A Mental Health Moment // The Power of Routine

Last weekend my Twin cousin got married and I had the honor of being a bridesmaid. Please see photos below of us Queening collectively. Also, please be advised that your bridal party could never.

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Due to all of the wedding weekend festivities, I wasn’t able to go through with my typical weekend routine to set myself up for the work week (and life week) ahead.

Was the tradeoff worth it? Absolutely. I have no regrets and would happily partake in the exact same amount of waist gyration, rake n’ scrape two-stepping, and ginger beer sipping as I did on February 8th. Hands down an experience I will remember for all time. The wedding was beautiful, my Twin was elated, and that’s all that really matters to me. Life is not black and white and everything doesn’t always go to plan, but when I do choose to divert, I make sure it’s worth it. Watching my cousin marry the man of her dreams was totally worth it. Welcome to the family, Smith!

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However, as a result of the aforementioned gyration and two-stepping, the rest of the weekend was effectively cancelled. I thought my physical fitness level had increased rather significantly after two and a half years of mostly consistent gym going, but the way my body felt the day after the wedding determined that was a lie. My hips are still recovering. I stayed in my bed until 6 pm the following day, and only got up to go in search of food and liquids. But again, I have no regrets.

Since I was effectively unable to adult on Sunday and I made the rookie mistake of not taking Monday off, I decided that I would bite the bullet and buy lunch every day during the coming week instead of do my usual grocery shop and meal prep. Not a big deal.

After two days of buying food, I began to remember a few of the reasons why I started meal prepping. And by the end of the week, I remembered why my weekend routine has become such a necessary tool for me in making it through the week in good mental and emotional health.

I’ve always been a rather regimented person. In primary school I would lay out my uniform for school from the night before – all the way down to my socks and hair accessories. I packed my backpack and put it in the living room so I wouldn’t forget anything. At school I would come in from lunch five minutes early to organize my desk because a disorganized desk, crumpled papers, and a dirty pencil case gave me baby anxiety. I earned a reputation with my teachers as a methodical, responsible, mature, perfectionistic child. I don’t know why, but I felt like I needed to be as self-sufficient as early as possible.

In college as I shouldered more responsibilities, I had to ramp up my organizational tools and methods to stay on top of deadlines. My supervisors, professors, roommates, and friends all shared major tips and tools to help me stay on track. My job in Undergraduate Admissions introduced me to the collaborative capabilities of my Google calendar, and my first RA staff introduced me to shared files on Drop Box. I had a roommate who was obsessed with daily planners, and I share a unique love of pretty stationary and office supplies with all my college friends.

At work, I’m the go-to girl for organization. There are spreadsheets, lists, and calendars going that keep me and my team afloat that no one even knows about (Amin. Assistants unite).

My point is, I didn’t just wake up one day and end up like this. I’ve been this way for a long time, it’s just gotten more pronounced and taken on different forms over the years.

In my attempts to ‘go with the flow’, one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I cannot function or thrive in chaos. I can’t cast vision, dream, or make progress in the middle of a mess. Order is always my first priority. There is a big difference between spontaneity and disorder.

Some people might think it’s excessive, but I choose to see it as a skill, a useful part of my personality. We live in a world where it’s easy to be overly stimulated and get overwhelmed. The tasks on a small to-do list bouncing off the walls of your brain can make you think and feel like you have a million things to do and no time to do them. Putting things in order helps you realize how much time you actually have. You may not need a team yet, you may just need to be more organized,

Over the years I’ve wrestled with my mental health and reaching my goals in spite of the way depression has affected me. I didn’t realize that order and routine is one of the ways Yahweh has helped me do just that. It’s a personality trait I’ve always possessed, but also a habit I’ve inadvertently strengthened. It took doing one week without my established weekend routine for me to realize that Yahweh led me here, it’s all been on purpose. The tiny shifts and tweaks I’ve made have actually landed me smack dab in the middle of a routine that works.

Routine has risen like guard rails around my life, guiding me down the right path when I’m tired, disoriented, or demotivated. It keeps me moving when I don’t want to move at all, eliminates guess work and robs me of excuses. I can go through my routine mechanically and know that even if it doesn’t feel like it, I just made a few more steps in the right direction.

I’m going to share what I do to help you consider what you can do in your own life to begin benefitting from the power of routine. This isn’t an extensive, hard and fast list. Just a few things for you to consider.

1. I keep the Sabbath

I’ve been a Sabbath keeper my entire life (not 7th Day Adventist), but to be honest, my relationship with the Sabbath has evolved and deepened as I’ve gotten older. When I was a kid, it was the rule of my home. In college, it was my only day off. I, like most college kids, worked like a maniac. I always had something due, and something to do. I pulled all-nighters multiple times per week and lived off of coffee and Monster (the original flavor). The night Security guard at the library knew me by name. I was chronically sleep deprived, anemic, cranky, and exhausted. But as soon as that sun hit the horizon on Friday, I went to bed. For me the Sabbath was primarily about physical rest, I slept. I was so tired all the time that I used Friday night and Saturday to catch up on hours and hours of sleep without feeling guilty about not being in my books. I would wake up on Saturday afternoon in a daze, usually to a few text messages from friends asking if I was awake yet and planned on eating anytime soon.

While physical rest is still a big part of why I keep the Sabbath, I keep it for much different reasons, and with a much more meaningful motive now. It reminds me that rest is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It reminds me that I am not invincible, that I have limits and need to pay attention to my body and respect them. It reminds me that if I don’t plug my work into the infinite source of power and inspiration – the Holy Spirit – my work will never be enough. Pastor Toure Roberts says, “It takes faith to rest when you have a lot to do.” And he’s right about it.

