The importance of routine

One of the ways that I kept myself healthy is through the use of routine as a tool, rather than something to be endured. I love dealing with the varied demands of working with the public and the sometimes downright odd things that people commission me to write; and I’ve never been particularly threatened by the prospect of change, even when that threatens to cause massive disruption, but choosing certain things to keep as a routine have proven to be very useful.

My phone lock screen says it all...

I mentioned the other day that there is a certain calmness that comes with winding my fob watch every morning; and being able to spend some time on a Wednesday in my favourite coffee shop goes a long way to easing me through the week, if only for the smiles and brief chatter before I sit in a corner to write. Now that I’ve got my laptop set back up at the desk in the guest room, I’m starting to appreciate having an area set up for writing again, and in part that’s because of the routines I can start to slip back into.

Some of these had been disrupted in recent months by having Lady M around the flat so much, working from home through sickness and to alleviate her tiredness from the long journeys she was otherwise having to make. While it was nice to have someone else around the place, it’s only now that I am starting to appreciate how disruptive to my own routines of managing work, downtime and household chores it was.

When I’m writing, I often slip into quite an isolated state of mind – another way of saying I concentrate, really – and long bursts of work will then take over. With Lady M around, this was more difficult to achieve. This doesn’t mean that she actively distracts me, but much of her work is conducted by phone, interspersed with emails and reports that need writing, and so the rhythms of her work day are very different. I would either find myself getting distracted by overheard conversations, or requests to check the tone or content of an email she had just written as a fresh pair of eyes. Conversely, I would find myself less willing to take the breaks I really needed.

I like to break the writing day up with set time playing on the Xbox or listening to music as a break from the laptop or the subject that I’m tackling so that I can come back to it. Instead, I was becoming worried that I would disrupt her concentration, or that her conference calls would be disrupted by the sound of my shooting people in Destiny or assassinating historical figures in Assassins Creed. This may sound rather lopsided, and we’ve had plenty of conversations around it both to reassure each other and reinforce or move boundaries as needed to keep things fair.

I’m still finding the return of the old routines reassuring however, especially with the new shorter commute times that Lady M now has. It is helping to rebalance the household and reduce the feeling of living in each others’ pockets. This is particularly important for me as routine is a tool that I use to manage my depression. Having a selection of healthy familiar things to do as a distraction and regime keeps me from spiralling on tough days, and with the last couple of months having been particularly draining its become more important than usual to be able to exert some control on the day.

So when I talk about routine, its not in the sense of chores, but rather of reassuring elements of control in the day. A time to wind my watch, a midmorning cuppa, a stroll round the block, quiet time listening to a coffee shop’s ebb and flow, prepping a meal for Lady M’s return from slaying corporate dragons: these are all the things that help me stay awesome and prepared to make 2015 do as it is bid…

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