Anxiety and the importance of routine

‘The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine’ – Mike Murdock

I remember in our early 20s my ever so clever mate Janine told me about her theory about life being like a big football pitch and the aim is to get from one end to the other successfully. The pitch will be littered with obstacles and some you will merely walk around, or power straight on through but others will take a little longer to figure out how to get past, but all being well, you’ll get to the end eventually. Bear that in mind for now because it will come back around later I promise.

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I said a while ago that I was’t going to talk about my depression diagnosis anymore on the blog because for me, the more I talk about it the more it keeps it present in my mind. My last depression post was in 2016 so I reckon one every couple of years is a good balance if not for a reminder that it isn’t always all wine and boybands in my world.

The reason I bring this up now is because i’m becoming pretty good at spotting the trigger signs early and just after Christmas this year I could feel that black cloud starting to emerge again. It hadn’t struck me until then that I think a trigger for me is not being in a routine.

I’m a big believer in the theory of spirals; positive spirals, negative spirals, shame spirals etc. Once you get an idea in your head, that feeds another thought then another, then another and I very quickly start to spiral out of control. I was off work between Christmas and New Year last year and was looking forward to having some real down time; get some decorating done and hit the gym daily to try and offset some of the bad food I was inevitably going to be eating.

Come boxing day after a particularly boozy Xmas day, I felt rotten. I’d caught a bit of a stomach bug, couldn’t face eating or drinking anything so I lay on the sofa all day and binge watched the entire series of You on Netflix. Ok, so that was one day and I felt loads better the day after. The problem is i’d gotten myself into a bad spiral and couldn’t get out of it. I was out of my normal routine and almost created a new, bad routine of laying around eating Toffifee.

Yeah I know the concept of ‘ I can’t wait to get up early every day, be shattered at work then slog it out at the gym for an hour’ doesn’t sound like  particularly fun existence but for someone who is so easily lead astray, it’s something I need to keep my physical and mental health in check. I’ve been going to the gym in the hour between getting home and having tea for so long now I genuinely don’t know what other people do in that time. It’s so deeply ingrained in my routine that I can’t imagine ever doing anything else.

I’m sure some people will be rolling their eyes at this point because essentially all i’m talking about is doing a bit of exercise each day, but that’s just one example of how I’ve made routine work in my favour. I have my lunch at the same time everyday (12pm with Emma and Sophie) and have the same thing to eat (a bagel, small packet of crisps and an apple). Boring, perhaps, but it means i’m eating just the right amount that i’m not snacking in the afternoon, still eating the foods I like so don’t feel like i’m on a depressing diet and have a break away from my desk to get me motivated to get back to work in the afternoon.

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When I changed jobs 18 months ago I had to move from being completely reactive and doing what I was asked to managing my own work load and making my own decisions. I had to really teach myself self discipline because if I sat around waiting to be told what to do i’d never achieve anything. So I put myself into a routine and created ‘meetings’ for myself where I would spend an hour or so concentrating on a particular piece of work, even if that meant booking myself into a meeting room or working at home to avoid any distractions. It was a hard habit to form but now it’s second nature and when I stick to my new routine, I get everything done that needs to get done.

The more of a routine I’m in the more successful I am, whether it be at the gym, or at work, the more I feel i’m getting stuff done and making progress and the less anxious I feel. Sitting around hungover on a Sunday watching Netflix is great every now and then, but week after week it gets me down and makes me start to feel that little angry black depression cloud knocking on my door.

So to spin back round to Janine’s football pitch theory, I think routine is an important part of helping you get round those little obstacles in life, especially if the obstacle is you’re stuck in a bit of a rut or in one of those nasty negative spirals we all fall into at this time of year.

What are your top tips for getting out of a funk?

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie January 30, 2019 / 7:28 am

    I’m definitely better in a routine too, and also experienced the effects of too many days doing nothing over Christmas and New Year and felt awful when I went back to work. For me I’ve stopped seeing excerise as a chore to “keep me skinny” and as I’ve eaten “bad” foods but instead seeing it as beneficial for my mind and my mood! It’s made it much easier to go and keeps me in my routine! Xx

  2. newgirlintoon January 30, 2019 / 8:28 pm

    Oh Helen I just love how we are on the same page .. and not just with our mutual love of 90s boybands! I’ve been battling with SAD since around October time and it took me until January to work out that one of my biggest triggers is not having a routine! I couldn’t understand why I was feeling more down at weekends than during the week, I mean how could that make any sense?! Then I realised it’s because I don’t have a set routine – no alarms, no need to get in the shower for a certain time, nowhere to really be – it seems to just tip me back into feeling rubbish! It certainly explains why I got so low over Christmas!

    Unfortunately my husband LOVES having no plans at the weekend so it’s been quite hard explaining to him why I have to set an alarm on Saturdays and why I have to jump straight up and hit the shower rather than mooching about in my PJS, but now I’ve worked it out I feel so so much better for it!

    The last two weekends I’ve made myself little weekend routines and there have been no tears .. amazing! It’s the best feeling when you work out what makes you feel bad and can do something about it!

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