Although I sometimes resent the lack of spontaneity in my life, I have to respect the role that habit and routine plays in helping me manage my illness. Habits and routines minimise the use of energy. Actions flow automatically or become an automatic response to an external trigger. It might take a bit of energy to develop a habit or a routine but once it’s been repeated often enough the energy expenditure becomes minimal.
Investing a little energy in creating ‘self-help’ habits will make getting better easier in the long run. On top of that, the more regularity that your body experiences the more likely it will be able to reset its circadian rhythms. A stable body clock will regulate the appropriate release of hormones, taking one more pressure off your imbalanced systems. Circadian rhythms also regulate sleep patterns, and regularly getting a good night’s sleep will greatly improve your chances of recovery.
Setting up habits and routines is the hard part. It takes a little planning. If you are going to do something at the same time every day, first of all you’ve got to really want to do it and secondly you’ve got to find a time of day that suits you. I do my T’ai chi first thing in the morning without even thinking about it. But I only developed this habit because I noticed the difference it made to my energy levels and I really wanted that extra energy. I also learned that if I didn’t do it straight away I would get distracted by my thoughts about the day’s events and I would find it harder and harder to get started. When I started to meditate it seemed natural to tack it on to the end of my T’ai chi practise. I’ve found that about 5pm is the best time to do my yoga. Unfortunately I’ve found it difficult to establish this routine because some of my work shifts get in the way of doing it at this time. I have to make more of a mental effort to do it at other times of the day to fit around my work and I don’t always succeed.
When developing a new habit it can be useful to try and link it to an already established event. For example I take my supplements with breakfast and the evening meal and try not to take my tray out of the kitchen unless it has my little pot of supplements on it. The one supplement I have trouble taking regularly is the one that has to be taken at least half an hour before food as I haven’t found a link to something that happens half an hour before every meal. With this one I try to set my phone’s alarm. To help fix a habit always try to do things in the same order. Write a list in the order you want to do things when you are starting a new habit and check the order on the list every day until you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Having a bedtime routine can really help let your body know it’s time for sleep. Eating at roughly the same time every day will help your body be ready to focus on digestion. In general following a regular routine makes life easier for your body which will free up energy for healing!
My daily routine and habits for self-help include:
- Getting up at the same time every and day taking my probiotics
- Early morning movement/ exercise (T’ai chi)
- Supplements with breakfast
- Having my hot drinks at roughly the same times throughout the day (ensures I drink enough)
- A short daily walk/ spending time in natural daylight
- Afternoon rest (usually involving easy to watch tv)
- Late afternoon movement/ exercise (yoga)
- Supplements with evening meal
- Following the same order of getting ready for bed activities at the same time every night (eg. taking my probiotics- cleaning teeth- changing for bed- 10 to 15 minutes reading in bed- lights out)