Tips for Creating a Daily Routine that Works

Tips for Creating a Daily Routine that Works

We’ve all had those days: wake up five minutes after you should be halfway to work, dig through the dirty clothes bin looking for your ID badge, and grab the milk to find just three drops left: no coffee for you this morning. The dog has shredded another pair of shoes; you trip over your bike as you run out the door. You try to start the car, but you forgot to buy gas on your way home four times this week. You need a routine or at least a more effective one.

Then there are those other days: wake up foggy-headed, uneasy, unable to focus. Everything irritates you. What doesn’t annoy you has you feeling as if life itself requires too much from you, with almost no return, so you pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Although hiding from the world might work for a day or so, you have to come out sometime. You need a routine.

Before You Open Your Eyes

Do a self-check and a little self-maintenance. First, use the self-care web game “You Feel Like Shit” to walk through whatever might be affecting your ability to function for the rest of your day. Created by mental health self-advocate Jace Harr, the interactive game walks you through whether or not you need food, water, medication, exercise or social interaction to feel well enough to face your day. You can also try Odyssey Online’s “30 Things to Do When You Feel Like Shit.” Or you can stick with the classics and read through “Just for Today,” a pamphlet published by Al-Anon Family Groups.

“Just for Today” is short and easy to use when you need help from moment to moment dealing with PTSD, family problems or trouble with loved ones going through addictions and emotional issues. India Arie sings a simplified version of “Just for Today” on YouTube. The song echoes Natasha Bedingfield’s sound on “Unwritten.”

If you happen to be in recovery yourself, Within Temptation’s “The Whole World is Watching” featuring David Pirner may be more your speed. Pair it with Within Temptation’s “And We Run” featuring rapper Xzibit, and Mass Effect tribute song “Reignite” sung by Malukah, and you have a motivational trifecta to help you drag yourself out of any hopelessness or depression one baby step at a time.

If those feel too positive for the moment, turn to Disturbed’s “Sounds of Silence” and allow that to pull you along until you can rise on your own two feet. Don’t be afraid to use any other song that draws you up instead of pulling you downward.

After Performing Your Self-care

Routines simplify managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Schedule time for self-reflection. Allow yourself to work through the various sources of stress in your life: financial, relational, professional and self-created. Set a 10-minute timer. Write down all the things that cause you stress and anxiety, fear and anger.

Be specific about the situation and what has happened so far. Identify the emotions you feel as well as any other people who contributed to the problem. Separate your actions and feelings from what you think the other people involved might think or feel. When the timer goes off, set that journal entry aside. Allow yourself to explore throughout the day, whether you “should feel that way” or not. Emotions are neither good nor bad; they simply exist.

Create Rituals

Do you start your day with quiet time, take immediate action, or take a leisurely approach to your day? Give yourself some rituals, such as sharing coffee with your spouse or coworkers, listening to your favorite playlist on the way to work or taking a morning run. These rituals give you time to center yourself. If the daily hustle bites into your centering time, don’t let it get to you. Stop and take your “you-time” as soon as possible.

Make Use of Tools and Time Frames

Use scheduling software and online artificial intelligence tools such as Cortana, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Create “to do” lists ahead of time or create entries as you complete each task. Using the “completed tasks” option can help you feel a sense of accomplishment at getting things done instead of making you feel anxious or guilty about what you haven’t finished.

Schedule blocks of time for categories, rather than just listing a bunch of tasks. Block scheduling gives you enough flexibility to allow you to get back on track if “but first” takes over your day.

Hit the Reset Button

Finally, allow yourself to restart your day as needed. Instead of feeling angry, frustrated or ashamed of any deviations from your schedule, act as if your day just began two minutes ago. Do that as often as necessary and watch your stress level drop.

What tips for creating a daily routine have been the most helpful for you? What advice would you give to someone who needs to create a new daily routine?

Don’t Let Anxiety Keep you from Enjoying Summer Activities

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. They affect about 18 percent of the adult population. People with anxiety may find they suffer more during the summer months, often because of disruption in routines. Some people feel especially anxious when trying to enjoy summer activities but dealing with anxiety doesn’t mean you need to hide in the house all season.

