Basic Week Plan to the Rescue!

Womanneeds a routineThere are two kinds of people – those that love routines and those that don’t. Which are you?

If you don’t love routines, it may be because you feel they are too restrictive, too boring or just too hard. After all, who wants to do something 66 times before it becomes automatic?

However, if you know the value of routines, then you probably appreciate the automaticity of it – following through without any real effort or brain power. Routines can keep your life on track when everything around you is falling apart. Instead of constantly trying to juggle all that is on your plate, a routine can add structure to your day and save you time, effort and money.

Routines

The most common routines are the morning, or get out of the house routine, and an evening, get ready for bed routine. There are all kinds of routines and frequencies for doing them. I encourage the students I work with to create a homework routine. They think of all the steps they should take before, during and after homework and then combine them into a routine that works for them. It may include what to do when they get home such as having a snack, taking an activity break, a body check, checking the agenda and deciding what’s important – all before even getting started. Students save themselves time by addressing all the usual distractions like hunger, thirst, feeling tired, and the “I don’t know where to start”, dilemma.

Create A Basic Week Plan

You can do the same thing by creating a routine for the things you do during your week. I call it a “basic week plan”, because it tells me when to do the basic things each week. Start with a list of the things you spend time doing throughout a typical week for yourself and your family; things like laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, etc. If you’ve ever had to run to the grocery store for something you need for dinner that is already late, or had to pay a late fee, or missed the return window on an item that you don’t want, you know it can disrupt your day and steal valuable time you could use for yourself.

Now that you have your list, decide which day of the week would fit with your regular schedule rather than having “urgency” dictate the use of your time.

Match the task to a day:

Task                                                             Day

Laundry                                                            Monday

Groceries/Meal Planning                              Tuesday

Cleaning                                                           Wednesday

Errands                                                             Thursday

Mail/Paperwork                                              Friday

Organizing/Planning/Household Maintenance

Once you decide on the day of the week, try it out. See what it feels like to get the big stuff done during the week and have your weekend for fun and relaxation.

With fewer random or spontaneous tasks and errands taking up what little free time you have in your life, you may find the benefits of a basic week plan far outweigh the rigidity you think of in a routine. And wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the stress and the hurry in your day and to also have some time for yourself?

Recap:

  • Routines add structure to your day
  • Routines take less brain power and prevent decision fatigue
  • Routines, like a basic week plan, save you time and effort by minimizing extra errands and last-minute trips
  • Routines save money
  • Routines keep life moving even through the bumpy times

What do you need a routine for?

5 Steps to a Summer with Intention

Summer of intention at the beachIt’s summer at last! Let’s take advantage of all that summer has to offer by being more purposeful and deliberate about how we chose to use our time and energy. Here are five steps to help you have a summer of intention and make great memories too.

    1. First, figure out what is important to you and your family. What interests, experiences or goals would you like to have or do this summer? Brainstorm without censoring so you can pick the most important ones.
    1. Set goals that are measurable, so you will actually know if you achieve them. Whether you want to learn a new skill, work on a hobby or go on vacation somewhere, decide what is the endgame?
    1. Since “a goal without a plan is just a wish” as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said in his book, The Little Prince, you’ll need to create a plan for reaching those goals. Start by breaking down each goal into manageable steps then either create a routine or some structure in your day for working on the steps.

A summer plan is designed to change up the hectic routine and add some open time to enjoy the things that are meaningful to you and also make time to be spontaneous. Explore, try new activities, and take time to do nothing, whatever helps you to recharge.

    1. Next, look at your schedule to see where you can squeeze in summer. Is your vacation already planned? If not, that should be your first priority. We all have the same 168 hours per week, how are you using yours?

Are there any weekly or monthly activities that you can cut down on or bow out of for the summer? Do you have projects you can put on hold? Can you cut down or reduce the stress of those projects by letting go, delaying, picking one day a week or month to work on it or chipping away 20-30 minutes a day at it? Do whatever works for you.

Could you get up an hour earlier? Ease up on the hectic pace and change the routine to see if you can’t gain an hour or two a day for yourself. Block out some time in your planner then if something comes up it will be easier for you to say “No, I am sorry I already have a commitment on that day.” Don’t have a big block of time?

