The Importance of Routine for Mental Health
Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up late, didn’t have breakfast, was running late, and everything felt off? Almost everyone has had this experience where we’re trying to catch up with the day or even figure out what to do with a day that is so out of the norm. These days often leave us feeling uncomfortable or disoriented to say the least.
When we aren’t sticking to a regular schedule, our mood, sense of time, cognitive abilities, and capacity to be present is hindered. We are creatures of habit. Routine and consistency make us feel safe and enables us to function at our best. This is true for everyone, though especially true for kids and adolescents.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a teen client come into my office and tell me they didn’t sleep well, woke up late, didn’t have breakfast, and are feeling down. Now of course I’m not saying that the only reason they are feeling down is because their routine is off, though this often exacerbates symptoms that are already present. There’s a huge difference between those same clients when they are on a solid routine than times when they aren’t.
For adolescents, there are a multitude of situations that can make it difficult to stick to a routine that are often overlooked. Things such as moving, transitioning from school to summer, and switching between two different households can have negative ramifications if not handled properly. Trying to ensure your child has a somewhat similar routine in times of change will enable them to be resilient.
Creating a structured routine that is also flexible can aid in helping anyone from feeling aimless. This will look different for different people, different ages, and at different times of the year. I often make schedules with my clients (and also myself) to help create feelings of accomplishment, safety, and purpose. During times of change, it’s easy to feel lonely or detached from others. Because of this, I always try and incorporate time for connecting with loved ones in each schedule. Whether that be talking on the phone, facetiming, or communicating through some platform that brings you closer to others.
Eating, sleeping, work, play, school, are all cycles that help or hinder our mental health. If we are able to find a good balance that creates structure and routine, this enables us to meet each day the best we can. Take some time today to think about what could be added, subtracted, or tweaked in your own or your child’s daily routine.
Written by Devan of SafeHeart Counseling. Devan is the founder and owner of SafeHeart Counseling, which provides therapy services to children and teens. SafeHeart Counseling specializes in working with eating disorders, trauma, and anxiety.