Have you ever thought about the power of daily routines? After years of being a successful career woman in a demanding corporate environment, retirement brought a series of challenges I wasn’t prepared for. One was replacing the daily structure that I left behind when I walked out the door.
It sounds so simple, but navigating any life transition like retirement, having an empty nest, or moving can be significant. Days that were filled with specific deadlines, meetings, long hours at the office, daily commute, or shuffling kids to sports, music lessons, or dance recitals are suddenly a blank slate.
When I retired and found myself in a new chapter, all that structure was suddenly gone. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fill my days or create new routines that would support my cognitive functions, engage my mind, give purpose, and add meaning to my life.
Studies show that having a routine can be helpful at any time, but it is particularly important when you’re in uncharted territory or when aspects of your life feel uncertain or down right out of control.
Like in a transition, right?
While you may think that having the day all to yourself after being on someone else’s clock for decades will be like a piece of heaven, that lack of structure and routine can actually add to the feeling of uncertainty, anxiousness, and feeling like life is out of control.
Rachel Goldman, PhD, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, explained it this way. “If people don’t have structure and are sitting around with less to focus on, then they also probably will find themselves thinking about the stressful situation more, which can also lead to additional stress and anxiety.”
That was definitely the cycle I was caught up in. And it wasn’t pleasant.
Until I learned the value of creating a daily structure for my mental and overall health and wellbeing, to manage anxiety, unlock creativity, and add new meaning to life.
Here’s what I mean.
One of the key benefits of daily routines is that they help us streamline cognitive energy. Many of our daily tasks are repetitive and can consume valuable mental resources. However, when we have a set routine for these tasks, we can perform them more efficiently, allowing us to conserve cognitive energy for more complex and creative endeavors.
You’ll maintain focus and productivity and you’ll overcome the urge to procrastinate and push things you planned on getting done to the next day or the day after that.
Daily routines can also free up creative potential. The brain thrives on consistency, and knowing what to expect each day can reduce stress and anxiety, creating an ideal environment for generating innovative ideas.
Routines can also provide a sense of stability, which can be particularly important for creative individuals. Knowing that certain aspects of your life are predictable can reduce anxiety and help you take risks in your creative pursuits. When you don’t have to worry about the basics, you can dive deeper into your work, passion, or projects and explore new and exciting ideas.
When you’re designing a new chapter, you’ll definitely want to tap into that creativity.
Routines can do more than just optimize your cognitive functions; they can also add a sense of meaning and fulfillment to your life. Engaging in regular activities that you enjoy can contribute to your overall mental wellbeing. They provide grounding, structure, consistency, and stability for you and your relationships with others.
The concept of “flow,” a state of complete absorption in the present moment, supports the idea that meaningful and engaging activities can positively impact our mental health. Activities like sports, games, fine arts, and music can induce a state of flow, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the task at hand.
Regular participation in these activities can provide a sense of accomplishment, happiness, and overall life satisfaction.
That’s especially important when you’re transitioning to a new chapter where your interactions with colleagues, other parents, teachers, sports trainers, and customers has changed. You’ll feel a loss, but with the right mindset you’ll also discover that you now have the time and mental capacity to find new connections and form new relationships.
Just remember that creating new structure is just like trying to create a new habit. It takes some time and effort.
I’ll be hosting a workshop on December 8 to dive deeper into how to create a solid daily routine to replace the one you had in your last chapter. If you’re on my list to get my weekly dose of awesomeness sent directly to your email inbox, you’ll get all the details. If not, toss me your email here. It’s free and I promise not to give it to anyone.