Add some spontaneous, (intentional summer) fun during the week such as:

  • breakfast on the deck
  • lunch at the park
  • a picnic dinner at the beach
  • read for 30 minutes in the hammock
  • camp out in your own backyard
  • Stargazing
  • walking the beach at night
  • riding your bike around the neighborhood

You get the idea. These are the spontaneous activities that only take a few extra minutes to do. Sometimes when we try to think of what to do in the moment, we struggle to think of ideas that aren’t really obvious. Here’s where having a list of activities and ideas that you have thought of before can make deciding so much easier. (It’s helpful for kids to come up with their own lists for when you hear the inevitable, “I’m bored!”) CHADD has an article with tips on helping your kids transition from school to summer. Read it here.

    1. Practice self-care. The summer is a great time to think about your health. Physical health; do you want to be more active, need to add more fresh, nutritious foods into your diet and/or do you need to get more sleep? Don’t forget your mental health too. What helps you recharge and/or reduce your stress? Want to start meditating, journaling or start a new hobby? Whatever it is, the summer is a great time to begin.

A summer with intention is about finding the balance between setting and working towards goals and being spontaneous. Allow yourself to embrace spontaneity and enjoy the summer season, while still staying true to your intentions. Wishing you an intentional, fun and spontaneous summer!

Routines, Rituals and Dopamine, Oh Yeah!

Rituals are good habitsDo you struggle to think, problem solve or make decisions during the day? If you end up feeling overwhelmed it may be because there are just too many things swirling around in your brain. The term, “brain bandwidth” which simply means, the amount of brain resources you have in the moment, can fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.

Think about all that your brain is responsible for behind the scenes and then it is asked to think, problem solve, and make decisions all day long too? No wonder it is always trying to “save energy” as Ed Mylett, mentions in his book, The Power of One More. We can’t create more bandwidth, but just like a computer that is slowing down, you can clear out some files to make more space.

How To Save Brain Bandwidth

      • Create habits, routines and rituals to help
      • Reduce distractions
      • Make fewer decisions
      • Stop multi-tasking (which is really sequencing and not as effective as one thing at a time)
      • Delegate
      • Reduce your to do list
      • Let go of your phone
      • Get a good night’s sleep
      • Declutter and organize
      • Plan ahead

Let’s talk about habits. A habit (an action that has become automatic) signals your brain to go into “autopilot” mode which uses much less energy. That “automatic pilot” takes away the thought and the argument that happens when the “angel” and “devil” on your shoulders start fighting. When habits result in a positive outcome then your brain is happy. The dopamine that gets released tells your brain – this feels good, let’s do it again.

Habits when strung together become a routine. You already have routines in your life for getting up in the morning, making meals, laundry, going to bed, etc. Where’s the joy in those? No joy? Then maybe you should create a “ritual” rather than a routine.

Greg McKeown, author of, effortless (not a typo) defines a ritual as the “how” of what we do. It “infuses joy into our everyday moments.” Adding moments of joy throughout your day which lightens your day and feels good = more dopamine. He uses Marie Kondo as an example of how little rituals (like thanking that worn out pair of jeans before recycling) can add pleasure to the act of decluttering.

One ritual you may want to think about is a “Close Out the Day” ritual. A routine with added joy, pleasure, or self-care added becomes a ritual. This one ritual is a good habit that will support “future you” and save brain bandwidth also. Creating an end of the day ritual can help you start tomorrow with more focus, motivation and an early “win.”

If you are working in an office, what can you do to set yourself up for success tomorrow before leaving for home and still make it enjoyable? Same question for those of us working from home. Then getting started on your work would be as easy as “plug and play” as my friend, Alison says.

How about a ritual for the home that will create a smoother morning? Aren’t you tired of seeing dirty dishes in the morning? Creating a ritual here is a good habit to build.

We’ve mentioned before about deciding what you will eat, wear and do for tomorrow, to save decision power, but how can you add some pleasure to the process? The pleasure = more dopamine = more brain bandwidth.

