The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Daily Routine
Working, cleaning, cooking, working out, and taking care of family members are just a few of the things that we do every day, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. It can feel impossible to mark everything off your to-do list, especially if you’re struggling with a mental health condition like major depression, substance use disorder, or traumatic stress disorder.
By establishing a daily routine, we can set aside time to take care of tasks and focus on our mental and physical health. Routines are essential at every stage of life—from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. They help us cope with change, create healthy habits, improve interpersonal relationships, and reduce stress. Studies have shown that daily routines have far-reaching mental health benefits, from alleviating bipolar disorder and preventing substance abuse to managing the symptoms of other mental disorders.
It takes 21 days to form a new habit, and the same goes for a routine. If you set and stick to a new plan for three weeks, there’s a good chance you’ll stick to the routine for a long time. When it comes to mental health, here’s how a daily routine can make a significant difference.
Routines help alleviate anxiety.
To cope with anxiety it’s essential to sit down, identify what’s worrying you, and address your concerns. When we create daily routines through exercising or changing our sleeping patterns, this allows our bodies to adjust and know what to expect.
The same goes for mental routines—creating predictable scenarios through habits allows your mind to adjust, understand what to expect, and alleviate anxiety over the unknown. Journaling is a great way to establish a regular schedule, especially for those struggling with the symptoms of anxiety disorder. Journaling at the same time every day can help you start a process—or routine—of mental restoration and wellness.
Routines promote healthy habits.
For people with busy schedules, daily plans can promote healthy lifestyle habits. Simple changes like packing your lunch before work can help you eat a more balanced diet while going to bed at the same time every night can promote a consistent sleep schedule.
Additionally, set aside time to focus on your physical health. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to enjoy the benefits of exercise. If you’re short on time, scheduling a few minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost your self-esteem, improve your mood, and provide numerous mental health benefits, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
For parents, establishing healthy family routines can help young people adapt to the new realities of working from home, home-schooling, and temporary unemployment, according to the World Health Organization.
Routines help combat burnout.
According to a national survey on behavioral health, one-third of adults in the United States experienced extreme stress within the past year, while nearly half of adults believe their stress levels increased over the past year. The gradual accumulation of stress leads to burnout, which can cause mental and emotional exhaustion, poor interpersonal relationships, and lost productivity at work. While it affects everyone differently, burnout can lead to serious health conditions and mental health issues over time.
No matter how busy you are, there are different ways to prevent and combat burnout. If you’re on the road to burnout, try making the following changes to your daily schedule:
- Stick to a morning routine.
- Avoid hitting the snooze button.
- Take periodical breaks throughout the day.
- Schedule time to be alone.
- Take note of one important thing you’re grateful for.
- Stop work at the same time every day.
How to Create a Healthy Routine
Changing your daily routine all at once usually doesn’t lead to long-term results. Instead, pick a few small things each week to work on. You might choose to cut out a bad habit, like spending too much time on social media or to add something new and positive, like spending more time with family members.
Making changes to your daily life can be hard, and you might forget to follow your routine every once in a while. You don’t have to be perfect—if you miss a day, try to do better the next day.
Daily Routines and Mental Illness
While routines can improve your mental health and provide wide-reaching psychological benefits—from alleviating symptoms of mental disorders to managing insomnia—they aren’t a cure-all for mental health issues. In addition to creating a routine, individuals experiencing mental health symptoms should explore other treatment options, including:
- Therapy: Working with a qualified therapist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or mental health counselor can help individuals with mental illness learn valuable coping mechanisms, manage symptoms, and build resilience. As one of the more effective forms of psychotherapy therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients take control of their emotional health by changing patterns of thoughts and behaviors.
- Support groups: Many people with mental illnesses consider support groups a helpful tool on the road to wellness. By sharing your experiences in a safe and confidential setting, you can foster interpersonal relationships, fight stigma, and gain hope. While support groups can be especially helpful for individuals struggling with substance abuse and traumatic stress disorder following a traumatic event such as child abuse, they can also help individuals who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or chronic disease.
- Educational resources: Educational resources can help patients and loved ones understand mental health disorders and provide emotional health support. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers numerous resources, including NAMI Basics, NAMI FaithNet, NAMI Peer-to-Peer, NAMI Connection, NAMI Family-to-Family, and the NAMI Family Support Group.
- Helplines: If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis or struggling with poor mental health, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate support. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 911.
If you’re struggling with a mental health problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care physician or mental healthcare provider for professional help. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the uncertainty and stress surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic can exacerbate mental health issues, especially among individuals with pre-existing mental disorders and medical conditions. To find the right therapist, consider reaching out to one of the qualified mental health professionals at the Therapy Group of NYC.
At the Therapy Group of NYC, we know how challenging it can be to stick to a daily schedule, especially given the stress of the current situation. Our years of experience as a leading mental health practice have prepared us to offer dedicated mental health services during these unprecedented times. Whether you’re taking the first step in your mental health journey or transitioning to teletherapy, an experienced therapist at the Therapy Group of NYC can help you manage your symptoms and develop coping strategies.