How I Re-Learned Everything I Thought I Knew About Routines
Note: This post is the third post of a year-long series that you can read more about at the end of this post.
I love a good routine. Love.
It's not that I'm not flexible or can't deal with not being in a solid routine when it comes to my day-to-day life (although I have my moments), but more that I know I am generally better, happier, more relaxed when I have routines figured out that work for me. This doesn't mean I do these things every single day, or that every morning, noon, and night is exactly the same. In fact, I probably only do these routines in their entirety maybe 60 percent of the time. Contrary to popular belief, it's not really about consistency at all as much as it is about creating a place to go back to when things start to feel overwhelming, or stressful, or just simply off. It's not that doing my morning routine every day will revolutionize my happiness, but that the comfort of knowing that if I start to feel stressed or off or unlike myself, I can go back to all of these steps and start to feel a little more centered is priceless.
For 2018, you might know by now that I've been trying to focus on something small and immeasurable each month. May, for me, was all about these routines. It was about being conscious about when I was sticking to them and when I wasn't and about going back to them when I needed to. It was about reminding myself that I created those routines because for no other reason than they make me feel like a better version of myself. And here's the most important part: none of them were about making me prettier or thinner. Separating the creation of routines from the idea of approving your appearance is almost impossible when you've spent the last 10 years believing that eating a healthy breakfast every morning means nothing except gaining a faster metabolism. That doing a face mask every two days means nothing but achieving glowing skin. That not using your phone in bed means nothing but better sleep which means less cortisol which means less weight gain.
I didn't sit down at the beginning of May and create these routines. I just went about my month and made a mental note of the things that worked for me. Turns out that as much as I had idealized 6 a.m. workouts — as much as I thought that THAT routine would be the one that made me feel my best, that after-work and weekend workouts were best for me. When I felt anxiety creeping up, I tried to cook myself breakfast in the morning, and turn my phone on airplane mode at night/in the morning. I started taking vitamins (most) mornings, and drinking a full glass of water in the morning with my coffee. I started making my bed again, a habit I fell out of for the past couple years somehow that makes the biggest difference in my day.
My routines, like most people's, are made of a thousand tiny things. They're comforting and grounding – but that doesn't mean they're perfect. It doesn't mean they shield me from anxiety or sadness or days when nothing seems to work. But they do help me cope with those days, and in moments where I'm annoyed or frustrated they provide a place from me to start from again rather than falling deeper into whatever emotion I'm feeling.
Here's a little breakdown of my day-to-day routines, if you're interesting.
Wake up a 7:20, walk downstairs, pour myself a cup of coffee, say good morning to Winnie + Jake (they're always up before me). Shower. Put on robe/microfiber hair towel (I am obsessed. You guys already know). Bring coffee upstairs. Do my 2-minute skin care routine (spray-on toner, gel moisturizer, and sunscreen). While that's absorbing, make my bed if Jake hasn't already. Drink coffee. Do my makeup. Listen to the Today Show as it plays downstairs.
Nightly Wind Down
My nighttime routine mostly consists of skin care, which I've written about at length. But I also made sure to start reading (a tiny bit) again each night and (mostly) sticking to my rule of putting my phone on airplane mode as soon as I get in bed. I found that this small change made a surprisingly huge impact on my quality of sleep. Another thing? Before, when I would have trouble going to sleep and start feeling anxious, I would immediately pick up my phone and mindlessly scroll to distract myself. Now, I try to actively recognize when I feel that impulse and remind myself that this never (literally never) helps. Instead, I try to calm down by picturing the upcoming day in my head and planning on what the best version of it would look like. Sometimes this is realistic, "I'm going to wake up and get coffee and write that essay finally" or it's something more fantastical and fun that I know won't exactly happen, but feels weirdly relaxing to think about anyway. I'm not exactly manifesting the perfect upcoming day, but it does help me feel prepared going into it and I almost always fall asleep within 10 or 15 minutes.
I wrote out some of my routines above mostly because I love reading about other people's. It's oddly satisfying. BUT... as many as I thought these steps and habits were ultimately what my May was about, as I sit here and write this I realize that I was so, so wrong.
I'm writing this in the third week of June, almost a full month after I spent May really meditating on my routines. At first I was disappointed it took me so long to finally put words on paper (screen?). I had such a good, full May and I was excited to write about why I thought that was. I was proud of myself for sticking to workouts for once and for doing things like finally being able to separate consistency/routine and weight loss. But then the first week of June came — and it was unexpectedly busy. And the second week was the same. And now I'm sitting here on June 21 in the airport, on the way to a work trip at 6 a.m., reflecting that June hasn't been so easy at all when it comes to routines. Finding time to work out has been hard. Shutting down my phone and taking a moment and, honestly, focusing in general has been hard. My immediate thought when I sat down to write this was that May was a success and June was a failure. I felt the impulse to only write about routines in regards to May and sort of leave out that June has been harder. But... then I remembered the point of these routines. And that, throughout June, I've known that all my routines will be right there waiting for me when I need to touch base again. When I need to slow down or restart or just give myself what I need. Sometimes they'll be harder to do then others, but I always have them there waiting. And not doing them (or doing all of them) doesn't mean anything about me as a person at all.
Demolishing all or nothing thinking has been a huge part of my 2018 – the biggest part, maybe, when I really reflect on everything I've been focusing on and everything I've been trying to build (or rebuild). So, yes, May was great for me when it comes to doing all the things that feel good to me. And June has been a little harder. But what I continue to tell myself now, and what I have been throughout the year, is that one "productive" month does not mean I succeeded and one off month or busy month doesn't mean I failed. Most months will probably be somewhere in the middle, anyway. And finally — for the first time in my life — that's OK with me.
This year, I'm spending each month focusing on one small thing. No numerical goals. No specific bench-markers or numbers to hit. Just one small thing each month. This is month four, and post five.
Read about why I'm doing this for 2018 here (January).
Read my February recap here.
Read my March recap here.
Read my April recap here.