Ways to Add Pleasure

      • Sitting with your favorite beverage and planning tomorrow’s big 3?
      • Take a walk
      • Spend time with your family
      • Go screen free (don’t panic, even an hour helps)
      • Read or learn something new
      • Journal
      • For some, putting the house to bed is a ritual
      • Add to a “success” list each day
      • Get up earlier so your morning isn’t rushed and enjoy a leisurely breakfast

Sometimes we think that having routines and being “pre-programmed” will be boring and take the joy out of our day. In reality, having routines for the fundamentals of your life, actually frees up brain space, which allows you to be more creative, productive, and less stressed.

A close out the day ritual the night before is a good habit to ensure you start your morning off with more decision-making power and brain bandwidth for the important things. Having routines and rituals actually gives you more freedom and energy for the significant people and priorities in your life. And isn’t that what it is all about?

Related Articles from the Archives:

Is It a Routine or a Struggle? https://thinkinganddoingskillscenter.com/is-it-a-routine-or-a-struggle/

Coffee and Routines? https://thinkinganddoingskillscenter.com/coffee-and-routines/

 

 

Attack Procrastination….Here’s How

Late againProcrastination is something everyone has experienced. Although there are many reasons for it, understanding why you do it won’t necessarily help you get things done.

Delaying or putting things off until the last minute can sometimes work to motivate as there is nothing like a hard deadline to bring on the hyperfocus. Hyperfocus can be helpful, and many people falsely believe that they work best when under that kind of pressure. The problem is they don’t remember how awful they felt for the next three days. When you depend on your adrenaline to get you through a project you are using up your reserves and sometimes there is a price – your health.

One idea that I am thinking of using is declaring one day a week as Anti-Procrastination day. I believe it comes from the Fly Lady but I found it on Diane in Denmark. Wednesday is Anti-Procrastination day and she suggests completing one or more things that you have been putting off. She typically focuses on small things so there is a feeling of accomplishment. Just taking 15 minutes can make a huge difference but I’ll need more. Keep a list going so that you can get right to the tasks on Wednesday.

Since we are talking about procrastination, I have to ask….are you reading this because it is of interest or are you procrastinating on something else with a higher priority? No judgement here. You make your own choices. Let’s talk about 5 common procrastination pitfalls.

  1. I don’t feel like it right now, I’ll do it later

This is sometimes called “discomfort intolerance” when you think about the task you need to do and your body tenses or you suddenly feel overwhelmed and realize you can’t work on a task because you don’t “feel” like it.

      • Admit it….you are never going to “feel like” doing it. Now figure out why. Is it boring, difficult or time consuming? Are you clear on the steps to completion? Are you afraid of failing or succeeding?
      • Schedule a time to work on it – even if just a little piece of it. When that reminder goes off, get to it.
      • Time yourself. Often time estimates of how long things take can be really off.
  1. Too many things to do and I want to do it all
      • Figure out what is really a priority and what is not rather than what is just easier or more interesting to work on.
      • Limit your to do list to 3 things that are important to you and keep the rest of the items on another list.
      • If nothing is a priority, then nothing will get done. You should be looking at quadrant 2 activities/tasks not quadrant 4 (Eisenhower matrix).
  1. Distractions are everywhere
      • According to one article, each time you hear a ping or a ding from your electronics, you are losing 10 points off of your IQ even if you don’t give in to them. Turn off all notifications or go on airplane mode and/or use focus mode which limits the distractions you can see on your device.
      • When internal thoughts distract you, while you are working, take time to write them down instead of jumping up and dealing with them. Each break in your focus can add 20 minutes to your project/task while you regain the level of focus you had before you were distracted.
      • Check in with your body before you start working. Do you need anything? Should you bring a drink or small snack with you so you don’t need to get up from your work?
  1. Instead of “now” and “not now,” think of “present you” and “future you”
      • Handling things in a timely manner helps “present you” stay calm and prevents “future you” from becoming frantic. What can you do today that will make “future you” happy or less stressed?
      • Take a look at your systems and processes – are there any improvements you can make, that will make your life easier in the future?
      • Learn from your struggles. If you faced a challenge and solved it, document it for the next time. Learned a new skill, found a helpful app – keep track of them for next time.
  1. Change the negative into positive
      • Science says our brains tend to focus on the negative as a safety measure, so we need to be aware when that happens and up the volume on the positives. Create a victory list of what you did accomplish instead of a longer to do list for tomorrow.
      • Stop the negative self-talk. It doesn’t help you get things done, instead it stresses your brain and makes it harder to think.
      • End the day on a positive note. Cross off those things you accomplished and celebrate. Add to your victory list and then go do something that makes you happy. Life is not about what you did or didn’t get done. It’s about who you are becoming.

