For people struggling with their mental health, ensuring that your life consists of routines, structure and predictability is a significant part of keeping your anxiety at arm’s length.  I know that for me, without a routine and a plan, I would be lost.

My friends usually hate talking to me because they say my organization and somewhat intense planning, makes them feel badly about what they have or haven’t done.  Or, they don’t feel badly at all and just think I’m crazy.  I mean who needs to have a trip planned 2 years in advance?

Having a routine that I’ve created, provides my day with structure.  By filling my time with things that make me feel confident empowered and happy, I feel more in control and successful.  The sense of accomplishment that I feel as I mentally check things off that I’ve followed through with is so powerful.

The day to day habits that you’re in can be hard to break and change.  On one hand, they provide you with comfort and familiarity and seem to get you through the day.  On the other hand, they may not be working for you and may actually be contributing to your anxiety.  How do you go about breaking routines that you’ve had for a long time, but aren’t helpful, without feeling overwhelmed?  It’s definitely not easy.

To begin with, you need to take into account who you are; your personality traits, whether or not you’re a morning person or a night person, are you a homebody or more of an extrovert?  By considering who you are, you are more likely to put together a plan that is unique to you, which will improve the likelihood of you following through with it and feeling successful.

If you struggle with anxiety, it’s likely that you feel stuck and have a hard time getting motivated to try new things.  Listen to your body and measure how comfortable you are trying new things.  You may need to take it slow and try one new thing at a time.  Use positive self-talk to help get you going into a new routine, but remember not to overdo it.  Push yourself, but it’s okay if you get overwhelmed and have to pull back.  Be forgiving of yourself and allow yourself time and understanding.

When deciding what your new routine will look like, it’s important to take it one day at a time.  Being mindful of the present and how you feel is much less worrisome than thinking about the future and all of its’ possibilities.  The future is filled with the unknown and that can provoke many anxious feelings.  By breaking things up into steps and small daily goals and achievements, you will feel less pressured and more in control.  On each day, it will be important to make yourself aware of all that you are grateful for.  What did you accomplish on that day that made you happy?  What made you smile?  What were you thankful for?  Focusing on the present will ease your worries about the future.

Adding the following four daily routines to your day will also help your anxiety:

  1. Start your morning off right. For many people, mornings are usually rushed and hectic. This feeling of urgency can trigger anxiety. Having a morning routine that works for you can greatly reduce anxiety.First, try and get up at the same time every day and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to do some self-care as well as get ready for the day.
    The first thing that I suggest is to make your bed first thing in the morning. Sounds easy enough and it is. It only takes seconds, but you’d be surprised at how it contributes to a healthy state of mind. You will start your day feeling as though you’ve accomplished something. Your room will look less cluttered, which will help declutter your mind.Take the extra time to do things that you normally wouldn’t have time for; such as, eating breakfast, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading the paper, or dare I say, do a quick exercise routine (stretching, pushups, a quick jog). Releasing early morning endorphins through exercise is a great way to start the day.
    As well, make sure that you drink plenty of water in the morning. Staying hydrated helps give you energy and clarity of mind.Lastly, instead of waking up with a feeling of dread about the upcoming day, think about 3 things that you are grateful for and are looking forward to; these three things can be small and simple; like “I’m looking forward to my morning smoothie” or “I’m grateful that I feel healthy and strong today.”
  2. Make a to-do list. Start by making a list of what your goals are and then break them down into a smaller to-do list. It may be easier to break the list up into categories such as: personal, relationship, job/school, family. That list may end up being long, which for people with anxiety, can be overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed, after your to-do list is done, prioritize items on the list. Each week, choose three items from your to-do list to tackle. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t complete each item. It’s okay to carry it over to the next week. The key here is to make sure your list is broken down. For example, if you have “get in shape” on your personal list, ask yourself, “what does that look like?” “Get in shape” is a very broad goal and not specific enough to tackle. Try breaking It down into smaller steps such as, exercise 2x/week, eat breakfast every morning, get a good night sleep….
  3. Have a good nighttime routine. Your nighttime routine is just as important as your morning routine. As soon as you get home from work or school, it’s suggested that you immediately change your clothes. You’d be surprised at the difference this can make in how you feel; especially if you’ve had a stressful day. Changing into something that you love and is comfortable can have an immediate impact on your state of mind.If you’ve been stuck indoors for a large part of the day, try and get some fresh air. Even a quick walk around the block is helpful in clearing your head which will help ensure a more relaxing night.If there’s something on your mind from the day that is frustrating you or upsetting you, take a few minutes to write in your journal.Lastly, sleep. Get plenty of it. Aim for somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Too much or too little sleep can both have a negative impact on your mind and body. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and make sure you give yourself time to unwind in bed.
  4. Other things you can add into your daily routine: There are a lot of things that you can do regularly that will help with your anxiety. These are just a few:
    • Social connections/relationships
    • Reading
    • Listening to music
    • Exercising
    • Yoga/meditation
    • Journaling
    • Eating right/diet and nutrition

The important thing to remember is that you’re not trying to change everything at once. Take things slow, be mindful of how you’re feeling and focus on small changes. Start with one or two changes at a time and slowly add new things to your routine. Routines are unique to everyone. What works for one person, may not work for you. What you try one day, may not end up feeling right. Don’t give up and keep trying new things. It can take a while to kick in, but once it does, your routine will help reduce your feelings of anxiety as you gain control of your days.