Routines keep you sane... mostly!

Sep 15, 2021

It started with feeling overwhelmed

There have been many phases of my life where I have felt overwhelmed.

I was overwhelmed when I was a new deputy, when I got on the narcotics unit, when I got on the SWAT team, when I started law school, when I started my first job as an attorney, when I became a mom for the first time, second time and third time.

I was overwhelmed by what I felt was a vast amount of information to learn, or process, or deal with.

And always, when I get stressed or anxious from being overwhelmed it results in me being very frustrated with myself and a lot of negative self-talk, losing sleep from worry and anxiety about what needs to be done, or what I haven’t done yet. Or, being very moody, aka being a real [email protected] to everyone.

And, yet, I live every day trying to let go of emotions and reactions like that- frustration, doubt, fear, worry, self-loathing, anger, etc.

What I continue to tell myself is that I have all the tools I need to succeed in being more balanced and joyful, to feel happy and content. And, it’s something I learned from being on the SWAT team.

What SWAT Training Taught Me

One of the things I loved most about the SWAT team was the training. We trained A LOT.

I learned that the purpose of training the same tactic(s) over and over and over again was so our brains would know how to respond, automatically, when the $h!t hits the fan. We were, in essence, creating autonomic routines that our body and brain could follow without thinking about it, to reduce the stress in the moment.

My brain learned that certain tasks, in certain situations, were routine.

How Routines Helped

A routine is something that is performed regularly. It is a tool that allows your mind to settle down.

This need for routine really hit home for me after my third child was born. I realized I desperately needed to create some routines because I was always on the edge of ‘losing it.’

Since then, creating routines is a tactic I employ in my daily life to feel less stressed. To feel more joy in the process of daily life.

And now, I thrive on routines. The fewer things I have to make a decision about on a daily basis, the better.

Here are some examples:

#1- Exercise.

This routine allows me to make sure I carve out some time for exercise or movement because it is critical to my mental wellbeing. My husband will sometimes ask if I have missed my workouts on days that I am struggling because he knows how much that helps my mental outlook and stamina.

I created a routine that involves setting out my clothes the night before so I could put them on without having to rummage around in drawers in the dark. I even make sure the deodorant is out so I don’t have to knock things over as I search for it!

By doing this, I am ready for my workout as soon as I finish my meditation and cup of coffee. This also makes it easier for me to stick to an at-home workout routine.

I started a program on January 4 that has 30-min HIIT or strength training routines, because I wanted more of that in my life again without spending too much time in a gym. Videos like this are easily found on YouTube, for free.

I keep my weights in a nearby closet so they are always close by for the workout.

Another routine involving exercise I created recently involves a way to move my yoga props around so I can easily be ready for yoga without having to run around the house looking for what I need at the start of class.

And, because with three kids you never know where the best quiet spot will be, I have even taken that bag with me to a park for some time to recharge in nature.

#2- Meditation.

There were (and still are) days when sitting to meditate right away didn’t happen, and even though I told myself I would do it after dropping my kids off, or after lunch, I never did. So I started getting up just a little earlier to carve out 10-15 minutes more for ‘me-time.’

Here’s how it works:

After I get up, put on my workout clothes, come downstairs to get a cup of coffee (which I set on auto-timer so it’s ready when I get there), I sit on the same spot on my couch, next an end table that holds an array of books I read through when meditating.

I don’t always use all of them. My go-to is the 5-Minute Journal, but I don’t always do that either. Sometimes I read some of all of the books instead of sitting to meditate with the headspace app for 10-15 mins.

I don’t force it. I give myself time in whatever way feels best. The only ‘rule’ set for this time is no email or social media.

But, no matter what, I am setting myself up for success by carving out this 10-15 mins routine to reflect, read a daily devotional, or to just sit.

#3- Nutrition.

I have taken vitamins and supplements for many years. It's an area of my life that I strongly believe the investment is worth it.  To make this a habit, I started loading my vitamins in a daily vitamin/pill organizer so I wouldn’t forget to take them, or so I won’t use the excuse of ‘I don’t have time to get them all out’ (I take lots of vitamins).  I recently started taking Athletic Greens powder and Vit D3 + K2 for my vitamins, and it sits right beside my coffee pot so I remember to take it every day.

I could go on and on. I have routines about what we eat as a family on certain days (ex: Taco Tuesday, Salmon on Thursday, pot roast (or some other slow cooking meat) on Sundays (usually cooked by my husband).

I have routines for ‘unplugging’ once a month so I can force myself to re-charge.

I have routines for when I do certain work tasks on certain days so I don’t have to worry about when it will get done.

Try a New Routine...Today!

Try creating a new routine, something that involves self-care, like any of the ideas above. And, what I ask of you is this… give yourself some grace (forgiveness) when you aren’t following your routine. It’s ok, you’ll get back to it. As an example: I didn’t do my morning routine today, and it’s ok. I know I will do it tomorrow.

Anyone reading this article already has enough ‘gumption’ to get it started, or to get it going again.

What type of routines have you tried?

Comment and let me know!

Interested in trying the 5-Minute Journal? Be the first to comment and I’ll send you one, for free! (I do not get compensated for this plug).


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