Let me know what you have been procrastinating on over on my Facebook page. Let’s get a conversation going.

Is it a Routine or a Struggle?

Routines not struggleThere are numerous theories about how the brain works, but what I have come to believe is that we can think of the brain as having three parts or personalities. They are the “robot”, the “Yoda” and the “monkey” brain.

The monkey brain is the emotional part of the brain, it is what happens when our self-control is gone and our emotions take control.  It is the brain that doesn’t think before acting and is often full of movement and impulsivity.

The Yoda brain is the brain we use for learning and making decisions (when emotions are not involved), it is the rational, thinking brain.

And lastly, the robot brain is the brain that controls our habits and routines. It is preprogrammed to do things automatically with little or no thought involved. The robot brain does not create habits on its own, especially if ADHD is involved. It takes training and practicing and often some tweaking before a set of actions can become a habit. Once there is a habit, the brain can relax and just follow through the motions without having to use up its decision-making energy.

Routines that use the “robot” brain can save you time and brain energy. When a habit or series of steps becomes automatic, you no longer have to think about what to do next. You probably already have several routines that you do each day.

ROUTINES

  • Does your morning start the same way each day?
  • How about your evening, does it have a routine?
  • Does your work day have a routine?
  • Bill paying?
  • Dinner routine?
  • Tax routine (Quarterly taxes or April 15)
  • Laundry routine?
  • Weekly reset routine?
  • Planning routine for the week?

You get the idea. There are plenty of opportunities to create a routine that helps you get through your day without using up valuable brain bandwidth.

Where Could You Use A Routine to Save Time and Energy?

  • Are you frequently late for work or appointments?
  • Do you need to get groceries before you can cook dinner?
  • Have you ever missed a bill payment or paid a late fee?
  • Is your home cluttered and/or disorganized?

If you answered “yes” to even one of the questions above, then a routine can help.

Create a Routine

First, pick a problem to solve. Why is that a problem? Now, think about what it would be like if that was no longer a problem. How would your life be different?

Next, pick three steps (yes, just three) that you think are important for this new routine you are creating. It may not be the entire routine, but it is the 3 most basic steps to get you started. Now close your eyes and run through those steps in your mind. Does it flow smoothly or should you do the steps in a different order?

An ADHD brain can struggle to remember the order of steps which makes each day a new pattern. This doesn’t help create a routine and actually uses MORE brain power and decision-making energy. The idea of the routine is that when it is automatic, you are saving brain power and energy because there is no thinking involved.

Finally, find the order of steps that works best and “practice” doing it until it becomes a habit. Then you can slowly add more steps to the routine, making sure it works for you and the way you think.

It has been suggested that linking a new habit with an already established habit can make an effective “trigger” to start the new habit. Is there something you already do that you can link this new routine to?

Once you feel the first routine is working you can either expand it (although don’t make it complicated) or you can start to develop another routine to help yourself solve another challenge.

Habits are tricky things but once they are established – the benefits far outweigh the struggle at the beginning. Keep at it. We are here if you would like some coaching to help you design and navigate establishing new habits and routines.

5 Benefits of a Morning Robot Brain

Science says we all use our brains in three different ways. Although the names applied to these different ways may vary, they each have a specific role to play. Let’s use the terms robot, Yoda and monkey brain.

The monkey brain is of course the “out of control” brain that often gets kids in trouble. It is the brain that doesn’t think before acting and is often full of movement and impulsivity. It can take over in an instant yet be so subtle that the brain’s owner is unaware until it is too late.