I rest to remember my humanity, and sit unrushed in Yahshua’s presence. I lay everything down, all my stressors and struggles. For 24 hours I stop, and it’s exactly what my body, spirit, and soul all need. I look forward to the Sabbath every week, and it’s a practice I’ve grown to love and embrace in my adulthood.

2. I take care of my body

Beyond sleeping, I tend to use both Saturday and Sunday to tend to my physical upkeep in ways I just don’t have time to during the week. This can include doing my nails, shaping my eyebrows, doing a face mask, additional skin care, exfoliating, washing and conditioning my hair, just body maintenance. It may sound trite, but this makes a big difference in how I feel about myself during the week, especially if I’m having a particularly challenging mental health week. Being in a constant disheveled state does something negative to your self-perception, I’m convinced. So even when I don’t feel like it, I make the time to take care of my body.

3. I work out on Sunday morning

I started working out in July 2017 after years of back and forth. I actually wrote a blog post about it. It definitely still takes a considerable amount of effort to be consistent, but I’m finally at a stage where it feels weirder to not be working out than it does to be working out regularly. My Sunday workouts are usually a bit longer than the ones I do during the week, and the reason it’s become a part of my weekend routine is because I’ve realized I carry a lot of stress in my body.

Mondays tend to be an anxious day for me. I usually struggle with focus, and one of the ways I help myself get some of the pent up anxiety out is a good, long Sunday workout. I’m no fitness model, or Instagram influencer, but I get in there, tune into one of my favorite live Sunday services, and work up a sweat. It helps tremendously, and also starts me off to a good workout week, meaning I’m less likely to skip Monday if I work out on Sunday.

4. I grocery shop and meal prep my lunches for the whole week

I started meal prepping my lunches back in 2015 when I worked as a Civil Engineer. Back then I did it because I was having a lot of gut inflammation and I needed to control my diet more. I was also on a pretty strict budget and wanted to make sure I was getting as much out of my weekly food allowance as I could.

These reasons are still valid for me now. I eat primarily plant-based and try to stay away from gluten, so affordable fast food options are pretty slim. I cook lunches that are simple and cost-effective, but filling and nutritious. Over the years I’ve trained myself to eat the same exact lunch every day for five days straight. I know a lot of people can’t do this, and to be honest you don’t have to. I just know I’m not cooking bulk food more than once a week at this stage in my life, so repeat lunches are my only option.

I also like to minimize decision-fatigue throughout the week. It’s a real thing, and it wears me out. I have other habits and techniques I use to limit anxiety and exhaustion, but I realized that each day I had to decide what to eat, I felt more overwhelmed. It’s such a small thing, I know, but when I’m in the middle of a stressful or emotionally taxing day, I don’t need one more decision to make. When you’re dealing with decision-fatigue even the smallest choices can send you over the edge. I like to avoid meltdowns as much as possible. And chances are if I’m tired or sad, I won’t eat anything healthy anyway. I like setting myself up for success.

I also do one big grocery shop per week because I don’t like spending money every day. I live my life on a budget. I have a spreadsheet that tells all my money where to go. Spending every day makes it harder for me to stay on budget, and food is probably the thing I struggle with spending on the most. Packing my food and bringing it to work with me makes it so much easier for me to have multiple no-spend days a week, which is a major key for me in sticking to my budget.

5. I take myself on a date

Sometime during the weekend, usually on Sunday evenings, I like to do something that I enjoy that doesn’t feel like work or a responsibility. For the past few months it’s been watching movies. I love getting lost in a good story and allowing the cinematic detail to saturate my senses. Going to the movies alone and with people is probably one of my favorite things. I love letting my imagination stretch its legs for a few hours before I jump into a new work week. Remembering to do something restorative and relaxing that I enjoy helps me stay sane, quite frankly. It’s one of the ways I self-soothe and process healthily. A solo movie or coffee date may not seem like much, but when my emotions are high and I’m stressed, sometimes a little something just for me is incredibly helpful in restoring a bit of brain balance and perspective.

These aren’t major things, but they’ve become important pillars that I lean on throughout my weeks, and depend on to help pull me through hard days.

There is nothing wrong with setting your life in order, folks. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for taking steps to design your life in a way that allows for you to strategically fight and win your own battles, and ultimately have progressive, joyful days. Dr. Matthew Stevenson says, “Sometimes all you need to realize your ability to stay delivered is a good day.” There is confidence and power in a well-structured, organized, purposeful day.

So tell me, what routines are helping you maneuver successfully through your life? What do you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis that keeps you on the right track?

6 Comments

  1. Maira Correia

    I love this Daniah and you know how much I love a routine. With so many changes in my life recently, and many more to come, I’ve found that I’ve been slacking in setting up proper structure for myself. Over the last couple of months I have been taking baby steps to get consistent with working out again, meal prepping, taking some time for myself, and family time. Re-focusing on creating a routine has allowed me to really decide what is important to me and what can wait.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SAMANTHA ROPER

    Another well-centered post.

    One of my daily routines that keep me on track is, before I do anything, it’s an absolute MUST that I listen to something uplifting, read a short story/devotional (thank you for today’s contribution), or have a meaningful conversation with my best friend. If at least one of these things aren’t accomplished first thing in the morning everything seems to be out of sync for the day. These habits set the tone for my sanity and anything is liable to happen short of them (Lord, help the other girl 🤦‍♀️)…It’s gonna be a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Daniah Miller

      Sam!! Thank you so much for the comment! Ugh man, I still need to nail down my daily routine – I’m so exhausted in the mornings and evenings that the only thing I seem to be getting done is my full time job and the gym lol. I have to find a way to override the tiredness and lead my days better.

      Like

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