Jam-packed season in full swing? Starting to feel like you’re hanging on by a thread as you juggle work, school and everyday life? When every moment becomes a rush from one activity to another, it leaves plenty of scrambling to pick up the pieces in between.
If you know this feeling all too well, then it’s time to get your family into a routine. And it’s more than just for scheduling purposes. Consistent routines can do wonders for your mental health. Both kids and parents thrive when there’s a good rhythm to life.
7 Reasons You Need a Routine
#1) Plans put you in control.
If you’re prone to anxiety, you need a routine. Chaos can exacerbate the sense that life is overwhelming.
A schedule, on the other hand, is predictable. It offers the reassurance of a regular rhythm. That’s just what an anxious mind needs.
Sounds too good to be true? Science shows otherwise. Studies indicate that putting yourself on a schedule can counter the effects of stressful situations.
#2) Consistency reduces decision-making.
Parenthood can feel like a constant barrage of decisions that have to be made. Whether big or small, they all take mental energy. Make too many decisions and you may start to feel entirely tapped out on brainpower.
With a good routine in place, you’ll have fewer on-the-spot decisions to make. Throughout the day, you’ll already know what’s coming next. That can help save your mental capacity for the things that truly need your attention.
#3) Daily rhythms tell your family what to expect.
Every parent has been there: dealing with a child who’s melting down because something hasn’t gone as expected. It’s exhausting for both you and the child.
Establishing a family routine may reduce those situations. Just like predictable rhythms help you feel in control of your life, they help kids feel more secure, too.
No, a well-planned calendar won’t get rid of every toddler meltdown. (If only it were that easy!) But it might help you thwart the meltdowns that come from sudden shifts in expectations. If your kids know what to expect on a regular basis, they may feel more at ease — as will you.
#4) Forgetfulness is discouraging.
No one likes to drop the ball. When it happens over and over again, you can start to get pretty down on yourself.
Break out of the beating-yourself-up cycle by getting into a good rhythm. Things will slip from your mind less often, and you’ll start to feel more positive about your ability to handle life.
#5) Medication is most effective when taken on a schedule.
At least 15% of American adults take mental health meds. Are you among them?
If so, it’s smart to establish a med schedule. Medication tends to work best if you take it at the same time every day. That goes for lots of prescriptions, too, not just ones for mental health. Build your pills into your routine. You’re less likely to forget about them, and your system will appreciate the regularity.
#6) Exercise requires time.
Planning ahead helps you carve out space for fitness. Without a routine, it’s easy to get to the end of the day and realize you never engaged in intentional movement.
To make fitness part of your routine, build active breaks into your schedule. Do lunges while your morning coffee brews. Pencil in 10-minute lunchtime walks. Make wind-down yoga part of your family’s bedtime process. These little bursts of fitness throughout the day will add up.
And your mental health will thank you. Exercise contributes to balancing brain chemicals, releasing tension and improving sleep.
#7) Predictable sleep does a body good.
And speaking of sleep, bed and wake times can be some of the best additions to your daily routines. They’re beneficial for both kids and adults.
Even on the weekends, go to bed around the same time and keep your wake-up alarm the same. You will sleep better when you stick to a schedule. High-quality sleep is more restful, and that’s a boon for your mental health.
Research suggests that poor sleep contributes to mental health disorders. But good sleep helps you feel more resilient and able to take on the challenges of life.
Ready to create more routine in your life? Here are some tips for getting your family on track:
Hang up a paper calendar.
Sure, in a tech-heavy age, a good old paper calendar may seem nearly obsolete. Don’t ditch the idea quite yet, though. One perk of a paper calendar is that you can hang it in a central location for everyone to see.
Plus, the physical act of writing things down may help you remember them. Research indicates that writing something on paper helps it stick in your brain better than typing it into your phone.
Items to write on your calendar include:
- Daily dinner plans
- School events
- To-do reminders
- Upcoming birthdays
- Volunteer commitments
Use a shared app.
Yes, there’s a benefit to laying your plans out on paper. That said, it also helps to know at a glance what your family members have scheduled for their days. For that, download a shared planning app to your family’s devices.
Of course, recording your plans in two spots — paper and digital — takes more time. To streamline things, try a system like Organicer that turns your written schedule into a digital one. But there’s no shortage of planning apps, so find one that works for your family.
Set reminders on your devices.
Calendar apps aren’t the only digital tools that can help keep you on track. Reminder apps are another asset for busy families.
If you’re like many harried parents, your brain is on overload. Keeping everything straight can be a struggle. Instead, delegate some of that responsibility to your reminder app.
You can set same-day reminders or schedule an alert to ding in a year. Your list might include:
- A reminder to switch the laundry in 45 minutes
- Recurring alerts to take your morning medication
- Nightly nudges to get ready for bed
- Weekly notifications to take out the trash
- A heads-up to cancel an auto-renewing subscription next year
Make morning and evening checklists.
Get into the habit of doing the same things when you wake up each morning and before heading to bed each evening. You can even make checklists of the tasks.
Some people call these opening and closing routines. Consider having different people in your home — you, your partner or your teens — take turns being responsible for them.
Items to put on your morning routine could include opening the windows, starting the coffee pot and making the beds.
Evening checklist items might be loading and starting the dishwasher, thawing meat in the fridge for the next night’s dinner, and programming the washing machine to start in the morning.
Putting these activities on a regular schedule helps to ensure that the small tasks of daily living get done every day.
Get ready the night before.
The smoother you can make your mornings, the better. Before you turn in for the night, lay out as much as you can for the next morning. Add this prep to your evening closing list to maximize efficiency.
Have the lunchboxes open on the counter and ready to be filled. Set out your travel coffee mug. Choose outfits for the next day and have your kids pick theirs, too.
By preparing ahead of time, you’ll avoid much of the panicked scramble that can mark a busy morning.
Finally, remember that change is a process. Work on building your routine one step at a time. Even little adjustments can make a big difference in your family’s stress levels and mental health.