Spend Time in the Sun

Whether because it’s rained for days at a time or because you’re keeping the blinds drawn against the heat outside, a lack of sunlight can lead to depression and anxiety. Combat the problem by getting some sunlight. If it’s not too hot outside, spend the afternoon reading a book or enjoying nature in your backyard. If the heat is too much, you can stay in the air conditioning, but open the blinds and sit by the window for at least 20 minutes per day.

Keep Yourself Cool

Despite the need for sunlight, heat and humidity can cause you to feel anxious or depressed as well. Cold therapy is the answer. If there’s a pool available that won’t cause you to have crowd-induced anxiety symptoms, head over there to take a dip. Other options include soaking in a cool bath, taking a cold shower or sitting in front of a vent while the air conditioner is on full blast.

Check Out Niche Activities

If you have a special interest, such as collecting comic books or a specific type of art, research local art museums, comic book stores or other spaces that may host activities for a niche crowd. These types of attractions typically have fewer visitors, especially if they happen indoors during warm weather. This way, you can enjoy something you love but deal with smaller crowds. Plus, if you take your own car, you’ll be closer to it in case you need a sensory break.

Visit Attractions During Less Busy Times

Zoos, beaches, parks and even drive-in theaters (if you’re lucky enough to live near one) are more crowded on Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. Try visiting these types of spaces before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, when the weather is still warm, but more people are still in traditional work or school routines. During peak season, visit during the morning or early afternoon hours on weekdays. Drive-in theaters are best on Tuesday and Wednesday in many places. Avoid visiting on holiday weekends.

Keep a Solid Sleep Schedule

It’s easy for sleep schedules to fall by the wayside during warm weather and longer days. Do your best to keep normal sleep schedules for everyone in the house during the summer months. Set a bedtime for everyone and stick to it, and make sure everyone is up at a reasonable hour in the mornings. Start your day with sunlight to reset your circadian clock and fight depression and anxiety.

Create a Schedule

Keeping a loose schedule in the summer is important, especially if you have kids. Avoid a “go with the flow” vibe that is likely to result in boredom in kids and increase anxiety in you. In addition to waking up at the same time each day, aim to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same timeframe each day as well. If needed, plan naps for the kids at the same time and try to plan any outings around those meals and naps. A summer schedule doesn’t need to be rigid, but the more things you can keep to a routine, the easier it will be to keep everyone in the family happy and less anxious.

Take Time for Yourself

During the summer, a lot of anxiety comes from feeling that you need to constantly be social or help the kids be social. It is okay to take some time to yourself. If you have kids, trade playdates with other parents in the neighborhood. This way, everybody gets some free time to take care of chores or relax in the quiet, uninterrupted. If you don’t have children, it’s still a good idea to take an extra day or two from daily responsibilities and have a little “staycation” for yourself.

Above all else, don’t feel like you need to do everything. While you shouldn’t hole yourself up in your air-conditioned bedroom all summer, you also don’t need to say “yes” to every invitation you receive. Never feel guilty for declining an invitation and doing what’s best for you. There will be other barbecues and beach days.

5 Coping Techniques to Try

Coping Techniques to Try Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed

Techniques to Try Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed can overtake you when you’re facing more stressors than usual. Living with social anxiety comes with a fairly baseline level of stress to begin with. Add in the unpleasant surprises life has a way of throwing in, and you may find yourself feeling like you just can’t cope. If you’re not able to focus because of how anxious you are, try any one of these 5 coping techniques.

1.  Ground Yourself by Stating Facts

Grounding yourself involves bringing your brain out of panic mode and back to a mindful, present, controlled state. Take a few big deep breaths and will yourself to keep breathing. If you can focus enough to just zone in on your breathing or counting your inhalations and exhalations — say, breathing in for 5 seconds, holding it for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. If you can’t ground yourself by focusing inward on your breathing, focus outward. Name off five things you can touch or see.

