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Structure – Schedules – Routines

Nothing creates unwanted stress more than feeling we have no control over our environment. If we are reactive instead of proactive, good days only occur when everything is going well and bad days when everything isn’t. We are at the mercy of whatever is happening around us.

As kids we rebelled against having to pick up our toys, hang up our clothes and clean our rooms. It wasn’t any fun and we thought it was easier to just step over piles of stuff or wait until we felt like doing it. As adults we still rebel against “having to do” things we don’t feel like doing.

Self-regulation is never easy. But routines, structure and schedules free up our time to do more of the things we want. Without it, we become a slave to chaos: searching for that blouse we wanted to wear to work, coming home tired to a dirty kitchen, moving the pile of laundry off the sofa so we can sit down and relax, and trying to find that remote so we can zone out with TV or escape into chat rooms and cyberspace. We are no longer in control of our lives – disorder is.

As you look around you at the mess and clutter, it is easy to be overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I put in place schedules that have simply evolved but are no longer working?

First Step – STOP

Turn off your cell phone and put up a Do Not Disturb sign. Take a piece of paper and pencil and write down your typical day from beginning to end; when you get up, eat, go to work, come home from work, and prepare meals, evening routines and bedtime rituals.

Where do breakdowns occur? For example, I have to wash dishes before I can cook; I have to yell at the kids to get them up, I’m late and I haven’t made lunches yet, I forgot to pick up groceries for dinner, etc.

What needs to be done on a daily basis to create order? What needs to be done each week? Have I been avoiding doing these things because I am feeling overloaded or I just don’t have the energy? Do I resist getting family members involved because I don’t like conflict and I don’t know how to delegate?


Habits are just patterns of behavior we have developed. We do them without thinking. Changing any habit requires knowing what you are currently doing, what you no longer want to do, what you do want to do and a way to put a new habit in place. It also involves acknowledging and accepting your own resistance to change.

Replacing habits takes time, energy, commitment and motivation. Doing the preliminary work enables us to know what we really want. Knowing that you can easily replace habits is both liberating and exciting. You are taking charge of your life.

Next week, we will take your findings and put a new plan of action in place.

©2012 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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