A daily routine has always been a bit of a conundrum for me. I like (make that… LOVE) organization, lists, and color-coded files, so it would only make sense that I like routines too. Except that I have never really liked having to be somewhere at a specific time or do something at a particular time (which is why I work for myself!). I would much rather accomplish things on my own time, in my way.
But when I got struck with advanced adrenal fatigue in 2014, I really had no choice anymore.
One of the key elements of recovery was to make sure I ate every 3 to 4 hours, took my supplements, got to bed at a certain time, got up at a certain time and did exercises and meditation every day. It was a lot to remember and could really only be achieved by initiating a daily routine.
At first, it kind of overwhelmed (and annoyed) me that I was being “forced” to do certain things at certain times, instead of just going about my day as I pleased. But then I started to see the positive effects it was having on my body and my overall well-being. And I started to fall a little in love with the idea of a routine.
That’s because routines help you get stuff done. If you just leave everything up in the air and rely on how you feel from moment to moment, there’s a good chance you won’t get around to everything you need/want to do. But having a routine gives you direction and helps you feel a sense of accomplishment as you finish each task.
Plus, our bodies naturally like routine. Notice I said, our BODIES. Sometimes, it’s a challenge to get your mind on board. But our bodies actually benefit from following a routine like eating at the same time every day and going to bed at the same time every night. It makes it easier for our bodies to prepare for each task (because it knows it’s coming) and makes us more productive – whether the task is to get up and tackle the day or just go to sleep.
01 Decide if you want an AM or PM routine.
Some of us are night owls and some of us are morning people, that’s just the way it is. So instead of fighting against your natural tendencies, I think it’s better to compliment them. If you are naturally more active in the morning, then set up a morning routine. Or if you are more alert at night, set up a nighttime routine. If you are a real overachiever, you can do both! But the point is to enhance your life and positively affect your health, so don’t overwhelm yourself.
02 Choose 3 or 4 activities to incorporate into the daily routine.
Now, let me first start off by clarifying, when I say “activities,” I don’t mean things that you would be doing otherwise like washing your face or brushing your teeth. These can of course, be incorporated into your routine as well (and most likely will be). But make sure you are also choosing activities that either energize & motivate you or relax & wind you down (depending on the time of day). Some examples might be:
AM Routine: Stretching, yoga, going for a run, prayer, meditation, reading, having a smoothie or writing in a gratitude journal.
PM Routine: Stretching, yoga, prayer, meditation, reading, writing in a gratitude journal, drinking a cup of hot tea or taking a bath
03 Set a time to begin your routine.
To figure out what time you should begin your routine, first determine approximately how long it will take you to go through your routine. It could be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or even more – it’s up to you. Then, work backwards from your goal to determine a start time.
For instance, if you need to leave for work by 8:30 a.m., your routine will take 30 minutes and you need an hour to get ready, then you need to make sure you start your routine by 7 a.m. Or if you want to be asleep by 10 p.m. and your routine takes 45 minutes, then make sure you actually begin by 9 or 9:15 p.m.
This may sound slightly arduous in the beginning, but it will quickly become natural as it becomes… routine.
04 Lean into it and cut out all distractions.
The point of a routine is to give your body a path to follow toward a goal – be that a productive day or a good night’s rest. So you want to make sure that you actually stick to that routine and not veer off the path.
That means no checking your Facebook feed while you’re in the bathtub or watching Netflix while you’re stretching. Actually BE in the moment and be present in the activity itself, giving it your full attention.
Chances are, you’ll probably be multi-tasking all day at work, so give your brain and your body a chance to focus on one thing – fully and completely.
05 Start slow and work your way up.
For some of you, the idea of following a routine every day probably seems daunting. So if that’s the case, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and do nothing at all. Start slow, maybe just 1 or 2 days a week and then build your way up. You will most likely be feeling so good after just a week or two that you will find yourself wanting to make it an everyday thing!
BONUS STEP: Enjoy it!
Remember, the point of all this is to help you feel even better on a daily basis. So don’t look at it as another thing to “get done” or something to stress you out. It should be the exact opposite.
Your routine should be a special treat… some “me” time just for you. Whether it’s at the beginning of the day before the craziness takes over, or at the end of the day to help you wind down for sleep.
And don’t forget to change it up! If you get bored with something after awhile, by all means… swap it out for something new! If you’ve always gone for a run each morning but you’ve been curious about yoga, why not switch it out for a few weeks? Or if smoothies are getting old, try something new like warm lemon water which is very beneficial to drink first thing in the morning!