The significance of embracing change in everyday life is often underscored. Although changes in life are inevitable, adjusting to them may not be the same for everyone. For some, they can be overwhelming, throw them off guard, and cause anxiety and stress, all at once. While some feelings are temporary, others can prolong over time causing what is called an adjustment disorder or situational depression. Symptoms of this condition include sadness, anger, and crying spells. However, the signs ebb away slowly once the person gets adjusted to the change or the situation.
Certain factors predispose people to adjustment disorders: stress experienced during childhood, inability to adapt to change, and lack of a strong support system. While trying to find coping mechanisms or talking to a mental health professional might help, bringing some amount of stability with a daily routine can help manage the anxiety that follows change.
Routine and its benefits
Routine refers to doing things in an order and pattern and is different from habits. Habits are regular and part of a person’s routine. For instance, one may have a reading habit but reading a book will be a part of his/her routine. Although they appear mundane, routines can have multiple benefits. They increase efficiency and eliminate anxiety surrounding what comes next. Routines also help in allocating time for any eventualities that may arise. They can help eliminate procrastination and build confidence. Routines have a direct link to sound mental health.
Our own ‘Swiss clock’
An area of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is charged with keeping time – which explains why our body functions like a clock. While every human cell is likely to have a clock of its own, SCN is like a master clock which adjusts itself to light and dark and can even reset itself. This region is located right above the point where the optic nerve fibres cross, and it receives signals from light in the environment, which helps the body in keeping time. This clock is also influenced by genetics. Thus, for the body to be able to reset itself every day, a mix of light and genetics is required. (Source) Deviating from this pattern can hinder the sleep-wake cycle, all of which has a direct relationship with mood. The body clock influences many physiological processes such as mood, alertness, hunger, digestion, fertility or sleep. Therefore, people with depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder, experience alterations in daily rhythm and sleep disturbance is one of the major symptoms in all of them. In fact, research indicates that sticking to a normal daily rhythm can improve mood and cognitive functioning and reduce the risk of developing these problems.
Benefits of following a Routine
It is important to harness the power of not just the body, but also the mind to benefit the immune system, increase productivity, and prolong life. Here are some tips to build a routine that suits you:
While it is true that routines provide structure and direction to life, they can also seem monotonous. Getting stuck in a mundane routine can lead to maladaptive thinking and impact health (physical, emotional, and mental) and life negatively. This is when one can choose to break an old routine and start afresh – something commonly referred to as the “much-needed change!”
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