I think it’s important to have a degree of routine in life, whether it’s what time we go to bed/get up, if we shower before bed or in the morning, when we go to the gym, or to work, or what time we walk the dogs. A routine gives our lives structure and enables us to predict how much time we have available each day to do other (off-plan) things.
[I totally understand that some people may disagree and say they prefer to just wing it, but I’m certain that in some way their life is organised by routine.]
When first dealing with my post-cancer-depression (before I understood that actually I wasn’t ok) I used to do a lot of walking.
To give me something to do – To stop me from thinking – To surround myself with the beautiful countryside – To avoid people – To drown out mental dialogue with loud music – To make me feel like I was achieving something.
If you asked me now why I had walked everyday, I think my answer would be a combination of these things but above all because it gave my day some structure.
It stopped the vast void of emptiness from consuming me, minute by minute, hour by hour.
It interrupted the blank canvas of life.
It allowed me to feel something; hot, cold, tired, windswept.
And it filled a space in the day.
Later on I would be asked what I do in a typical day by my GP, counsellor, psychologist etc. And I would shrug and say I usually go for a walk (there was sometimes a little more to my reply, but you get the idea). Time and time again I would be told the importance of engaging in activities. I would read about it in self-help books and on the internet. But, when you feel that hopeless, it’s not easy to engage. You have no motivation, no energy, no desire. You feel that you physically can’t move from the bed or sofa except to visit the bathroom and even that’s pushing it.
And then you meet with a psychologist who doesn’t ask you to challenge your negative thoughts, or scrutinise whether they’re based in fact. But instead asks you to do just one thing each morning and each afternoon, just one thing that you used to enjoy but don’t do anymore. And then asks you how you felt while doing it. And little by little you plan and schedule activities throughout each day, giving structure, and in time you develop a routine and you find that instead of going to the gym because it a) fills a huge portion of your day and b) makes you have a shower, you’re going to the gym because you want to.
And the days feel easier because they are punctuated by activities and tasks, and you feel a little bit happier, lighter, and more hopeful… and so it continues.