A man walks away from a ball of frustration and crumpled papers toward a glowing calendar.

Creating Routines With Unpredictable Symptoms

Cultivating and sticking to a strict routine when your symptoms can change, worsen or arise quite suddenly can be challenging to say the least. I have always been someone who thrives with a solid foundation in my daily agenda, but with becoming ill it has become harder to be this person. I’ve tried different combinations of different routines, bought a new planner just to use it for less than a month, and have always been left feeling as though I have failed.

Weekly planning vs. daily planning

I found that trying to carve out and plan my days just didn’t work for me. I felt overwhelmed and when I couldn’t finish what I had planned for that day because of my symptoms, I felt ashamed. This clearly wasn’t good for my mental or physical health.

So instead, every Sunday I started writing down a list on my whiteboard of tasks I wanted to accomplish. Whether it was laundry, art or writing, rather than trying to force myself to work on days I felt I didn’t have it in me, I could look at my list throughout the week on days where I knew I could manage. Not only did I feel better emotionally, but I also felt less overwhelmed and more productive.

Working small routines around my symptoms

Instead of incorporating an impossible daily routine that I knew wouldn’t be able to stick to, I started making smaller routines that worked naturally around my symptoms, rather than feeling forced.

For example, I know my heart rate is higher in the mornings, so I stopped my routine of going up the stairs immediately and making coffee. Instead, I started leaving my bottle of water next to me the night before and in the mornings, slowly sit up and lounge in bed for about 15-20 minutes while sipping at my water before getting up.

We live in a Pinterest-esque society, especially on social media, that is constantly promoting routines that will make us more productive. It took me a while to remember that routine does not have to equal productivity. Routine is meant to work around and help build the lifestyle that you want.

Sometimes you just have to let go

There are still times where I enter a huge flare of symptoms that I will fall out of any sort of routine for weeks or even months. And guess what? That’s okay! Living with a chronic illness means that sometimes, things just aren’t going to go our way no matter how much we feel we are doing right.

Our body is often the one calling the shots anyways, and it’s our job to listen to it and try to work alongside it, not against it. The best we can do is create routines to help support our bodies the only way we know how, and when things do fall apart, be kind enough to ourselves to accept that we are doing what we can with what we have.

If there’s one routine we can try to stick to, it’s making it a routine to love ourselves at our best and our worst.

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