I talk to clients a lot about their day-to-day routine. The things we do ( or don’t do) on a regular basis are so essential to managing acute incidents as well as setting up our baseline mental health. Think about it: If you go out drinking, get little sleep, wake up hungover, rush out the door, skip breakfast, and have way too much caffeine to get you through the morning, how are you likely to respond to a trigger? If you do this on a regular basis, how might that impact your mental health? A lack of routine or a harmful routine can exacerbate mental health symptoms and increase mood instability.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy ( DBT) has a great resource for rethinking routine and building one that supports your overall wellbeing. ROUTINE stands for Responsibilities, Ongoing Structure, Use Skills, Traditions, Interests included, Novelty, and Envision a Satisfying life.
The first step toward building your routine is looking at the different responsibilities you have in your life that you need to include. Do you have kids? School and/or work that you need to make time for? Write a list of all your responsibilities and put those into your schedule first.
2. Ongoing Structure
The purpose of routine is to get in the habit of doing certain things on a regular basis, so be sure that the structure is consistent and sustainable within your schedule. This could include eating on a set schedule, setting a consistent sleep window for yourself, building movement in at a set time each day. These basics really set the foundation for wellness, and making them routine can help you feel so much better with less effort over time.
3. Utilize Skills
In DBT, this refers to using the set skills you’ve learned through DBT therapy, but it could expand to whatever coping skills you personally know and trust. Practicing your coping skills on a regular basis means they will be more accessible when your mental health or circumstances are not at their best.
A sustainable routine has to make space for things you look forward to. Make sure to include in your schedule any weekly or monthly traditions such as run club, Tuesday trivia, date nights, holidays, birthdays and more.
5. Interests Included
Again, your routine won’t last if you’re not including the things you love. Write down a list of your interests and hobbies and schedule time for them.
Make sure to leave some free time. If you over-structure your day or week, your routine becomes unrealistic.
7. Envision a Satisfying life
This is the time to consider what you want for your life long-term and how you can structure your time in order to create that life. Does the routine you made help you reach that version of your life? Take the time to reassess and restructure your routine as needed to make it work best for you.
(8) Reassess as needed! Routines are meant to support you by allowing you to fit your needs, passions, and goals into a sustainable schedule. If what you’re doing isn’t working, or life throws you a curveball, you can always make changes to better support yourself and your current life circumstances.