Routine. Noun. A sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program. (Right from the good old dictionary)
Imagine you are starting the process of baking a cake. Maybe your mom has a big birthday coming up or one of your little one’s is celebrating their first, whether it’s a chocolate cake or Funfetti flavor- just follow me through this one. We are baking a cake (insert favorite cake flavor here). I personally bake my cakes from boxes, don’t judge me… those are the best cakes ever! I’ve gathered the box of cake mix, the bowl and pan, all the extra ingredients the box calls for and the electric whisk. I have intentions to follow the instructions, step by step until the cake comes out of the oven a golden brown with the aroma of Funfetti (or chocolate) floating through the air. If you bake cakes on the regular, you typically end up following the same steps every time. Kind of becomes a routine, right? Well on this fun occasion, the pups have lost their ever loving minds and are running havoc around the house, my phone is blowing up with text notifications about Facebook ruining lives again, and I’m on a very tight deadline to get this cake finished before the epic birthday celebration of the evening. I’m in a rush so I just start tossing the ingredients into the bowl, vaguely paying attention to the instructions on the box but also feeling like I know a little bit about what I’m doing. In goes the electric whisk as I flip up its switch, cake powder is everywhere. Maybe I should have read the part of the box where it said to mix on LOW. So much for following instructions. I still have this cake to finish and the minutes are ticking away. Throw the cake in the oven, wipe the sweat from my brow (apparently you can sweat while baking a cake), and walk away to attend to the dogs who have lost their manners and check my 24.5 texts- that half text was a “guess what” text someone sent my way and then proceeded to fall asleep without telling me, totally counts as a half. But guess what I forgot to set…? Cue trip to grocery store to pick up cupcakes while running late to the birthday celebration.
This is my life without routine.
Always in a rush to get things done before the deadline. Constantly running late to such deadlines. The simple inability to decide between chocolate and Funfetti cake mix! Making little mistakes that create huge messes that I am left responsible to clean. Never remembering the important things that I either told someone else I would do or told myself I couldn’t forget to do. Day in and day out always feeling overwhelmed, running behind, discouraged and like I’m letting everyone- including the dogs- down. My life without routine can be summed up with the vision of throwing me into an avalanche while I really believe I can still make it to the top of the mountain. That always works out well…
Routine gives my mind more availability to handle the anxiety that I face daily. I train myself into handling those daily activities naturally and before I know it, I’m brainstorming how I’ll write my next blog post while brushing my teeth instead of focusing on just simply getting my teeth brushed. So before I even walk downstairs in the morning, I’m feeling like a life conqueror, donning golden armor instead of the shoulders slumped second day of dry shampoo peasant. If I wake up at a pre-planned time every day, roll out of bed, change into an effort of an outfit, walk across the hall to the bathroom to brush my teeth, fix my hair and apply my face, take the stair case down to turn on the Keurig, keep walking down the stairs to get the dogs, let them out, and then make my cup of caffeine goodness for the day- I can nearly guarantee without an ounce of mental effort that I can check off each of those activities from my to do list each and every day. This already leaves me with more energy to fight off the negative vibes from that anxiety tribe that likes to follow my every move and focus on really having a great day.
My routines don’t stop at daily ones. I have a weekly routine for my boutique, a weekly routine for house cleaning, a weekly routine for the full time and, yes, we even have date night built into a routine. My routines have routines. Excessive…? Probably. But when you find something that works for you, don’t sweep it under the rug just because someone else shrugs their nose at it. If it works for you, WORK IT GIRL! Do whatever you need to do to give yourself more energy to fight back against your anxiety. If you are exhausted from juggling life all week, that depression monster is going to crawl out from wherever the hell that scary thing lives and eat you alive. The best way to take care of yourself and your mental health is to be well rested for the daily battle- and I don’t mean getting eight hours of sleep.
I have my days. Especially when my routine is thrown off. That is really the way to hit that big red flashing button that immediately sets my home base into lock down. Lock down consists of not showering for a week and attempting to cover it up with way, way too much dry shampoo. I should avoid lock downs at all costs, for your sake and mine. Those times that my routine has to be adjusted or is interrupted are extremely hard on my mental health. I can’t sit here and say YES BY GOLLY it is so healthy to not be able to be flexible or open to changes in my schedule. I’m working on handling changes to my schedule better and reserving more energy to handle those adjustments. Like I am developing a “routine” to put into play when my normal routine is interrupted- I am a planner for goodness sakes- cut me some slack! At least for now, I know when my routine is changed by force, I should be ready for a few things to happen. I know my usual strength will be on a hiatus until my routine returns. I know I will probably have to pull out more tricks to fight against that evil anxiety monster. And I also know that sometimes, I will fall victim to him and the monster will be spitting out my bones after being his main course.
It’s okay to not be okay all the time, as long as you keep fighting. If that evil monster gets you on a Tuesday, don’t let him eat you for Leftover Wednesday too. This battle is the most intense game of the season. Every defeat and low day is made that much less significant when you have the massive wins to celebrate. Days that my routine falls right on schedule are massive wins for me. Routines are my fixed programs to fighting back against my anxiety. Brush my teeth, put my face on, make my coffee and take on life with more energy to enjoy things like chocolate birthday cake instead of anxiety cocktails.
Here’s to the addition of writing regular blog posts to my routine!