This is a guest post by Philippa from Philippa Claire.
Structure. What a boring word.
Usually, when I think of structure I think of monotony, repetition, monotony, repetition, monotony, repetition (see what I did there). I never would have thought I’d be sat here today talking about how important structure is to your mental wellbeing, let alone actually trying to implement structure in my daily life.
But here I am.
I’ve struggled with depression for many years. Thirteen to be exact. I have also struggled with M.E for the last three years. While I’ve had my ups and downs with these conditions there is one thing I have noticed: when my mental health is bad, my daily schedule falls apart. I get up later, don’t eat regularly, nap during the day (or just don’t get out of bed at all), move about less and go to bed earlier just to lie there and wonder why I can’t sleep. With all of this going on, it’s obvious why I would also struggle to get myself to work or get anything done around the house. This disruption affects every area of my life.
It’s not something I do on purpose, and I don’t always notice it. Sometimes all it takes is one day and then my whole week is a mess. Maybe I was a bit more tired than usual and had a nap, which then means I struggle to sleep at night, leading me to get up later the next day. Just that one decision has such a great impact.
What I’m trying to do now, however, is keep some structure in my day and try to stick to it – even on weekends. I get up at the same time every day, try to eat at the same time every day, and go to bed at the same time every day. Even writing it out now it sounds so boring! But this way my body knows what to expect, when.
It knows when it needs to wake up, and how long it needs to be awake for. It knows when it’s getting food, so I feel less hungry. I fall asleep faster because my body has been trained to sleep at a certain time. I’m usually awake before my alarm, and I don’t struggle to get into work. It makes the stresses and strains of daily life more manageable.
As a side note, I usually only work afternoons so I can get up at the same time every day even on weekends. If you have toget up early on weekdays for work, it’s only reasonable for you to have a bit more sleep on weekends. What I would suggest is setting a time you would like to be up by, preferably about 10/10:30am, and then allowing yourself to sleep until that time. It can make getting up for work in the week so much easier if your body is still used to getting up at the weekends!
That’s not to say that you can’t ever deviate from the structure. Life’s always going to throw different things at you, so it’s still very important to be able to adapt. You still need to be able to go out in the evenings and have a late night every now and then. You’re not always in charge of when you eat. If you’re ill, you need the extra time to rest. It’s losing the structure altogether that can cause the problem, not keeping to it strictly.
I promise that this won’t make your life boring, it just helps to make each day a lot easier to manage. And, in the long run, it has a massive positive impact on your wellbeing. Especially if, like me, you’re struggling with depression, low mood and very low energy levels.
– Philippa Claire