Uplifting Daily Routine vs. Mind-Numbing Rut

Photo by Pereanu Sebastian on Unsplash

My morning muse
whispered this title in my ear as I was slowly coming awake today.  Challenge accepted.  I think the idea arose from my work in January/February to create a daily writing habit.  This has been a really positive experience overall. However, on days when the timing of my writing habit doesn't work, I find myself stressing a bit. There needs to be some flexibility built in.

A daily routine is defined as a regular series of things that you do at a particular time OR the practice of regularly doing things in a fixed order. The benefits of having a one according to Northwestern Medicine is lower levels of stress/anxiety, better sleep, and better overall health. On a mental health site called Verywell Mind, they add that during times of instability and high stress, "...Implementing a structure to your day can give you a sense of control. It can also improve your focus, organization, and productivity..." 

Creating a morning routine has had a very positive effect on my day. I wake up slowly in the morning, so having a set of actions I work through brings me to full awareness gently.  My current routine on rising each morning - now that the kids have flown the coop and I am not working out of the house - is to make myself a latte, read the newspaper and chat with a couple friends, make a second latte and then set down at my desktop to start my day.  Social media, writing, editing and more fill the next two hours.  Then I'm ready to take a break and grab a bite. 

I have come to love
this rhythm, and I also love that I leave the rest of my day unstructured. I don't like doing the same thing all the time. I get bored easily and need the element of surprise.  This works for me until things arise that mean I have to flip my day.  Sometimes I need to head out the door early in the morning so connect with friends, attend a meeting or make a commitment.  I still do a partial routine, my morning lattes and reading the newspaper, but after making my second cuppa, I head upstairs to get dressed. 

The downside of a daily routine can be the lack of flexibility.  Those days I have to skip my morning routine jarring. I feel slightly out of step, and often  struggle to sit down to do my writing later in the day. Another routine I started a few years ago was taking 60-90 minutes mid-day after lunch to just relax. I stretch out and check out.  I don't answer the phone or do work of any kind.  My body LOVES this, but on days I'm out all afternoon, I definitely fight an energy dip after lunch.

What is a rut and when does a routine become one?  I love this list also from Verywell Mind as it clearly delineates them through the emotions experienced. Are they positive or negative? 
  • Every day seems the same. You might even have trouble remembering what day of the week it is. 
  • You feel like you're just trying to get through another day.
  • You feel unmotivated. 
  • You feel unfulfilled. 
  • You want to change, but fear the temporary discomfort that comes with it.
I think the common
thread is simply does your routine creative energy, a positive outlook, and movement forward towards your goals or is it holding you back and sapping your motivation. If you look at how I view my morning routine above, the overall feeling is one of calm and relaxation. It leads me to an activity I love - writing. I feel accomplished after doing my daily writing and social media.  I walk away energized.  

On the other hand,
with a rut you are left feeling low, no energy, no motivation and it doesn't lead you to movement towards your goals. It keeps you stuck in an immobile state.  I don't know about you, but I definitely had many months during the COVID shutdown that I felt just like that.  Holiday dinner was cancelled. I wasn't seeing any friends or family. There was no where to go except outside to walk.  I missed conversations with strangers, hugs with my friends/family, and new experiences.  It was like someone drained me dry. I was just a shell. There were days I could hardly get off the couch.

One day I realized how far down the rabbit hole I had gone and started to take firm steps to move through my days in a better way. I still have a long way to go, but re-finding my passion for writing by doing a 30 day Writing Challenge, a 10 day Poetry Challenge, signing up for a Certificate Writing Program and joining writing groups got the ball rolling. And don't kid yourself, it took literally every single one of these to get me moving again.

As restrictions continue to lift, I have travelling to book, events to attend and friends to meet for catchup coffees and walks. There are new experiences to embrace, new hiking trails to explore and new hobbies to try.  BUT for me it worked to start with just one single area, one step, one focus.  And that was to find a way to ignite my passion for writing.

Take a moment today
to think about your day.  What routines have you fallen into that have become ruts holding you back? Which routines help you experience a day that you feel good about?  What can you do to create more spontaneity somewhere each day to refresh your soul? You are unique, so your answers will be unique.  Let yourself dream big, leap freely, but hold onto a few daily routines that ground and uplift you.