The Yoda brain on the other hand is the calm, open brain used for learning and doing the right thing. It is wise and knows what to do and can create a plan to do it.  Unfortunately, it is the last to develop and involves a number of executive function skills.

The robot brain is the brain that uses habits and routines and does things on “automatic pilot” with little or no thought involved. This is the brain we are going to talk about using in the morning.

The robot brain does not create habits on its own, especially if ADHD is involved. It takes training and practicing and often some tweaking before a set of actions can become a habit. Once there is a habit, the brain can relax and just follow through the motions without having to use up its decision-making energy.

A brain with ADHD can benefit from using the robot brain. For the ADHD brain every day is usually a new day and the morning routine often changes daily as well. If there is no habit, then each task that needs to be done has to be thought of and then acted on. That is pretty difficult for an ADHD brain and even for neurotypical brains before they have had their coffee.

Here are just 5 benefits of using the Robot brain and creating habits and routines:

  1. Routines and habits are automatic so no real “thinking” required.
  2. Saves brain energy for important decisions
  3. Creates structure where there was none
  4.  Fewer reminders required to get kids out the door – means less stress all around
  5. Develops independence and self-care habits

Your brain has a limited amount of energy and it needs time to create more if it has used up its current amount. If you haven’t heard of “decision fatigue” then you probably haven’t experienced it. It occurs when you can no longer think or make a decision because you have used up the chemicals in your brain needed to make decisions. So, for example, a big decision at work might become impossible to figure out if you have spent the morning deciding what to do first, and what to wear, and what to eat, and which bag to bring to work, and what to do for lunch, etc. You get the idea. Too many decisions on trivial stuff, still uses those brain chemicals. If all of that was a habit or routine that you did on “automatic pilot” then you would still have plenty of “decision juice” for the important stuff. Same thing happens for your children although their brains’ have a smaller capacity of chemicals = less decision-making juice.

A routine can bring much needed structure to your child’s day. How many times have you had to tell them to get their shoes, or brush their teeth? With a habit – that includes all the important stuff, they will develop the capacity to get out the door and take care of themselves in the process. That would mean much less stress for you and the family.

Creating the habit sequence is the toughest part. You will need to start slowly and with no more than three steps. It takes about 144 times of doing something for it to become a habit, so don’t give up if it doesn’t seem to be working. Slowly add what you think your child can handle but at the beginning walk them through the process each day. Yes, I said each day! Together you can create a chart, or checklist, or photo sequence of what they should look like and have before going out the door…whatever works (and keep trying until you find what works for them). You may have to add incentives and/or change things up a bit until they run smoothly. The extra effort will be worth it and you will be developing your child’s ability to independently get up and get dressed and be ready for school. Then you can look at setting up an evening routine and then of course the dreaded homework routine.

Kids with ADHD crave structure…. they just do not know how to create it for themselves. They need your help. The task of getting ready for school has at least 10 steps and if those steps could be in any order then there would be 3,628,800 possible combinations! Is it any surprise they don’t know what to do?

So, help your child and yourself by creating a morning routine and let me know what positive effects it brings. Enjoy the ride!

Habits – Good or Bad?

good habits for EFsWhy did you do that? “I don’t know” is often the response. Sometimes we are on automatic pilot and our actions are the results of a habit. Other times our actions can be the result of a lack of impulse control. What is a habit? A habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Source: Dictionary.com). Think about the things you do every day without having to think about them. What would it feel like if you could change just one “bad” habit or could add one “good” habit?

If you are not sure if a habit serves you or not you may want to look closer at it. Monitoring an action or habit is a great way to figure out what the true impact is on you. You would need to be able to measure it. For example, keeping track of how much TV you watch (hours/day) instead of just deciding to “watch less TV.” See the difference?

Good habit or bad habit they both have three things in common. According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, a habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. Add in a craving for that reward and you’ve got yourself a habit – whether it is good or bad. To change it you would need to interrupt the cycle. Change the cue (ex. ding of a new email), the routine (checking your phone as you pick it up) or the reward (quick dopamine rush that happens in your brain and makes you feel good when on Facebook). You didn’t start out craving it, but after several times your brain started liking the feeling and ta dah! A habit was formed.

