–Depression has a way of creeping into my life when I’m not keeping myself busy.
I’ve played with different kinds of routines over recent years, and they do help. But damn, they’re hard to stick with! For some reason that I will never understand, I always seem to quit doing the things that help me feel better.
So I get overwhelmed pretty easily. It hasn’t been happening too much lately, but over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been overwhelmed more often than not.
I have a lower tolerance for stress than I used to and I get impatient more often. This usually comes out as irritability or anger because there’s just too much stimulation going on. Noise and clutter especially throw me off. Then I have a little cry-fest with my wife, we talk it out, make some changes if needed, and I plug along.
And I always feel better after. I mean, who doesn’t feel better after a good cry?
Most people work for a living or go to school. They wake up around the same time each weekday, shower, brush their teeth, eat, and off they go. Now that’s a routine. (I suppose they have to get dressed, too.)
Me? Well, I don’t work, nor do I go to school. I do wake up around the same time every morning (no matter what time I go to bed, which is irritating), normally between 5:30 and 7:00.
And then I do whatever I want.
Side Note: For so long, I suffered greatly from extreme fatigue and I swear, it was one of the most bothersome experiences of my life. I couldn’t sleep enough. During that time, I needed ten hours of sleep in order to function; and I would wake up simply exhausted and not be able to accomplish anything more than moving from the bed to the couch. The only routine I had during this time was a daily nap [or two].
Nowadays, I don’t feel that fatigue. 🙂 I wake up after five or six hours of sleep and am ready to go most days. That is such a blessing, I can’t even tell you. Historically, fatigue has been the most pervasive and rottenest part of my depression. And now I feel better.
I’m so grateful for having a little energy now. My mind is clearest, my mood the most stable, and I am usually at my most optimistic in the mornings. That’s why I like waking up so early; it’s nice and quiet, the cats fall asleep after I feed them, and I have time to think.
Along with feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, appointments get in the way of doing a routine, too. I have at least four appointments every week, plus I go to all of CeAnne’s appointments with her, plus I often take Sharon to hers (and I take her shopping a few times a week). That can be a lot.
The thing is, on days when I have somewhere I need to be, it tends to throw me off balance. How can I keep a routine going if I have to be somewhere at 9:00 a.m. and noon? And when I take Sharon shopping, we try to go earlier in the mornings so she can get a scooter at the store (she has a lot of trouble walking), which is prime time for me to get things done.
Plus, I have my own running around to do. So, it’s a lot of running around for me, which often feels like I haven’t accomplished much, when in fact I did a lot that day.
All of this is to say that things get in the way and it can be really hard to stay balanced, much less keep a routine.
A SUCCESSFUL ROUTINE
One of my most successful attempts at keeping a routine was earlier this year, when I would do the following almost every morning:
- wake up early
- have my three cups of coffee
- paced breathing and/or meditation
- look for a part-time writing job
This might look like a lazy day to you, but for me, it was golden. I was almost always the only one awake, so I did it all in silence. There wasn’t a bunch of stimuli shooting at me from every direction. I could do everything at my own pace.
And I felt great about it.
I tried not to put pressure on myself to do these things. It wasn’t “Wake up at 6:00, do yoga at 6:30, sit and breathe for ten minutes, start writing at 7:30 every morning, and spend the next hour looking for a job.”
No, I’m just not good at those kinds of routines.
Rather, I would wake up naturally and let the morning run its course. Coffee and a smoke were always first, simply out of habit. But then, I would let the chips fall where they felt the most comfortable.
If I felt like writing immediately, I would do that. Or maybe I would meditate first or do some purposeful breathing for a few minutes. Or perhaps I felt a little extra energy and do yoga after my first cuppa. I would let it unfold naturally.
That way, I wasn’t feeling a lot of pressure to “do this first for X amount of minutes, then do that, then do that…” That simply doesn’t work for me. I like less stress, not more stress.
