Living with a chronic illness is extremely challenging. However, there are some small steps you can take to make living with one a bit more manageable. Setting a routine for yourself is one of them.
When I make something a habit and stick to it daily, I notice I have much better days and feel happier and more productive. Turns out, science backs this up. In fact, having a routine can actually improve your mental and even physical health. Similarly, not having a routine can cause stress, low-quality sleep, anxiety, and poor eating.
Routine vs. Schedule
A routine is something you do every day, but it differs from a schedule in that you don’t have time constraints. For instance, if you take your medication before breakfast every day, that’s a routine. Routines can help you remember to do certain things each day as well as effectively manage your time and energy.
How Can a Routine Help My Chronic Illness?
There are two main ways a routine can help with the management of a chronic illness.
1. They Help You Recognize Your Needs
When you have a routine, you’ll know when it’s the best time to do certain things for your body.
For instance, if your chronic illness makes you feel tired by noon every day, take care of the most important things in the morning. This allows you to maximize your energy levels and be more productive by taking care of the most important things early in the day.
2. They Help You Stay Organized
Routines can help you keep all of your daily responsibilities in check, which in turn can help improve your mental health. Staying organized through routines can help create more relaxation and less anxiety in your life.
How to Incorporate Routines into Your Life
Here’s how you can incorporate a routine into your day that can help you with your condition.
Practice Daily Self Care
When you live with a chronic illness, your mental health can spiral downwards fast, which is why it’s important to include self care in your daily routine. Self-care doesn’t always have to come in the form of spa days and bubble baths though. Sometimes it means just giving yourself a little more credit, recognizing when you need a break, and listening to what your body needs.
So whether it’s reading, taking a walk, exercising, or watching your favorite show, find some time each day to give yourself a chance to reset.
Incorporate Routine Checkups
It’s also a good idea to incorporate routine checkups at least once a year with your primary care doctor. And the good news is that if you have Medicare, you get full coverage for an annual wellness visit with your doctor.
Get Your Zzz’s On
Sleep is especially important when facing a chronic illness. Getting the right amount of sleep each night can have a huge effect on your mental well being. One study found that people with an active daytime routine have a healthier sleeping cycle than those with an active nighttime routine.
Having a sleep routine can make you more productive and can improve your mental health.
Make it a habit to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time each morning.
Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation shares that older adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep.
Find Specific Times to Eat and Take Medications
Make eating and taking your medications a routine. It’s a good idea for you to eat around the same time each day. You’ll know when your body needs the energy the most.
Similarly, taking your medication at the same time each day can help you remember to take them, and many medications should be taken with a meal.
When faced with a chronic illness, nothing is really certain; however, setting a routine can help you feel more powerful and authoritative over your life and inject some predictability into all that uncertainty. Take time to set routines for yourself and remind yourself that your illness is no longer in control — you are.
Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and wellness writer living in Raleigh, North Carolina.