The Benefits of a Daily Routine

Routines can get a bit boring…day after day, we get up, eat, go to work, come home, hang out, go to bed…or some variation of this. Some of us stay home with kids, some travel frequently for work, etc. Either way, almost everyone has a routine.

Clock

My Attempt at a Routine

I’m at home with the kids and we have a routine. It’s pretty stable because Julian and Lily do their best with one. I do okay with a routine, but if things get shaken up, I am okay. The kids require a bit of notice. Otherwise, one or both can get quite upset and nobody wants that.

They like knowing what will happen when they get out of school- snack, homework, dinner, shower, TV/screen time then bed, with some outside time thrown in if the weather is okay.

This changes when there are school breaks, of course, or in case of horrible flu outbreaks like the one in January. In that case, nobody moves and we watch a ton of TV when we are awake to do so.

We don’t schedule much on weekends- those are open for fun things with friends, family, and my weekly Yoga for Recovery class.

Why Is Routine Important?

Would you want to go through your days not knowing what’s happening next? This does not sound fun, in fact, it would likely create a lot of anxiety. You would become anxious at not knowing where to go, what to do, or even when to eat (besides your stomach telling you).

Routines can create a soothing effect, even if you don’t realize it. It can be comforting. You can leave work or otherwise come to the end of your day knowing that you can relax, however you choose to do so.

Having a routine is also great for kids. It decreases anxiety and creates stability. They can eventually learn to plan things around their routine, like extracurricular activities, with your help.

Routine is also helpful for major life changes and trying to adjust after them- it helps restore a sense of normalcy. It helps make you feel like you’re getting back into real life, not the event that you are coming out of- divorce, a death in the family, moving, or other changes.

Sleeping cat

How Can I Start a Routine?

If you aren’t a routine-based person, it’s okay. Not everyone is. If you want to try starting one, it definitely requires small steps. Throwing too many changes at yourself can cause overwhelm.

Try these tips:

  • Try a small breakfast, quick meditation or other activity in the morning. It can be good to try something new while building a routine.
  • Don’t get angry at yourself if you get out of routine. It happens.
  • When coming home from work or going out for the day, try an activity to help shift to being home. Most people go through the mail, change clothes, listen to music, etc.
  • Try to stick to your routine as much as you can but stay open to change. Rigidity increases anxiety and even anger. Example: having to stop amd pick up a forgotten ingredient for dinner or pet food isn’t the worst thing that can happen in a day.

Results

Depending on why you decided to change or create a routine, your results may be a bit different than someone else’s. Everyone can benefit from a routine, from kids to the elderly.

Have you changed or created a new routine lately?

Processing a Panic Attack

Living with anxiety is not fun, nor is it close to easy. It can be helped and somewhat controlled, with or without medicine, but it seems as if anxiety sits in the background just waiting to strike.

Is it just me that sees it in that way?

I’ve discussed my own issues with anxiety in other posts A Letter to my Anxiety and Depression and Social Anxiety: Mistaken Identity. I try to tackle them with yoga and meditation. I also color and watch funny movies (my new fave is the Ken Jeong Netflix special) to help.

Scared

How Panic Attacks Work

Panic attacks can happen without an obvious trigger, basically out of nowhere. Talk about scary. If these happen with a change in behavior with at least one month of worry about another attack happening, this crosses over into panic disorder. These attacks start with the well-known “fight or flight” response. When this response occurs multiple times, our bodies misinterpret what is going on- whether the event is a true threat or not.

At this point, it becomes a “fear of fear” situation and this makes for a vicious cycle. In other words, you become scared of the reactions in your own body- the increased heart rate, sweat, etc. It is not a good situation. These usually last 30 minutes or less, but to the person having the attack, it can seem like forever.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack:

  • A sudden increase in intense fear and/or discomfort
  • Racing heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling/Shaking
  • Shortness of breath/feeling of choking
  • Chest pain/discomfort
  • Nausea/other stomach issues
  • Fear of dying

What Can Others Do to Help?

  • Most importantly, stay calm. Please don’t judge the person having the panic attack- that is one of the worst things you can do because we judge ourselves enough. We don’t need the extra judgment. It also isn’t helpful. The feelings are real, please treat them as such.
  • Help them focus on their breathing by taking them to a quiet place (wherever possible) and guide them to take deep, slow breaths for a few minutes. You can also try gentle exercises to burn off some of the stress- even light stretches can help. Even a quiet chat about a shared interest or naming five things around them can help them break out of the thought pattern they are in.

What Can I Do for Myself?

  • Self-care is a very important tool to combat panic attacks. If you realize that you have triggers to your attacks, try to modify or avoid them whenever possible. If this isn’t possible, develop a plan to make things easier on yourself. Why set yourself up to have another panic attack if there is a way to prevent them?
  • Learn more about anxiety and panic attacks. You might be surprised to learn that the feelings you experience aren’t signs that you aren’t going “crazy” but are normal. This can be a source of relief.
  • Cut back or avoid nicotine, alcohol and/or caffeine. All of these are known to be stimulants or somehow cause personality changes that can cause panic attacks.
  • Try relaxation techniques. This is where meditation comes in, for example, or yoga. There are other ways you can try to relax or control your breathing. Exercising is also a good way to help with anxiety. It releases endorphins that help you feel good.
  • Sleep. Getting enough sleep can reduce anxiety- getting to sleep can be an issue, however, so there are things like calming music, melatonin, white noise machines, etc, you can try to get the sleep you need.

Shut down

Treatment and Medication

There are two main ways that anxiety and panic attacks are treated.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is used in many different ways. It helps change thought patterns by looking at how you currently think and learning to look at them realistically.

Medications used to treat anxiety and panic attacks include SSRIs, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines act fairly quickly, within about 30 minutes, but do have a risk of addiction.

This Is Treatable and Tolerable

Panic attacks are something that can be treated and worked through. If you have them, please know that there is help and information out there. Please see my Resources page for more information or see these links:

anxiety.org

helpguide.org

RA and Me

I wrote a post a while back about having chronic illnesses and being a mom. Chronic Conditions and Momming was written before my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis.

1. My older sister has lupus and we had the same rheumatologist at one point. Once we discovered this, we thought it was hilarious. There’s a lot of rheumatologists in Louisville, and we ended up with the same one?

2. My grandfather had severe RA. He died in 2016 at the age of 83. His hands were curled up from the severe joint deformities. He took medications for it, but still had issues that weren’t able to be reversed.

3. I am currently taking a mild medication daily. I had to wait for my thyroid meds to be regulated before I could start RA meds. That sucked but things are good in this area. (Short version: I’m on Levothyroxine due to a partial thyroidectomy in 2017.) Joint pain is REAL.

4. My biggest issues? Joint pain in my hands, knees, and hips. Like many others, I’m super stiff in the mornings and it takes at least an hour to loosen up. Hot showers help. Moving around does help but also hurts. Eventually, the stiffness goes away. Usually. If it doesn’t, then it’s a bad pain day, which leads me to #5.

5. I don’t like taking pain meds. They make me tired and nobody has time for that mess. I usually won’t take them unless I can barely move. I’ll use a heating pad, massage, stretch, etc. The pain meds I do have, however, are non-narcotic.

My doctor is pretty smart- probably not a good idea to prescribe a recovering alcoholic hardcore narcotics. She probably enjoys having a license to practice.
Rheumatoid arthritis sucks. I hate missing out on things because I’m tired, hurting, or both.

Pic with Cameron

It’s possible to live life with chronic conditions. I have two. Some days are just worse than others. I can get through them with humor and my support system.

If you have a chronic condition, how do you get through it?