Changing just one habit can have a profound effect on your life. Where to start? Gretchen Rubin, in her book, Better Than Before, suggests that starting with habits that will help strengthen our self-control can serve as the “foundation for forming other good habits.” “They are: sleep, move, eat and drink right and unclutter.” Do you need to create a new habit in one of these categories? Start slow and look at the three parts of the habit (cue, routine and reward) and design an experiment to help you figure out the plan that will work best for you and the way your brain works. Tweak it if it doesn’t work but don’t give up – the long term reward will be worth it.

Now for your kids, they need help establishing habits that serve them. Some examples would be a morning and evening habit of what to do in what order. Often those with ADHD don’t have consistent habits and every day is a “new” routine. This puts extra pressure on their working memory and makes it very brain intensive to think through the steps of what to do next. Help your kids figure out a routine and a reward and then link the cue to something they already do automatically. It is easier to start that way. Other options for kids are homework habits; the habit of using an agenda, backpack habits, studying habits….the list goes on. We can help them take a look at their habits and figure out what is and isn’t serving them so they start the new school year off strong. Check out our Academic Coaching Classes for Middle School and High School.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

ADHD and DecisionsDecisions, decisions, decisions! For the ADHD brain, making a decision can be quite the process. First, you will need to collect some information, but how much information? When do you know when you have enough information? Is it the best/most informed information for the decision you need to make? Has this ever happened to you?

If the decision is made quickly, we may be called impulsive. Yet, if we take longer than expected we are accused of procrastinating. What makes making decisions so difficult?

Every decision or choice we make uses up willpower according to Dr. Nowell, Ph.D. Since we have a limited amount of willpower it can be more challenging to make a decision because of our lower level of willpower. The brain is the organ in the body that requires the most glucose to keep it running. Each decision uses up a bit more of that glucose which can then deplete the reserves in the rest of the body. The less energy the harder even the simplest decisions can become.

Simplifying certain decisions can free up what I call our “brain bandwidth” and can translate into more freedom and less stress. One strategy for simplifying is to make decisions ahead of time about the little things you don’t want in your life or don’t need to think about each day.  Darren Hardy of Success magazine calls them your “non-negotiables” – those things you no longer have to think about because you have already made a decision about it and are sticking to it.  It could be setting a specific bedtime or deciding a no cookies after 6pm “rule” or a 30 minute walk you “must” take each day. Then you no longer have to ask yourself, “Should I take a walk today?”  The decision has been made and you just need to follow it.

Creating routines and habits can also save you from using up your brain’s energy.  The ADHD brain struggles with routines. You may have noticed that each morning things can happen in a different order or get “forgotten” or distraction gets in the way and adds its own complications as you or your child are trying to get out the door. Creating a morning routine that is practiced enough to become a habit (automatic) can save hours of frustration and allow you to leave the house with EVERYTHING you need.

For kids with ADHD, think of how many mini decisions they have to make each morning starting as soon as they are awake. Without a routine here, every day they will do things in a different order or leave things out unless you remind them. You end up trying to keep them to some kind of a routine but they probably don’t realize it. That’s why you may catch them staring off into space without a clue of what to do next. Work together and create a simple routine that will get them out the door without constant hovering from you. They will thank you later.

Creating a routine around the evening process and the arrival home process or homework routine can also be helpful.  What other things could benefit from a routine?  Other ideas might include organizing, or maintaining your organizational systems, packing up sports equipment for practice, or bill paying, laundry or car maintenance.  You get the idea, think of how it could change your lives and eliminate the drain on willpower if you eliminated the simple decisions so you can focus on the bigger ones. Imagine what it would be like if decision making was easier because you and your family were coming from a place with more than enough brain energy and willpower to make the decisions that are right for your family.

Coffee and Routines

Routines keep us goingRoutines, we all have them. Some are helpful and some are not. Routines that are based on good habits are sets of things we do every day that have a positive effect. You probably have a morning routine that gets you and your family out the door in the morning, and an evening routine that ends the day. Do they serve you? By that I mean do they make things run smoothly, keeping you relaxed or do they add chaos, disorganization or a sense of hurriedness to your life?

