How Depression Shaped My Attitude on Routines – My Brain’s Not Broken

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When I started dealing primarily with depression, I got hooked on the concept of routines. I had some routines growing up, but they were created more by things I did, team sports or group activities, than by activities I had planned myself (of course that’s childhood too). I had started my own routines when I got to college, but when dealing with depression felt like a full-time job, I started looking for ways to still live my life despite the depression. I’ve read about life hacks, about little things I could do all day to keep me from getting depressed, but nothing is ever stuck. It took me a long time to figure out why “routines” would never work the way I understood them – but I also learned how depression can help me develop healthier attitudes about them.

As with many aspects of my life, developing a healthier outlook on my routines meant acknowledging the cognitive bias I had already caused. One thing I’ve learned about cognitive biases is that you don’t always know how many you are developing until you are faced with a challenge. Since my goal was to develop a routine that would alleviate my depression (a flawed goal at first), every obstacle I faced came with a cognitive bias.

If I didn’t do a task, I would think “all or nothing” and tell myself that despite my progress, I would never be able to maintain a routine. I would filter out the positives of my day and focus on the negatives and how I didn’t stick to this routine. In fact, I would too generalize my mistakes to create the thought pattern that I have constantly failed to create normality in my life. I thought the biggest obstacle to creating a routine was physical, but actually mental.

A routine is usually thought of as a list of things someone needs to do during their day. It can encompass all areas of wellbeing, but it is most commonly associated with physical chores and this is where I fail miserably. Over time, I began to change my mind about what it means to create a routine. Instead of centering the list of errands I needed to do, I centered my depression.

My routine isn’t long-term, but it lasts for days or weeks. If I don’t “keep up” my routine now, that’s fine – because it isn’t set in stone and I assume it will fail. Things come and go on this list all the time. Whenever I find an activity or task that alleviates my anxiety or alleviates my symptoms of depression, I add it to my routine. When it stops relieving my symptoms, I take it out of my routine. But I make sure it’s my own What works in someone else’s life isn’t exactly the same as what works for you. It’s perfectly okay to change your attitude towards routines, and I wish someone would have told me that when I was younger. Right now, developing routines means doing what I need to do to live with depression and anxiety. And I would say that this is a much healthier take on my life than when I started my mental health journey – a win I didn’t even know I had.

What does it mean to you to be in a “routine”? Do you love / hate the word or has your attitude changed over time? Let me know in the comments below!

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