go to bed and get out of bed around the same time each day. Notice I did not say sleep. I know that when you have anxiety and depression, sleep is not always your friend. Even if insomnia is currently staying at your house, try to establish the habit of being in bed during the same hours each day. Train your mind that this is the time for you to rest.
Schedule everything you need to accomplish in a week. Your work. Your responsibilities with your kids. Grocery shopping. Laundry. Everything gets its own set times.
Schedule in times to handle your inbox so it does not get out of control. Also, schedule in bill-paying days so nothing gets forgotten. Put your self-care on that schedule, too. It can be as simple as a daily shower or as fancy as weekly manicure appointments. Whatever works for you.
Also, schedule food. Both times and menu. When mental illness comes visiting you will often, without warning, find it very hard to make decisions. Depression takes your choice making ability away because you don’t care about anything. Anxiety takes your choice making ability away because it stresses you out making you terrified you will choose incorrectly. Knowing what you eat for lunch on Thursday will take that battle away. Every Thursday you go to the deli across the street and get ham on rye with mustard. No decision is necessary.
Two things that people often overlook when they are creating schedules are things they expect to happen spontaneously, but which rarely do. First, schedule in time to work on the things you want to accomplish. This can be reading a book a month or building your side hustle or exercise to get into shape. Schedule in the things that matter to you.
Finally, schedule in time for your partner. Mental illness will sometimes make us self-absorbed without us realizing it. We get so wrapped up in our pain and suffering that we forget to nurture our relationships. Whatever you guys do to bond, put it in the schedule. Maybe date nights for dinner out. Or Sunday night Netflix binging. If it works for you both, you can even put sex on that schedule.
Plan for transitional periods, too. Some things only come up periodically. Know how your schedule will change during the summer when your kids are out of school and then again in the fall when they go back. Have your holiday plans made months in advance so you know what is going down no matter what your mind has in store for you during that time.
The first benefit is that when you carry out your routine regularly, everything becomes a habit. You are much more likely to continue with habits when mental illness flares up because you do not have to think about it. You do not have to motivate yourself to make plans or make decisions. You just have to drag yourself through what you always do. No extra thought required.
Removing the need to make decisions will save you time and stress.
Fewer choices and more habits = fewer things to forget
While it will not remove the effects of anxiety or depression it will lessen the damage they can do to your life and your relationships. Once they start to ease back up, you will have fewer problems you need to straighten out.
Having a routine can give you a solid mooring to connect to so that you can better handle what your mental illness throws at you.