I would change things up, too. If it ended up not being a meditation day, that was okay. If I only did yoga three times that week, that was okay. If all I wrote was an email, that was okay, too. Turns out I did most of the things on my list most days of the week, which was a success to me.
I felt like I had something to do each day, even things to look forward to. I had goals. Do you know how important goals are for a person who battles depression? They give you something to live for. I walked around hopelessly lost for over a decade thinking I had no future, nothing to look forward to but more pain and suffering. But now, goals give me purpose.
The morning routine I developed was essential to my mental health and my attitude. I was more patient, more pleasant to be around, I felt better physically, and I was feeling good.
Six weeks later, I stopped doing all of it (except the waking up early and the coffee).
INACTION HAS CONSEQUENCES, TOO
I often feel like I wander through every day rather aimlessly now. Which is ridiculous, because there are so many things that need to be done around the house; I could easily pick one small task and just do it, and I would at least feel like I’d done something that day.
But I don’t. And we’re having visitors from my home state of Michigan in three weeks (YAY!) – believe me, there’s plenty to do!
Instead, I walk around the same piles of paper and clutter every day – hell, I don’t even see them anymore. I push whatever’s taking up room on the kitchen counter over to the side so it doesn’t get wet, but I don’t do anything about it.
I feel like I’m stuck.
And I have a feeling that, if I could just get back into my routine, my positive momentum would come back and continue throughout the day, and propel me to take action. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel a sense of accomplishment at day’s end rather than saying to yourself, “Man, another day went by and I. Did. Nothing.”
Now, that last thought is pretty dangerous for me. First of all, it’s not really true. I’ve been writing a lot of posts lately, which gives me a sense of accomplishment (but then nobody’s reading them, which kind of puts a damper on things), I make sure we eat every day, and I generally take care of the cats.
It just feels like I’ve been doing the bare minimum lately, and I don’t like it.
HOLD THAT THOUGHT
So I just took a little break and did some yoga. It was a tough routine, but I made it through all twenty minutes.
And I feel great about it.
See how a little routine can change things around? I was feeling a little down on myself (if you couldn’t tell) half an hour ago, and now I feel – dare I say it? – invigorated and positive. (And sweaty, but who cares?)
I NEVER use the word invigorated to describe myself, but that’s how I feel right now. And all because I didn’t like sitting in the pity pot I was stirring up.
A JEDI MIND TRICK ANYONE CAN USE
I may have mentioned this in a previous post: I overthink things. A lot. And for me, that’s the Kiss of Death. Instead of doing something, I ponder it. I research it. I ask for advice. And yes, all of those are actions, but they’re beating-around-the-bush kinds of actions.
It’s like I’m preparing to make a decision to do something, but I don’t actually do it.
Well, I have just the thing. Someone’s blog a couple months ago said that in order to make herself do something, she needed to stop making it an option and just do it.
Just. Do. It.
Stop giving yourself ways out and do the thing you want (or need) to do. Make the decision and do it. Now. Don’t stop for a cup of coffee, or a smoke break, or a shower. Don’t ask yourself, “Gee, should I do this right now, or that?” because then you will never do either.
In fact, don’t ask yourself anything. Tell yourself, “I’m doing this. Right now.”
It’s that simple.
The trick is to Decide and Do. Not Decide and say, “I’ll do it later.” That doesn’t work for me at all, and it likely doesn’t work very well for you, either.
It’s a simple change, really. Not necessarily easy to do consistently at first, but with practice, it gets easier. Then it becomes ingrained as a habit, and before you know it, you’re getting a lot more done than you used to.
And feeling great about it.
IN A NUTSHELL…
- Wow, this post kind of got away from me!
- Routine and structure are good for most of us.
- Fatigue is the worst, isn’t it??
- Preparing to do something is not the same as doing
- Feeling stuck is not a fun place to be.
- You can change gears at any time by DOING.
- Stop making things optional.
- “Just do it” is not just another cheesy slogan.
- Decide and Do. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the day.
- Thank you for helping motivate me today! 🙂