Is it better to stick to a routine when fighting depression? Or should you actively seek out changes to improve your mental health? The answer: it depends. Sources like WebMD offer resources on maintaining a routine when you’re depressed. Depending on your current lifestyle and the cause of your depression, one may be better. It may even be possible to do both to help conquer depression. Always talk with a mental health professional for suggestions on what will work in your specific situation, but here’s what has helped in my own mental health:
When to establish a routine
A daily routine helps many people maintain a sense of purpose. Routine can provide a sense of familiarity that can be comforting, and it can constantly give us things to motivate and prepare us to get through the day. Routine and scheduling are particularly important in helping us to get the right amount of food, sleep and exercise into our day — all of which can influence our mood. Routine can also encourage us to keep up with things like personal hygiene that sometimes can be neglected during depression, influencing our self-esteem.
A routine will most likely benefit you if you currently have little structure in your day. Many unemployed people, for example, find it beneficial to maintain a routine — including a daily wake-up time, designated time spent job-hunting and even a routine lunch break — to help give them a reason to get up in the morning and get them through the day. Meanwhile, those who work irregular shift patterns may find it beneficial to ask for set shifts to help improve their mental health so that they can more easily develop eating and sleeping routines.
Sleep is also vital to our mental health. Unless you work a night shift, you should try to sleep at night and try to avoid sleeping in during the day when beating depression. Those who stay up all night and sleep through the day are more prone to depression — not only are you unlikely to get enough vitamin D from the sun, but you may be unable to carry out basic tasks that can only be done during the day, like booking doctor’s appointments or visiting certain shops. Try to establish a bedtime routine before midnight so you get enough quality sleep at night. If you struggle with insomnia, try to develop a relaxing practice before going to bed to help you sleep easier (such as taking a hot bath or meditating).
The CDC recommends being consistent in the time you go to bed each night, making it as dark as possible for sleep, avoid caffeine before bed and to get exercise during the day.
When to make a change
A lack of change in our lives can make us bored and lead to depression — especially as we get older — as we may feel our lives are going nowhere and we have nothing to look forward to in life. In these cases, a drastic break away from routine could benefit our mental health.
A change of environment may sometimes be necessary to help us feel less trapped, whether by planning a vacation, working at a coffee shop, or temporarily moving in with a friend. Sometimes getting away from all responsibilities, including home and family, can be beneficial for helping us focus on ourselves. This is one of the significant advantages of mental health support or rehab for depression, which can put us in a new environment free of responsibilities where we can focus on treatment and recovery.
Permanent changes may be necessary when escaping toxic things in our lives. Making changes could include breaking up with a toxic partner, leaving an unfulfilling job or moving away from a home in which we don’t feel safe or comfortable. In these cases, the depression trigger is obvious and getting away from that trigger is the apparent cure. Unfortunately, depression does not always have an obvious trigger, so making the right change in our lives isn’t always easy.
How to incorporate both
It’s possible to make a change and take up a routine at the same time.
For example, if you are depressed because of a boring routine, you could consider establishing an entirely new way to reinvigorate yourself. You could develop a new morning routine that includes getting up earlier, changing up your breakfast and finding time for new healthy tasks like exercise. When it comes to routine chores, you could try new approaches to them, such as listening to new music every time you wash the dishes.
Some of the best routine changes to help you beat depression include progress. For example, scheduling time daily to learn a new skill or deep cleaning a new part of your home could make each day rewarding by constantly giving you goals to aim for.
Marette Flora is the founder of Floradise blog and personalized gift shop. Marette is a passionate storyteller and creator. She attended the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.
She is passionate about creating helpful and meaningful things.