2. Quiet Your Mind by Using Your Body

Running, exercise and yoga are all great ways to sync your mind and body and lower the revs per minute that come with anxiety. But it’s not always practical to stop whatever you’re doing and go for a jog or do some yoga poses. Keep a fidget toy handy to engage the mind-body connection to calm yourself. If you find yourself without one, try practicing the letters of the sign language alphabet or rubbing the spot between your forefinger and thumb – a pressure point to ease stress.

3. Write or Draw

Both visual and verbal arts are amazing anxiety killers. Keep a pen and notebook handy to draw, sketch, doodle or write as the need strikes you. Even without inspiration, the act of putting pen or pencil to paper can be incredibly soothing and cathartic – don’t judge your art or writing done to quash anxiety, just let it flow out of you and onto the page. If you find yourself without the necessary supplies, remember nearly anything can become art or a medium to write on – from old napkins scribbled on with makeup to food wrappers turned into origami swans. Tuning in to your creativity can help you quiet your worries.

4. Give Yourself Permission to Be Loud and Take Your Space

Social anxiety can feel overwhelming sometimes because you don’t feel entitled to be loud or occupy space at a given time. Excuse yourself from the situation to a safer, quieter place where you can give yourself permission – mentally or verbally – to make your voice heard and take up space. Whether it’s screaming into a pillow in your bedroom or dancing a small jig in the bathroom stall at work, doing something that seems momentous can make the stressful situation at hand feel less so when you return.

5. Use Visualization to Achieve Calm

Sometimes our minds get into this endless cycle of overdrive worrying in which we envision the worst-case scenario of saying or doing something wrong. Shove the negative images out by leading yourself to think of peaceful, calm or positive imagery instead. Try to call to mind your favorite food or smell. Imagine yourself in your favorite place or in a quiet spot in nature. While depersonalizing for a moment can help bring you the calm you need to re-engage in the situation with a level head, it might be tempting to stay in your mental happy place: don’t forget to come back after a mini-visualization vacation!

Using Coping Mechanisms Successfully

Not every coping mechanism works the same for every person, and not every technique will be appropriate for every situation. Use coping techniques as tools in a toolbox: if one doesn’t work for you or the situation you’re in, modify it or set it aside in favor of a tool that does work for the job.

You wouldn’t try to hammer a nail in with a saw, for example. Don’t get discouraged if you have to try multiple coping techniques to try to maintain calm in any given situation: eventually, you’ll figure out which tools in your toolbox do which jobs best.

Art Therapy for Social Anxiety

Art Therapy for Social Anxiety

Social anxiety usually includes thoughts, fears, and nervousness about being in social situations, or places where other people may be. It can run the gamut from mild social discomfort to full-blown social phobia. One successful type of therapy for social anxiety is that of cognition disruption: giving the mind something else to concentrate on so the patient isn’t paying attention to the social aspects of the situation.

Art therapy is often used for this, as it helps the patient to express themselves visually without worrying about verbal expression. Patients can feel calmer, focusing on the task at hand. Therapists use a wide variety of art therapy techniques, all of which can be useful for patients with varying degrees of artistic talents.

The 1 Minute Brain Dump

The patient draws a circle or other hollow shape on a piece of paper, then has exactly 60 seconds to fill it with everything they’re feeling anxious about. They can write words, draw pictures, use colors for emphasis, or anything else they want to indicate how they feel. The 1-minute time limit helps them to “dump” their worries onto the paper without spending time rationalizing or putting thoughts in order.

The Comfort Castle

The patient is asked to draw a castle, then fill it with everything that brings comfort to him. The castle can have as many levels as the patient wants and can be filled with a variety of comfort items, both physical and emotional. The process of filling this castle can help patients to develop coping mechanisms for situations of social anxiety.

The Mind and Body Connection

The patient is asked to draw a general outline of a body. Given a list of feelings (such as tight, foggy, confused), along with colors assigned to each one, the patient then proceeds to color in the body outline according to how they feel that day. This project allows the patient recognize their physical reactions to social situations, which is the first step in developing coping skills for uncomfortable environments.


Mandalas have been used for centuries as tools for concentration. Research shows that coloring complex mandala patterns can encourage a calming meditative state, which can benefit those with social anxiety. The concentration required for small detail work, combined with the repetitive action of coloring a picture, work together to create a relaxing emotional state.


