Each of us has differing degrees of stability in our day to day routine. For some people every day is similar and has more or less the same schedule and routine. For others it’s all over the map. Depending on home, work, social, and recreational, we each have our flow with day to day. For people who experience a lot of anxiety, day to day routine can be a powerful leverage point where we can gain more stability. By stabilizing our routine, it can help stabilize how we feel in our life altogether.
Being More Conscious of Your Routines
The first question to ask is, “How much do you shape your days, and how much do your days shape you? For most people it’s a combination: we feel somewhat in charge, and somewhat at the mercy of causes and circumstances.
Maybe we love our work but our social anxiety prevents us from connecting with coworkers. Or perhaps home life is a source of nurturing, but our job is crushing us. We have rent to pay, we’re suffering from crippling anxiety, and don’t see a way to make a change.
Following are some perspectives and suggestions on how we can be more aware and proactive with the flow of our routine. The article looks at a given day in terms of the following moments and segments:
- Waking Up
- Starting Your Day
- Morning Ritual
- Work and Activity
- Evening Ritual
- Going to Bed
This article is long, and the processes presented are involved, so it would be too much to try and work with all this material at once. Instead, we suggest reading the article through, and then choosing one or two segments of the day to start with. Then, if you find it helpful, go ahead and work with the others over time.
So now, let’s begin at the beginning.
Our day begins when our night ends. We wake up in the morning, or we’ve already been awake, but in either case now it’s time to get out of bed and begin our day. This first moment is one of the most important moments of our daily routine. Waking up is a major transition, and how we move through it will have ripple affects that can strongly influence our entire day.
If you don’t already, learn to begin your day consciously. As soon as you wake up, just be there for a moment and notice. How do you feel now? What’s it like for you to suddenly wake up and be here in your life?
For many of us this may be painful. For a lot of people we may feel a mixture of unpleasant emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Hence, our habit is to stay in a fog as long as possible, so we can avoid noticing and feeling these feelings. Understandably so. Why in the world would we want to feel any of that?
Well, for a lot of good reasons. Those feelings, even if we manage to unconsciously stuff them down, don’t just go away. They are packed inside our body and mind and heart, and they have their own frequency that radiates throughout our being and our life, whether we are aware of them or not. On top of that, it takes a lot of energy to keep them suppressed. We don’t see it, but a part of our consciousness is engaged all day in the work of keeping these feelings at bay. This steals our energy and causes stress and anxiety.
Once you have found a process to work with, when you wake up, do your best to stay for a moment and get in touch with what you actually feel. Feel it, let it be, and then let it go. You don’t need to fix it or change anything. Just feel it and then move on.
Beginning Your Day
Now that you’ve woken up with some level of conscious awareness, you’re ready to start the day. Before you get up though, it’s helpful to pause and briefly view your day. What’s on the schedule? How do you feel about it? What’s your intention for the day? Is it just to get through? Is it to fulfill a specific purpose? Is there a challenge you are either dreading or looking forward to? Take just a moment to reflect. Hold the space of your day with a gentle awareness.
It’s important that we have some level of conscious relationship with our routine, that we’re not just sleepily plodding along.
And now it’s time to get going. Sit up in your bed, have a stretch, and make your first move!
The Morning Ritual
As you get up and begin with your first thing, move with awareness of your body. As you move to the bathroom or the kitchen, feel your feet on the floor, notice how your body feels, and take it easy. It’s like meditation in action. Brush your teeth with awareness, don’t just blast through the moment. Appreciate the simple moment of cleaning and freshening up your pearly whites.
Some of this may sound a little silly, like it’s asking you to become a “meditation zombie.” But the idea is just to be a little (or a lot) more conscious as you move through your day. This can help you be more aware of negative habitual patterns, and to have more appreciation for the simple goodness of life. In turn, this can help you feel less anxiety, and experience more harmony and ease.
