Recovery Strategies: Establishing a Routine

by Christina Bruni Patient Expert

In my estimation: Establishing a routine is the foundation of a successful recovery.

I wrote about this elsewhere and talked about the trend of reality TV where the drama, the bickering, the endless public scrutiny can't be healthy.
It can't be healthy to live your life as if you're in your own reality TV show.

I propose something else: living outside the limelight.
Carrying on in a civil, respectful way.
Giving others the courtesy of compassion and cheer.

Bringing order to your days and having rituals you can count on makes sense to me.
I'm not taking about OCD-type repetition actions here.

A ritual can be as simple as going to the market for a baguette and some cheese and ham and creating your own ploughman's lunch.

It can take the form of applying makeup before you go out on a Saturday night.

Your recovery will run in more of a seamless way when you have a routine.
I order groceries once a week and mostly cook at home.
Cooking can be a routine too.

Not knowing what to expect, constantly being surprised by sudden changes, can take a toll on your emotional health.
It can help to have a routine when you first start out in recovery because doing this will help combat the uncertainty of what's going on and what the future holds.

You can start a tradition too.
My family celebrates The Night of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve with a seafood dinner.
You can start a yearly dinner party on New Year's Day.
You can celebrate the summer solstice or a personal milestone or victory on certain days.

This evokes a mindset of gratefulness which is the precursor for feeling the pain or fear and moving ahead to change your life.

You feel better when you have something to look forward to.
Little random acts can also boost your mood when you do something new or out of the ordinary.

You start with a routine.
Then as time goes on you can vary what you do as the need arises.

If you ask me, it's also an age thing.
My thirties were different from my forties.
It takes courage to exit one era and enter the next.
Gracefully ending one decade and cheerfully beginning the next can become easier with a ritual of reinvention.

Sometimes, just starting out, having a routine is the one thing above all else that matters.
It can be taking time for yourself one day a week.
I attended a jewelry-making workshop on Monday nights for ten weeks after I got out of the hospital the first time.

Find one thing you can do for yourself on an ongoing basis to feel better.
For me, it helps to take immediate action towards a goal.
December marked the changing of the table decor in my dining area for the winter tablescape.
Even an act as simple as this can prepare you for the coming season and brighten your mood.

What's not to love about a routine?
I doubt most of us thrive on chaos and uncertainty.
Establishing a routine benefits us because it gives us control over our lives.

A guy I know told me I must be consistent because he observed me regularly in the gym.
The goal to be consistent serves a person well.
As often as you're able, try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

Hey: Wednesday can be spaghetti night.
Monday night can be laundry.

Planning and scheduling your week is a good idea to combat boredom.
Maybe you have a certain grocery store you shop at.
Or a certain street you walk down on your way home.

Having structure in your life could be a way to counteract confused thoughts, according to a peer I interviewed long ago for a magazine.

This could extend to your environment.
For me, a neat and tidy home with organized drawers and closets is a way to take control.
I've always wondered if a messy apartment signaled a cluttered mind.

In this regard, I recommend two books: Peter Walsh's It's All Too Much and Gail Blanke's Throw Out Fifty Things.
They make the connection between clearing the clutter to free your mind and change your life.

I'm going to end here with this suggestion: do things within your own comfort level.
Yet if any of this resonates with you, I'd love to hear your comments on the topic.

Christina Bruni
Meet Our Writer
Christina Bruni

Christina Bruni wrote about schizophrenia for HealthCentral as a Patient Expert. She is a mental health activist and freelance journalist.