Routines matter (why dropping my phone led to my life unravelling)

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In January I dropped my smartphone.

It cracked the screen and rendered it unusable. Super irritating, but I don’t need my phone right?

I don’t have a phone contract, and had bought my smartphone outright a couple of years ago. I did a quick bit of research and discovered decent smartphones had become pretty expensive. Unable to justify the expense for a new phone, I borrowed an old but working phone from my husband.

Why routines matter

However, I had lost all of my apps. Some of the key ones I lost were Fabulous (a habit tracking app), Fitbit (my step tracker) and Instagram.

Who needs apps anyway?

But, honestly, I rather liked not having to worry about measuring all this stuff every day.

And so, I did not download the apps to my new phone.

Without having to tick off my morning and evening routine each day in Fabulous, I gradually became a bit less strict about it. I skipped yoga a couple of times. Then a few more times. I stopped showering in the morning and pushed it to the evening. Then back to the morning. It felt freeing. I wasn’t living according to the dictates of my phone. I even had a lie-in every now and then. Sometimes I didn’t shower at all.

Without Fitbit I stopped caring about getting a certain number of steps each day. It didn’t really matter if I didn’t go for a walk at the weekend. Some weekends I didn’t even get dressed. Again, it felt kind of freeing. It was nice to just chill and relax. Right?

Without Instagram, I stopped worrying so much about what I ate. I had been snapping pictures of my healthy food, which — whilst not stopping me from eating takeaway — did mean I strove to eat a salad or vegetable-focused meal at least once a day. Without Instagram, I suddenly reverted to an older, easier, style of eating which was all about bread. Sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Why do routines matter anyway?

My routines began to unravel.

And, the truth is, I have a certain inclination towards introversion. Passivity. Rumination. These personality traits make me thoughtful, reliable and self-aware. They also, left unchecked, make me isolate myself, slide into inactivity, and repetitively mull over negative thoughts.

Without routines, I started that slide. As always, it was very slow and then very fast.

I stopped updating this blog. I stopped going for walks at the weekend. The weather didn’t help. It was cold, wet, snowy. Work didn’t help. It was stressful, hard to manage, and exhausting.

One day I woke up and I couldn’t be bothered to do anything except hit snooze a few times.

One weekend I didn’t do anything except scroll pointlessly through tumblr.

Somehow I lost track of food, sleep, friends. I kept going to work, but I felt unfocused and foggy. Small things irritated me. My emotional reactions became disproportionately negative. I had no motivation to accomplish even the smallest of tasks like drinking water or reading a book. I ignored incoming messages, and then felt guilty about ignoring them.

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Hello depression, my old friend

In the distant past, I’ve blamed my low moods on external factors. Being in a long-distance relationship. Not having any money. Not being able to find a job.

But in the more recent past I have learned that this is just a thing my brain does. It is not good at producing happy hormones. It likes to be sad. Right now my life is objectively good, it’s just my own internal monologue that is a bit shit.

A few weeks ago I called the GP and the local mental health organisation. I have an appointment for CBT and a prescription for an anti-depressant.

But I know from experience that these are just things to help me get to a place where I can put the routines back in place.

The mundane routines that form the backbone of my life.

I suppose the upside is I know what I need to do. Download the apps again. Commit to the morning routine. Commit to the daily salad. Commit to going for a walk every day. Commit to doing yoga.

The downside is that my streak is broken. I’m back at square one. I’m tired, angry, unmotivated. It feels pointless and impossible. I’ve done this! I did the work! I should be fine!

It’s annoying that I have to manage my self-care so carefully.

But I am nothing if not a pragmatist. And the lesson that I have learned is that (at least for me) sadness is inevitable, but happiness has to be worked at.

I can wish that wasn’t the case as much as I like. But if I want to be happy (and I do) then I have to lay the groundwork for that every single day.

And that is why routines matter.

Mental Health All Stars

 

Comic reposted with permission from Honey Dill Comics.

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