I grew up insecure all the time, thanks to an unstable home life as a child, parents who moved a lot and from the age of 16 no longer have a home of their own. The trauma from these experiences began to haunt me, it wore me down, and mixed with my diagnoses of ADHD, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, making it nearly impossible for me to focus on one, work, and generally be productive and happy Every day.
At some point I happened to realize that the more I implemented boundaries and schedules – wake up and eat and meditate at certain times, exercise, write down the schedule for the next day – the more I felt not just controlled. but also luck. By setting routines for myself, I was able to protect myself from the chaos.
“It helps you feel in control,” said Charles Duhigg, who wrote The Power of Habit, in an interview. “It helps you remember how to do things that – perhaps because of your ADHD – you would forget because of your short-term memory.” In his book, Mr. Duhigg examines the type of ouroboros – the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail – that I performed on myself. I needed some sort of cue, a routine, and then a reward. I didn’t think of rewards as part of the process, but they are essential.
For me the reward was peace of mind. What I didn’t realize was that I was giving myself other little trophies too: when I went to the gym five days a week, there was a little voice in my head that said, “You deserve two slices of pizza.” When I tidied up the house on Sunday mornings, I always opened a beer in the afternoon. And sometimes you are not even aware of the rewards you give yourself for the routine, and I find those are the most important. With these rewards, I’m good to myself and telling myself that I’ve done something, so I deserve something.
“You force yourself to anticipate rewards,” said Mr. Duhigg. “All of this is really good.”
For Esmé Weijun Wang, author of the essay collection “The Collected Schizophrenias,” “Routines and rituals are central to maintaining my mental health,” she told me. Ms. Wang’s routines include: “My analog planner, in which I write diaries, manage my appointments and write down tasks. Along with a number of other notebooks and binders, he organizes things so that life feels less overwhelming. “