I’m not a routine-y person. I’ve liked to think that I allow subtle differences in my mood or context to affect my actions instead of categorizing the situation and fitting a predetermined set of actions on top.
During a recent visit to a friend with a one year old, I was struck by the benefits of routine, for parents, kids, and depressives. When it comes to recovering from depression, there seem to be two major upshots to routine. The first is that it reduces the amount of decision making energy you have to expend. (Check it out: New research implies that we tire of decision making and get worse at it throughout the day.)
Those of you who’ve been depressed have probably experienced this – even small decisions can be exhausting and completely deflating.
When I’m in my routine, I don’t have to worry about whether or not to eat or meditate. I make just one decision every morning – to do the thing I promised myself I’d do: stick to my routine.
The second cool thing about routines is that you get to perfect them over time. If you notice that you feel particularly tired on Tuesday afternoons, you can build in extra sleep on Monday nights. You get caught off guard less often because your routine includes all the really necessary activities like eating, sleeping, and resting.
The tricky thing, as with trying anything new while depressed, is the possibility of failure and the disproportionate disappointment that can come with. I recommend introducing just one activity at a time. Once you do that thing every day without struggle, introduce another. Try to be patient with yourself. You’re beautiful and complex, and this shit ain’t easy.