I think the holiday season is one time where the impact of disrupting the routines of the day can show its effect. Behaviors erupt, patience is thin, and chaos reigns. If there is any ADHD in the family, then those routines/habits are even more important. For those with ADHD, a routine may not always be the same from day to day. In fact, for most people/children with ADHD every day is a new day and often a new “routine”. However, it definitely helps if those with ADHD can create a routine of good habits so that they are on automatic pilot rather than having to take the time to figure out what they should do next. It is the thinking “now what do I have to do?” that causes the mind to go blank or to act on whatever is in front of them.

According to pediatricians at www.healthychildren.org, ““Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.” We’ve all seen this. A sudden change of plans can send our day into a tailspin or worse, change our normally happy youngster’s personality into something we don’t recognize (tantrums optional). Routines for kids provide a sense of predictability and that makes them feel safe. It does the same for adults although I would change the feeling of safety to a sense of control.

Routines teach responsibility, organization, and cooperation and positively reduce your stress level, save you time and energy and bring a sense of control to your daily life. It is that simple. Routines are beneficial in the morning, after school or when returning home for the day, dinner time, and bedtime. It’s not just about the “basics” of a routine as there is often room to add something to your routine that you feel has been missing. For example: it is not just about remembering to brush your teeth at night, but also about ending your day on a positive note. Are you watching TV until bed and then tossing and turning or do you read something positive after having set yourself up for a stress free morning?(Clothes out, lunches packed or planned, keys on hook, phone charging, etc.)

Take a look at your routines and those of your family and see if they are beneficial or not. If things are not working, figure out why and try something new. Keep at it until it works. If things are working well, then you might want to consider adding something to an already established routine. Research shows that linking a new behavior to something that is already “routine” makes it easier for it to become a habit. I have added writing in a journal to my morning routine that also includes listing three things I am grateful for. It starts my day with gratitude and a positive attitude. What will you add to your routine?

Self-Care – What's that?

happiness-priority-quoteSummer has faded and the leaves are just starting to change. It is time to build up our reserves before the cold weather hits. People all around me are already getting sick and I don’t want that to be me this year.

To protect myself this year I have been looking at habits/routines that don’t serve me. One thing I don’t seem to take enough time for is self-care. We are all busy and that makes it most important to stay healthy. It is time to spend a little time on ourselves. Don’t you agree?

Think about your answers to these questions to determine if you could use a bit more self-care time.

  1. Do you feel like you “run” all day long without taking any time for yourself?
  2. How many hours of sleep did you get last night? (Less than 7?)
  3. When was the last time you took longer than 10 minutes to eat lunch?
  4. When was the last time you were active on purpose? (Took a walk, exercised, played a sport, etc.)
  5. Do you find yourself short on patience, or easily frustrated?

Women are built for nurturing –putting others first and their selves last. With the pace of life today it is easy to see how our reserves can get depleted when we give and give to others and put off taking care of ourselves. Reminds me of the airplane reminder where they caution you to “put your own oxygen mask on first” before helping others.

What do you need to feel like you have taken care of yourself? Can you use a routine or a habit that you already have to add some self-care time to? Maybe start with 15-20 minutes and build from there until you have a new habit that makes you feel like you have nurtured yourself. Some ideas might be, writing in a journal, meditation, taking time to read, gardening, sipping a cup of your favorite tea or soaking in a hot tub.

Or would you prefer a “once and done treat” like a facial, massage or mani/pedi? How about a walk in nature? Studies have shown that walking in nature actually reduces cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that affects your health in a number of ways. A walk in nature can also help creative thinking and problem solving. It has been shown to have a positive effect on depression and is great exercise too. In a study done in 2009, a walk in nature was shown to improve the attention span of children with ADHD. What will you do for yourself today?

The best thing we can do for our loved ones is to take care of ourselves. Try different things until you find what works for you and it can be different things each day or each week. The key is to make the time and to make taking the time for self-care a habit. I’d love to hear what you’re doing on my Facebook page this month so please share your thoughts there.