Routine: A Surprising Tool to Fight Anxiety
During the school year, James would often stay up late to do homework, text his friends, or play video games. This resulted in problems getting up in time for classes, failing grades, and a lot of fighting with his parents. Over the summer, his late night habits would cause him to sleep into the afternoon the next day and then have trouble falling asleep at night—continuing the cycle of unhealthy sleep habits and contention.
Teens who get adequate sleep have more stable moods and reduced irritability and depression. Research also shows that adolescents and teens who get enough sleep tend to make better decisions and are less impulsive around risk-taking.
Studies also show that following a daily routine has many psychological benefits, including alleviating anxiety. Life can be anxiety-provoking due to its unpredictable nature and the people and events that are beyond your control. But a routine provides predictability, structure and an opportunity to improve the one life you can control—your own. Other benefits of a regular routine include better time management, a healthier diet, and more time to wind down during the day; all of which contribute to better mental health and good feelings at home.
Routine is not only important for teens, but equally important for the adults and younger children in the home. A bedtime routine is associated with better family functioning and sleep habits. Family routines have been linked to the development of social skills, academic success and have also been identified as important for family resilience and for maintaining normalcy during times of crisis.
Make a Plan
Begin by documenting your current routine. Identify what you can eliminate or reduce, then see what healthy habits you can incorporate into what you are already doing. Sleep, exercise, and meal routines can be particularly helpful. Be realistic when deciding which tasks to include and at what time they will be completed. Don’t forget to leave room for creativity, fun, and rejuvenation.
Keep in mind that implementing a routine takes time so be patient. Adding too many changes will be difficult to sustain and may result in “behavior relapse.” Too much change, too fast is likely to end without positive results. You may want to test your routine with a two-week trial period. If there are habits in your routine that are being consistently missed, re-evaluate their necessity or timing and make adjustments.
Make it Personal
Every individual and family is different and may not require a fully scheduled day to experience the benefits of a routine. Remember establishing a routine is not about getting more done, it’s about creating healthy habits for yourself and your family and doing the things well that matter most to you. Remember to include activities that align with your personal and/or family values. This will deepen your sense of purpose and increase feelings of accomplishment in your life and home.