As you make your oatmeal and/or coffee, just take it easy and try not to rush. After all, this moment is exactly what’s happening, so why not slow down and be there for it? What does it feel like to fill the pot with water? When you smell and taste the fresh coffee, linger a little longer, just to appreciate and enjoy those sensations.
Take a light touch attitude to these suggestions, don’t get bogged down by trying too hard. Let go, and move on with your day.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
If you are a person who doesn’t have a lot of stability in your routine, you may wake up at the last minute and then rush off to work without breakfast. It’s safe to say that: THIS IS A BAD IDEA AND AN UNHEALTHY PRACTICE. Your body and nervous system and state of mind will thank you profusely if you simply get up 30 minutes earlier and take the time to eat a hearty and nutritious breakfast.
Work and Activity
What’s next in your day? Now it’s time to begin with work, social, exercise, or whatever is next for you. This is where things become a little more challenging because once you leave your home there’s a lot more movement and you have less control over the circumstances. Now it becomes more of a dance.
How we relate to our day to day routine is an important aspect of physical and emotional health.
If you’ve managed to maintain some level of awareness in the beginning of your day, it’s easier to be aware as you transition into more movement. This in turn helps you feel more at ease, and thus less anxious. But if you began the day disconnected and rushed and unfed, anxiety will have a more clear playing field to increase in your experience and dominate throughout the day.
Stabilize Your Activity With Markers
During the movement segments of your day, you may want to create structures to help you slow down and create more awareness and stability. For example you could set your phone to alert you once per hour, so you can stop and breathe and feel your body. You may want to get up and have a stretch, or you could just stop whatever you’re doing and just be there, breathing and feeling what you feel.
Meal times are especially helpful for slowing down and connecting with the present moment. This decreases the energy of speed and anxiety and increases feelings of appreciation and enjoyment. Try eating a little slower than is your habit, and pause to feel your body and the environment around you. A helpful exercise is to slow down and chew your food longer than usual, which allows time and space so you can appreciate and enjoy the flavours. At the end of the meal, take yet another pause to further feel and connect. Then before getting up, pause and reflect for a moment on what’s next.
At Home at the End of Your Day
When you arrive home at the end of the day, it’s time to slow down, reground, and rebalance. You’ve been busy with various activities for the bulk of the day, and now you have time and space to relax.
For some people coming home will be a big relief, and for others it’s difficult to slow down and actually experience relief because stress and anxiety levels are at their peak.
Most people have evening routines to slow down and decompress from the day. We may have had dinner out, or we may cook dinner at home. We may watch one of our screens, or we may exercise. Meditation can be a good option, or you might just want to lay on your back for 20 or 30 minutes and breathe and and feel the earth.
Whatever your routine, fulfill it as consciously as you can. It’s also good to examine your routine(s), and to ask if they are indeed helping you feel better at the end of your day. Each of us is unique, and are needs are also unique.
It may be worthwhile to dedicate some time to examine your evening ritual. Set aside an hour some evening to write down your routine(s), to write down their intended purpose, and then to ask if they are fulfilling that purpose. Then, make adjustments as you are able. You can read more about this type of inquiring here.
Going to Bed
Finally, when laying down for sleep, take a moment to stop and breathe, and to connect with the present moment. Then, reflect briefly on your day. How did it go? Did things go the way you had planned? If not, is there something you can adjust tomorrow, or in your approach to your day in general?
Now you’ve completed your day. If you managed to be more conscious than usual for even a few moments today, it was indeed an excellent day. If not, tomorrow is yet another opportunity. Good night, and sweet dreams!
The best way to begin creating more stability in your day to day routine is to be more conscious of how you relate to your routines throughout the day. We all have routines, from the moment we wake up until the time we go to sleep at night. Spend some time getting to know your routines. Spend as much time as you need – a week, two weeks or longer – making notes on your routines, starting with waking up, morning rituals, departing for the day’s activities, work, meals, evening rituals, and finally going to bed. Make notes on what you do at each segment. Then, spend some time examining if the routine seems good, or if you wish to make some changes. In this way you have leverage to create more consciousness and more stability in how you lead your every day life.