How Depression Shaped My Attitude on Routines

When I first started dealing with depression in a major way, I got hooked on the concept of routines. I’d had some routines growing up, but they were created more by things I did, team sports or group activities, than activities I planned on my own (of course, that’s also childhood). I’d started my own routines when I reached college, but when dealing with depression started to feel like a full-time job, I looked for ways to still live my life despite having depression. I’d read about life hacks, about little things I could do throughout the day so I wouldn’t be depressed, but nothing ever stuck. It took me a long time to learn why ‘routines’ would never work in the way I understood them – but I also learned how depression could help me create a healthier attitude toward them.

As with many aspects of my life, developing a healthier attitude around my routines meant acknowledging the cognitive distortions I’d already created. One thing I’ve learned about cognitive distortions is that you’re not always aware of how many you develop until you face a challenge. Since my goal was to create a routine that would alleviate my depression (a flawed goal to start with), every obstacle I faced was met with a cognitive distortion.

If I didn’t get a task done, I would use “all-or-nothing” thinking and tell myself that despite my progress, I was never going to be able to maintain a routine. I’d filter out the positive aspects of my day, and focus on the negative aspects and how I hadn’t stuck to that routine. I’d even over-generalize my mistakes to create the thought pattern that I was constantly failing at creating normalcy in my life. I thought the biggest obstacle in the way of creating a routine was physical, but it was actually mental.

A routine is typically seen as a list of things that someone needs to do throughout their day. It can include all areas of wellness, but it’s most commonly associated with physical tasks, and that is where I fail miserably. So, over time, I began to change my attitude about what it means to create a routine. Instead of centering the list of life errands that I had to complete, I centered my depression.

My routine is not long-term, but it goes for days or weeks at a time. If I don’t ‘maintain’ my routine now, that’s okay – because it’s not set in stone, and I expect to fail. Things come and go on this list all the time. If I find an activity or a task that calms my anxiety or relieves my symptoms of depression, I incorporate it into my routine. If it stops relieving my symptoms, I take it out of my routine. But I make sure that it’s my own. What works in someone else’s life won’t be the exact same as what works for you. It’s absolutely fine to change your attitude about routines, and I wish someone had told me that when I was younger. Right now, developing routines means I’m doing what I need in order to live with depression and anxiety, full stop. And I’d say that’s a much healthier attitude toward living my life than I had when I first started my mental health journey – a win I didn’t even know I had.

What does it mean for 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!


15 thoughts on “How Depression Shaped My Attitude on Routines

  1. Mentally Ill In America March 2, 2021 / 8:43 pm

    I have been working on sculpting out a routine, or in my case, a checklist. It’s very difficult and I am not doing well with the follow through. I can make plans all day, but have little energy to accomplish them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB March 4, 2021 / 1:16 pm

      I’m sorry to hear that, the follow through is more difficult than people realize. I’ve had many conversations with people who seem to think that planning = doing, and they forget the steps in between 🙃 hope it gets better for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mentally Ill In America March 4, 2021 / 2:52 pm

        It has improved albeit very slowly. So, while I don’t think I’ll ever get there, who knows I guess?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. March 4, 2021 / 4:18 pm

    I tend not to have a routine and I often feel like I’ve wasted my day by not getting up and ‘doing’. But if I’ve not slept, I think that just resting my body will have to do, so I lie on my sofa and watch t.v. or not sometimes 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB March 11, 2021 / 6:38 am

      I totally feel that! Even when I don’t have anything to do, that pressure to be ‘doing’ something gets to me. Maybe I’d benefit from focusing more on rest 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      • March 12, 2021 / 6:44 am

        Lol, focusing on rest isn’t easy when we’re agitated or feeling depressed cos we get the ANTs bugging us. But yes, it’s important to try resting. I use mindfulness which I do find helps.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nathan @ MBNB March 12, 2021 / 4:37 pm

        I’m hoping to get better at mindfulness Bc it’s an overwhelming concept for me but it’s nice hearing that it helps others – gotta give it another try!


  3. beatdepression776 April 20, 2021 / 7:01 am

    That’s a great post Nathan. I’m sure it will help loads of people out there who are struggling with organising their lives during the overwhelming bouts of sadness. Do your routines help you to unwind easier and to sleep better?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nathan @ MBNB April 20, 2021 / 1:33 pm

      Hi, thanks for the kind words 😀 the way my anxiety works, I always feel like there are “things to do” so unwinding is hard and falling asleep is difficult, but I also know people who have routines specifically centered around unwinding. A more specific approach might be the best solution!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nathan @ MBNB April 23, 2021 / 2:48 pm

        It’s very rare that I’m ever fully relaxed, but yeah that guilt is definitely there 😞

        Liked by 1 person

      • beatdepression776 April 24, 2021 / 10:09 am

        Thanks for your honesty Nathan. I wish you all the best with learning to cope / overcoming this much misunderstood condition.

        Liked by 1 person

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