The Mental Health Benefits of RoutineAug 26, 2022
Routines are good for your mental (and physical) health. When your routine is disrupted, you may feel disorganized, unmotivated, stressed, or burned out. These feelings are normal. It doesn’t mean change is bad. Learning how to be resilient in the face of change can help us build the skills to manage future challenges. However, returning to a state of routine provides the structure we need as humans to make logical sense of our day, be productive, and accomplish our goals.
Whether your kids are returning to school or as an employee you are returning to a physical workplace or new work location, adjusting your mindset about change and preparing for a new routine will help set you on the path to success.
How Routines Can Improve Your Mental Health
Studies show that when it comes to diet, sleep, and exercise, having strong routines are linked to improved mental and physical health (Mental Health America). Those who do face health challenges or negative life events have shown to have lower levels of distress when they have more daily routines (Mental Health America).
If you lack routine or if your routine changes, you may experience feelings of worry or stress. That is because of three main factors that strongly impact worry: predictability, control, and importance. Not knowing what comes next in our day or week can create feelings of uncertainty. If you are not able to organize meaningful events in your day, you may feel a loss of control over things that matter to you. Our ability to engage in valued activities has high importance, so when we aren’t able to participate in these activities, it makes a significant impact in our lives.
Having a routine can help alleviate worry and stress by giving you predictability and control over meaningful and productive events in your day. Routines also have other benefits that can make a huge difference for our mental health.
Benefits of Routine:
- Reduces the need to plan. A daily routine takes the guesswork out of our day and allows us to put our mental energy towards other things.
- Saves time and money. Pre-planning allows you to be efficient with your time so that you can focus on the activities that mean the most to you. Being prepared can also save you money by helping you avoid impulse purchases!
- Helps you to reach goals. Adding structure to your day helps you achieve goals, whether they are small tasks or part of a larger goal. Completing goals motivates us and helps us lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
- Allows you time for rest and self-care. Building a routine allows you to carve out time in your day for replenishing activities, such as reading a book with your coffee in the morning or having a bubble bath at the end of the day.
- Promotes healthy habits. It takes at least 30 days for a behaviour to become a habit. Activities that are good for the mind and body, like eating healthy, exercising, and going to bed early may be difficult at first, but building them into your routine will help them become a regular part of your lifestyle.
- Helps combat burnout. Working non-stop is not good for your health. Having regular, pre-planned breaks in your day helps you remember to slow down and avoid the burnout (and physical discomfort!) of doing a single task for a long period of time.
Simple Routines to Consider
When you are starting a new routine, consider the possible changes you will have to make to accommodate the changes:
- Commute time – Are you adding on time in the morning to drive to work, to drop the kids off at school, or make the bus on time?
- Sleep – Will you have to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier?
- Childcare – Where will your children be while you are at work? Do you have someone assisting with childcare or will you have to change your work schedule so you can take them to school or pick them up?
- Food – Will you have time to prepare food during the day or will you have to prep food the night or weekend before?
- Exercise – Are you able to incorporate movement during the day? Will you have time to exercise before or after work?
- Hygiene – Does your routine include time to practice proper hygiene and prepare appropriate dress attire for the day?
- Social – How will you fit social activities into your new routine?
Tips for Sticking to a Routine
- Add daily tasks to your digital or physical calendar as a reminder.
- Think about the benefits of the routine and what goal it helps you accomplish.
- Communicate your priorities to others and have a support system who can help you stick to your goals.
- Start small with one new routine at a time. If you are changing your routine because of something external (for example, starting a new job that requires you to wake up earlier), try to start the transition early so you can gradually adjust to the changes.
- Add to your existing habits or swap one habit for another. For example, if you want to add reading time into your routine, add it to your morning breakfast or coffee break. If you usually spend that time scrolling your phone, make a swap to incorporate the activity that means the most to you and is most fulfilling.
- Incorporate time for breaks and self-care in your routine to help keep you energized. Looking forward to activities you enjoy will keep you motivated to complete more mundane activities.
- Have a before-work and after-work routine to create transition periods in the day. For example, eat breakfast with your family in the morning before going to work or go for a walk with the dog after work. These transition periods help signal between work and leisure time.
How Can Gowan Consulting Help?
Gowan Consulting has Occupational Therapists across Canada who can support your employees with accommodation assessments, exposure therapy, job coaching services, mental health consultations, return to work planning and more. Make a referral for employees who require education, tools, and accommodation assessments to stay at work or return to work. Our Occupational Therapists can provide virtual and in-person consultations to fit your needs.
For more support, check out our various programs, webinars, and workshops:
- Manager Mental Health Training can teach managers how to support employees through change.
- Implementing the CSA Work Disability Standards: This interactive virtual program includes three hours of virtual training and online modules to help employers understand the components of the Work Disability Management System Standards published in 2020.
- TIPS for Return to the Workplace Program: Consider enrolling in our new 4-session work-focused CBT program to assist you or your employees in having the strategies to successfully return to work. Contact us to learn more.
- Integrating Parenting and Working from Home – Our webinar gives you the tools and strategies to calm the chaos. It covers setting expectations and defining boundaries/finding balance, the 5 Criteria for Positive Discipline, and more.
Mental Health America. “Creating Healthy Routines.” https://mhanational.org/creating-healthy-routines