By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
Do you have consistent routines built into your day? Or, do you just take what the day brings you until you find yourself nodding off in front of the TV, well past bedtime?
Research shows that having a consistent, regular routine can benefit both your physical and mental health. That’s especially welcome news now, when many of us have had our normal routines disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.
Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of a regular routine, and get some suggestions for establishing one of your own.
Every time you have to make a decision, it adds some stress to your life. Even small decisions require energy, and the more decisions you have to make, the more it impairs your self-control. Our days are full of choices—from big ones, such as whether to look for a new job, to seemingly inconsequential decisions, such as what to eat for lunch. That may explain why you start off the day with good intentions but, by evening, are too worn out to even decide whether to floss your teeth.
By creating a consistent routine, you remove some of that decision-making stress from your day. If you always turn off the TV at a set time, and brush and floss your teeth before bed, it will take some of the guesswork out of your day and help you feel more in control.
Poor sleep and insomnia are commonly linked to stress and anxiety, and have been made worse for many people due to the pandemic. The importance of good sleep cannot be overstated: quality sleep boosts the immune system, improves cognitive function, and helps reduce stress.
A regular bedtime routine is essential for getting enough quality sleep. Make a point of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Try setting a reminder on your phone to let you know when it’s time to get ready for bed. Engaging in the same activities before bed every night, such as washing your face and brushing your teeth, signals your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep.
When we’re stressed and tired, physical activity is often the first thing we drop from our to-do list. Too much time sitting increases your risk of disease and death from all causes. Even light exercise can improve your health, help reduce stress, and help you relax.
Building activity into your daily routine—even something as simple as a walk around the block after dinner or a gentle yoga practice before bed—can do wonders for both your physical and mental health. And, because the decision to exercise has already been made, you won’t use up precious energy deliberating.
Attempting to completely overhaul your daily routine may backfire if you’re unable to stick to it at first, so start small. Try these suggestions for creating a new routine that works for you:
- Complete daily tasks at the same time every day. If there’s something you do every day, like walking the dog or making dinner, establish a set time for that task. For example, starting dinner at 6 p.m. every evening and choosing what to make ahead of time will help you reduce stress at the end of the day when you’re running low on energy.
- Plan for the week. Look at your schedule for the week ahead and make sure you have everything you need to minimize disruptions to your routine. Plan your meals ahead of time so you aren’t left wondering what to cook or having to run to the store for last-minute ingredients. It’s perfectly fine to stick to a few tried-and-true, easy-to-prepare meals during the week and save the more time-intensive recipes for days when you have more time.
- Start the day right. Get up at the same time every morning, and give yourself plenty of time to get things done before you need to leave the house. Build some time into your evening routine to get things ready for the next day: make lunches in advance and set out your clothes so you aren’t scrambling to get everything done in the morning.
- Set aside some time for yourself. Spending some time in meditation or just taking a few minutes to sit quietly can help reduce stress and anxiety. Schedule some time into your day to relax—even if it’s just 10 minutes. If you can schedule time in the morning, starting off your day with meditation and journaling can help you set the right tone for the day. Or, make it a part of your bedtime routine to help you unwind and release the stress from the day.
By creating a consistent routine, you’ll reduce the number of decisions you have to make every day. Not only will this help you relax and experience greater peace of mind, but you’ll also save your energy for more important decisions and feel more prepared to face other tasks as they arise.
Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.