If you feel inconsistent, lost, or like you’re moving backwards this post is for you! I’m going to tell you how I manage to keep moving forward despite having Borderline Personality Disorder and dropping into low depression swings or high anxiety swings.
I’m 35 and I’ve struggled with severe mood swings pretty much since puberty at age 12. I tried medication and therapy but neither really worked for me. I definitely use coping skills I learned in therapy, but ultimately it was my routines that saved me.
I’ll warn you, I’m slightly OCD (actually diagnosed by a professional, not just everyone who knows me agreeing on it). So my routines may seem a little over the top to some of you.
When I first started making routines I tried to schedule everything. I mean EVERYTHING. It was overwhelming and impossible to maintain. My best advice is to take it slow and don’t add on until you’ve created actual habits. Meaning if you still have to write it down or set alarms for it then you aren’t ready to add another routine.
You can either start with a wake up routine or go to bed routine. Both are equally important and since they are usually short and simple to do you might even be able to do them both starting the same day.
My “Go to bed ” routine is simple, turn out the lights, turn off the fans, put the dogs up, get into bed and read a little, check my alarm clock, state my evening intention, and go to sleep. Every night. Without fail. My evening intention comes from the same place my morning routine comes from: The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Typically I say something like, “Thank you for this day full of joy and growing opportunities. I let go of things that I no longer need and welcome sleep. I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.” How many times have you woken up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day? How about when you get woken up several times a night by a 4 month old that needs to nurse? I can honestly say, most mornings I wake up naturally before my alarm goes off (at 4:30 AM) and feeling a little antsy to start my morning routine. To be fair, I lay down at 7 PM to put my baby to sleep, though I’m not typically falling asleep until 8:30 or 9.
My morning routine is my life saver (if you know about Miracle Mornings you’ll giggle at that). My alarm goes off and I meditate (often with the baby nursing in a side lying position). After meditation I’ll typically read for at least ten minutes while my baby finishes nursing and then play with her for a few minutes and make sure she’s happy and full and I’ll get her changed and dressed. Then I do 30 minutes of yoga while my coffee is making and my steel cut oats are cooking (good for lactation). After yoga I write in my Bullet Journal and gratitude journal and eat my oatmeal and drink my coffee. I announce my affirmation and spend a few minutes visualizing achieving my goals and where I want to go with my life and add things to my bullet journal (again) that will bring me closer to my goals. By this time I usually have to get ready for work which starts even more routines. I can’t stress enough how important having a good morning routine is. It sets your whole day up for success and gives you energy and a positive attitude.
Another valuable place to have routine is with your food. A lot of people struggle with coming up with new ideas to eat healthy. Currently, for me breakfast is easy because it’s oatmeal to help with lactation. I also do a protein shake on the way to work because there’s several hours from when I wake up to when I leave for work. When I’m not eating oatmeal I will cook two eggs and eat an avocado with it or do greek yogurt with some homemade granola and berries. I also have a delicious recipe for overnight oats that is packed with protein and fiber. That’s about all I’ll eat for breakfast except Sundays when I have my soul food. Lunch is another super easy one: salad or 1 bell pepper, 1 avocado, a handful of baby carrots, and hummus. I’ll sometimes switch up the veggies or add a fruit or a hard boiled egg but it’s always something full of veggies with a protein source. Dinners are similar: a serving or protein and two servings of veggies. I’m lucky because my oldest son wants to be a chef so he loves to cook dinner. There’s no casseroles or complicated dishes. Grocery shopping is simple, cooking is simple, meal prep is simple. It all flows nicely. That way when I have an overwhelming day and I’m full of anxiety I don’t have to stress over what I’m making for dinner and I know it’s not going to take a long time to make.
Some of the other little routines I have keep me on track. I take my supplements when I make my shake. Literally if I choose to not have a shake in the morning I forget my supplements because I’ve tied taking them to my shake. I workout when I get home from work while my kids are doing homework. After dinner I hula hoop with my daughters (obviously the baby is just along to watch). After I drop my kids off at school I listen to a personal development audio book. These are all little things that are habitual now. What that means is when I dive head first in the shallow end into a depression I don’t have to think about my self care routines. They are habits, I do them automatically and they help keep me afloat until the swing passes.
To close out: start with a morning and evening routine to ensure you sleep well and wake up with the best start of your day, important self care routines can be combined with habits you already have (affirmation while you brush your hair, visualization in the shower, filling your water bottle while you make your coffee), don’t start too many new routines at once (like only one or two at a time and don’t add another until you have made your older ones habits), and be gentle with yourself. Many people have days where they only get out of bed for their coffee and to use the restroom. It happens. Don’t live in your perceived short comings. Move through them and then move on.