Sandra Schoeneich, LMFT

From an early age, many of us have experienced the essence of structure and routine through what our caregivers outlined for our day-to-day schedules. This provided us with an understanding of what our essential tasks were, where we had to be and at what time, and it gave us a sense of stability and security — knowing what could be expected for the day. As adults, it is our responsibility to create and maintain our own structure so that we can be efficient and organized. However, the older we get the more responsibility we end up having, and juggling all of the pieces of our hectic lives can get overwhelming and downright impossible sometimes! With that being said, maintaining a balanced daily or weekly routine that fits your lifestyle is essential for your mental health. This post will explore the different aspects of structure and maintaining a balanced routine.

So you may already know what routine means and looks like, but what exactly is structure? Structure is something that you arrange and give organization to, such as your family or overall life. Routine tends to speak more to the actions taken, or a sequence of actions that are regularly followed. Routines can be executed in a structured setting. Think of your own life and ask yourself, “What parts of my life consist of (or lack) structure?” Do you have a clear structure at your workplace, and do you know your role in it? What type of family structure do you have? Next, think about the routines and daily tasks that you need to execute within the structures of your life. All of these routines add up quickly and the amount of responsibility that you have can lead to stress. So, how can one achieve peace and balance within their routines and hectic lives?

It is important to note that a lack of structure and routine can be as detrimental to one’s mental health as having too much to do. Little to no structure can lead to feelings of instability, chaos, and disorganization, which in turn may lead to increased stress and anxiety. Some of my clients that are experiencing anxiety and depression report that they have lost sight of their routines and structure. This is where I encourage them to slowly start integrating their favorite and important routines back into their daily life. Doing more enjoyable tasks and activities and being more organized helps alleviate some of those negative thoughts and feelings.

Whether you have too much or too little on your plate, set aside time to look at your calendar and designate doable tasks to each day for the week. Make sure you do not take on more than you can handle; sometimes when we put too much on our to-do list and we don’t have enough time to complete the tasks by the expected time, we end up feeling defeated. These feelings of defeat can once again create a negative thought cycle that results in frustration and self-criticism. Give space for self-care time in your week, even if it may only be a 20-minute window of time. Set aside sacred personal time, go for a walk around the block, listen to your favorite music, or enjoy a meal mindfully. Whatever your self-care routine is, utilize your schedule and make special time for it.

Finding peace in your routines and structure takes effort and consistency. Life is not always easy, and we can get busy or stressed out quickly when things get more hectic. Putting time into organizing your schedule each week is a positive step towards maintaining a balanced lifestyle, and it can bring security and stability to each day. Also note that there may times where you try extremely hard to make your schedule perfect and achievable, yet still fall short and don’t complete everything on time. Find peace in knowing that not every day is going to be perfect and super organized, and that it’s okay. Remind yourself that there is always tomorrow, and that tomorrow will be a new day.