4 Tips for Building a Healthy Routine
The beginning of autumn marks the return of a more structured routine for many of us. September often includes back to school, shifts in work schedules, and extracurriculars returning from summer break. This schedule shift can be a challenging one for many, and may feel especially significant this year in the wake of the pandemic.
To help ease the transition into a familiar (or new!) routine, here are four helpful ideas to consider:
- Map out your week – take some time to plan out what are the most important things to include in your routine. Whether it’s working out, household chores, or meal prep, identifying the most critical things to include can provide a solid framework. From there, we can add or remove smaller tasks as needed.
When mapping out the week, it’s important to remember responsibilities as well as time to recharge. Building both into a weekly routine, even if it’s just an hour for hobbies or catching up with friends, can help ensure we’re meeting our needs and responsibilities in a balanced way.
- Start small – it’s tempting to include everything in a weekly routine and feel pressured to ‘do it all’. However, this can feel overwhelming (especially if there are weeks where there are a lot of competing responsibilities). Starting small (such as, ‘going to the gym on Tuesdays’) and slowly adding more as we feel more established helps to minimize feeling self-critical and overwhelmed.
- Use ‘signposts’ to your advantage – are there parts of your routine that happen at a set time every week? We can think of it as a ‘signpost’ and build other parts of our routine around it. For example, if we want to add meditation or journaling to our routine but are unsure where to fit it in, using bedtime as a ‘signpost’ and adding it as part of an already established routine can help us add it easily.
- Shake things up – sometimes our routine can be very comfortable, where we know what to expect and when. However, sometimes routine can become monotonous, where we might feel ‘stuck’.
If you notice you’re feeling this way, this can be a sign there’s not enough variety in your day-to-day and a change is needed. Consider doing something outside of your usual routine: taking a different route to work, starting a new hobby, visiting a new coffee shop, or listening to a podcast on a topic you’re unfamiliar with are small ways we can break up the predictability of our routine. Find a way to break from routine that makes the most sense for you and has you feeling excited!
These are just a few ideas to help build a routine that fits you. If you’re having challenges with your routine, talking with a counsellor can help uncover underlying concerns, as well as identify strategies to overcome roadblocks. With any routine, we can re-evaluate what’s working, what’s flexible, and what we can safely discard to fit our needs.
Lisa Gust, MSc, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and specializes in the areas of stress management and life transitions, as well as many others. For more information on Lisa and her work click here to link to her full bio page.