Somewhat akin to coloring mandalas, drawing Zentangles is another highly detailed drawing exercise. These miniature abstract design patterns are usually created in black and white, filling a page with thousands of pen strokes that combine to make intricate designs. The patterns begin with larger hollow shapes which are then filled with repeated smaller designs, causing the patient to need more and more concentration as the pattern slowly fills.

Affirmation Cards

Affirmation cards are small cards that can be kept in the pocket and pulled out to read to oneself, as needed. They hold small reminders of encouraging thoughts, useful in anxious situations. Some common affirmations are:

  • Breathe calmly
  • The future is good
  • This is not dangerous, just uncomfortable
  • I have control over my thoughts
  • STOP!
  • This will get easier

Patients write these affirmations on blank business cards, then decorate them to make them more attractive. In a situation where social anxiety is affecting the patient’s actions, they can pull a card from their pocket or purse and see both calming words and beautiful pictures.

Is Your Mental Health Team Trauma-Aware?

Is Your Mental Health Team Trauma-Aware?

Traumatic events are difficult to deal with even under the best of circumstances. However, studies suggest that up to 46% of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder may also exhibit social anxiety symptoms. This comorbidity can be very difficult to handle, especially if some or all of the members of your mental health team aren’t aware that you suffer from both conditions. Unfortunately, hiding past traumas or social anxiety symptoms is all too common in individuals who suffer from both PTSD and social anxiety disorder.

To get the most effective treatment for your conditions, it’s important that those in your support network and on your mental health team are aware of exactly what you’re facing. Despite how you may feel, there’s no shame in coming clean about how you feel. Not only will it help your mental health team to better serve you, but it may even be the first step toward easing your pain and facing the world with a little less fear.

Trauma and Social Anxiety

Traumatic events in your past may lead to social anxiety, or at the very least may make your social anxiety symptoms worse. In individuals who suffer from both PTSD and social anxiety disorder, many choose to hide details about their past trauma due to feelings of shame or guilt. Even those who acknowledge those past traumas may downplay their effect out of fear that others will think they’re being too dramatic or trying to get attention. This often leads to feelings of depression and social withdrawal, both of which can make social anxiety even worse.

Those individuals who hide their feelings of social anxiety also have increased difficulty, especially when it comes to effectively communicating with others. They may withdraw from social interaction almost entirely, experiencing a general lack of motivation and feelings of worthlessness that feed into the guilt and shame that are often associated with PTSD. The two disorders work together to make each other’s symptoms worse, resulting in sometimes severe symptoms that may require medication or other intervention to effectively treat.

Trauma-Aware Professionals

One problem that arises when you have both past trauma and social anxiety symptoms is that not all professionals are well versed in effective treatments of PTSD. Symptoms of trauma may be glossed over, with the primary focus of treatment being on the social anxiety. Unfortunately, this means that the trauma that often makes social anxiety symptoms worse is never really dealt with. This will often result in relapses after seemingly successful treatments of social anxiety, with the relapse sometimes being more severe than past anxiety episodes.

Choosing trauma-aware professionals helps ensure that both your social anxiety symptoms and the lingering effects of your trauma are treated. This ensures that you’re receiving a more complete treatment regimen and may help to prevent relapses. Even when anxiety or trauma-related stress rears its head, the symptoms are often much more subdued than what you would experience if only your social anxiety was treated.

Building a Trauma-Aware Team

Finding professionals for a trauma-aware team may take some effort, which isn’t always easy to do when you’re dealing with social anxiety and trauma stress. It’s worth the extra work to ask doctors, therapists and others on your team about their history of working with PTSD and other trauma-related disorders. Ask for recommendations if your team isn’t well versed on the effects of past trauma, either bringing new people into your team or transitioning toward new professionals entirely.

Moving toward a more trauma-aware team can be scary. You may have to make some big changes in your mental health team, but it’s worth it. Unless you treat both your trauma and your social anxiety, one will always be in the background feeding into the other. Only by addressing both will you be able to break the cycle of guilt, shame and anxiety that is waiting to drag you back down.