Is a Daily Routine or An Unstructured Lifestyle Better for Our Mental Health?

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder my life was in complete chaos. I had a job that didn’t have set hours, with responsibilities and a caseload that changed on a daily basis. Plus, I had three small children with a husband who worked varying hours, including nights and weekends. My days were anything but routine.

Fast forward five years later, and I am a stay-at-home mom with a set routine of getting up at the same time every morning to get the kids off to school, work on house chores during the day as my illness allows me, rest in the afternoon, be there for the kids when they get home from school and in the evening for school and sport events. I also take my medications on a routine schedule and go to bed around the same time every night.

Researchers have demonstrated that routines can help those with bipolar disorder by balancing their sleep/wake cycles. Routines can also help those with anxiety by making daily activities more manageable and predictable. Routines help us get more stuff done by keeping us on task, thus providing more time for rest and relaxation, which is also good for mental health. And routines give us a sense of control over our lives since we get to choose what we include in them.

I do find that as my illness symptoms creep back into my life, there is sometimes the need for flexibility in my routine. For example, when I am fatigued from depression, I may spend more time in bed and less time on chores.

However, after a few days or a week, my routine usually kicks back in and I am at least doing a little bit each day. While I might not feel motivated to engage in my routine, my routine motivates me to get things done, because it is what I am used to doing. It doesn’t feel right to not do it.

What about you?  Are routines good for your mental health or do you prefer an unstructured lifestyle?

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2 thoughts on “Is a Daily Routine or An Unstructured Lifestyle Better for Our Mental Health?

  1. I’m unable to work due to physical ill health and I find some level of structure vital for my mental health. But it’s not heavily prescribed. Generally I do bits and pieces in the morning, watch a bit of TV early afternoon and then do a bit more. I have a short list of things I need to do each week to maintain or manage my mental health and I use my diary to keep on top of this. For me I need to do something creative, something that uses my brain, I need to check in with myself, I need to go outside, I need to rest and I need to see people. So it’s structured but not so much in a time slot way

    Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds so similar to what I do as well. I have a standing social engagement once a week, I do creative work almost daily, but not on a time schedule. More so when the mood strikes me.

      Liked by 1 person

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