Rituals & Routine: Trying to Find Balance in Life When You Have None

It’s been a little while. How’s everyone doing?

I’ve been having a rocky summer. I’m not sure if it’s because of the extreme heat we’ve had these past few months or if the general state of the world has finally rendered me emotionally and mentally numb. I’m sensing general irritability and malaise in everyone around me lately as well, so I know I’m not alone in this.

Baring a total mental collapse, I’ve been seriously considering what I can do to better support my mental health and bring back that lost motivation.

I was speaking to my sister a few weeks ago, and it dawned on me as I returned to work in the most chaotic and confused manner that I was in desperate need of stability. My blog hasn’t had much of one since the stay home order was issued for everyone here in Canada in late March. Neither has my writing, which has been incredibly frustrating to deal with since I know there are plenty of others who have flourished with all the sudden free time. Even after it was lifted and things slowly improved here, things did not go ‘back to normal’.

I went back to work in mid-May, but I work in retail, and my job has never been steady or predictable. It was even less so when stores finally started opening again, and new policies would shift in and out of place suddenly and without a great deal of preparation (or communication). It’s settled down some now, but it still remains jarring and incredibly frustrating.

I’ve mentioned before that I have no writing routine. My current job makes it very difficult to predict when or how much time I’ll have to dedicate to writing, so it’s something I’ve avoided for a long time. The situation with my blog is much the same. It started off well, but the general chaos of 2020 has made that increasingly difficult.

And I realized, in this brief chat with my sister, that I had no routine at all. Nothing to start my mornings or finish my days. I was adrift in the current of life, and swimming desperately between what landfall I could find, never stopping to try and find (or build) some sort of raft. I’ve been uncharacteristically uninspired and lethargic and just..unhappy, I suppose. And that is so not like me.

So I decided I had no choice but to do something about it.

Structuring My Day

Step one of my master plan involves creating and sticking to new routines designed to improve my physical and mental health, and create habits that will suit my ideal life. I’m not sure what those are quite yet, so I’m trying to keep an open mind and regularly review my routines to make sure that the things I am actually incorporating are helping to support me. While the middle of my days typically devolves into chaos, I figured I could at least bookend them with a little structure.

Morning Routine

The first routine, is of course, my morning routine. This one I don’t expect to be nearly as hard to keep to as there are already some things that I do when I immediately wake up, like making my bed and drinking my coffee. The blueprint for a routine is there, I just need to expand it and make it more definable. This is the routine that I’m starting with:

  • Light morning stretches
  • Make the bed
  • Review my planner and make my daily to-do
  • Have coffee and breakfast
  • Check my emails
  • Brush teeth, clean & moisturize my face
  • Update Pinterest Boards
  • Check/Comment on Instagram
  • Spend up to 30 minutes writing in my journal

All in all, I don’t expect it to take more than an hour, which is a substantial chunk of time, honestly, but my hope is that the more I do it, the more of a habit it will become, and I will naturally get through it faster. If not, I can always make some changes.

Introducing the Morning Pages

The biggest change, and the one that I think will be the most interesting to see the result of, is the introduction of morning pages as a way of focusing my thoughts and intentions for the day and exploring things that make me anxious or afraid in a safe and private space. When I was younger I had a diary, and it was full of the sorts of things you’d find in a little girl’s diary, but it was also very shallow. For much of my life, I thought keeping a journal was the same as keeping a record of your day, and that seemed both boring and an incredible waste of time.

As I got older and felt the need to expound my thoughts somewhere and at length, I started a notebook in my Evernote that was just called ‘Personal’, and I’d start a note with the date and just free write about everything that was on my mind. I’d started a digital journal without realizing it, and I still sometimes write in it. I also tried keeping a physical one, and I enjoyed the process but found it hard to keep up with. Probably because I wrote in it at random and without any discipline.

But that’s not the only inspiration for this part of my routine. For a while now I’ve followed Amie @InspiredtoWrite on Instagram, and her posts there and her relentless dedication to her morning pages really inspired me to try journaling more often, especially as a way of dealing with my perfectionism and my fears and anxieties about my life and my work. It seemed a natural fit for my morning routine.

Night Routine

This one will be the more difficult one, but I think that makes it all the more necessary. I tend to work indefinitely and without focus, and crash into bed at the end the night. I have no routine at all, and what I do before bed could be entirely random. Sometimes I’m binge-watching something or I’m brainstorming, or I’m editing blog posts into the wee hours of the morning. It’s been terrible for my sleep schedule, and my life is already chaotic. I don’t need the added exhaustion from a lack of sleep.

Enter, the night routine: a set of tasks I must complete before bed, and thus I begin each day with an understanding of when I will go to bed so I can plan accordingly. I’ve planned out my night routine to go as follows:

  • 15 minutes of yoga
  • Brush & floss teeth
  • Full skincare regimen (we take our skincare very seriously in this house)
  • Review my planner & bujo, marking off tasks and migrating tasks to tomorrow
  • One positive thing

A Focus on the Positive

2020 has not been a great year. It has been terrible, in fact, and it is very easy to get wrapped up in all the negative. I’ve found I’m really struggling to stay positive lately, so I’ve introduced what I call One Positive Thing.

Recently I ordered a new bullet journal from Leuchtturm, and they sent me a pocket 2020 weekly planner – no doubt some inventory they wanted to get rid of. I hate clutter and mess, and I actively try to avoid buying things I don’t really need. I was going to recycle it, but it was a beautiful notebook, and an unexpected gift. And so I came up with a use for it that I thought would also be of benefit to me.

Every night, before bed, I have to write about one good thing that happened that day. It might be something that happened to me or to someone else. It might be something incredibly inconsequential or it could be life-changing. Regardless of the shitty day I’ve had, I need to try and come up with at least one positive thing, and that way I end each day thinking of the good, and not the bad.

New Rituals

It’s still early days yet, and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with too much to start out, but I do hope to introduce writing rituals – things that you do every time you write to trigger the right mindset. Making tea, lighting candles, playing ambient music, etc. I have no writing routine currently, and it might be a while before I settle into one, but a writing ritual might be a good compromise for that.

And if it’s helpful, it’ll be interesting to see if there is anything else I can create a ritual for to help put me in the right frame of mind.

Early Thoughts

It’s only been a couple of days since I’ve begun using (and tracking) my routines, but already I feel equal parts more grounded and more vulnerable. I’ll definitely update you all in a couple of weeks to see if there is anything noticeable that I can report, whether my routines have become easier to fall in to or if I experience any drastic improvements to my mental wellbeing.

I’m also trying to be kind to myself with how strict I am. Some days I work very early in the morning, and completing a full morning routine may not be possible, so I do what I think is possible in whatever time I’m willing to give it. After all, these routines are meant to support me and give structure to my life, not to create more stress and anxiety.

But I’m excited. I’m excited to finally have some sort of structure to my days, and routines to depend on. It’s something entirely under my control – when I do them, what I do, and how long I do it for. It’s something I’ve needed for a while, and while I expect it will become harder to stick to once the enthusiasm wears off, I know that the longer I keep to it, the better I will be.

I’m building my raft, one log at a time.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a regular morning or night routine? Have you always had one or did you have to be more deliberate in creating one? How have you coped with the general chaos of day-to-day life in this post-Covid-19 world? Let me know in the comments below!

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