When Clarke was in psychiatric hospital in 2017, his mental state improved very quickly.
The overwhelming majority of this was due to correct levels of medication, and intensive Cognitive Analytical Therapy sessions.
But there was also a surprising element to his recovery, one that neither of us had ever given any credence to before:
The inevitable routines that come with being a hospital in patient.
For a ward to run efficiently and shift changeovers to happen smoothly, everything was done on a schedule that never deviated.
Meals were always served at the same time each day.
l saw immediately how much Clarke responded to that. For the first time in months, he was actually eating properly.
In fact, he went from barely eating at all, to never missing a meal time.
Medication was given out at the same time every morning. So Clarke had to be awake for it.
This was a change from the 18+ hours he had been sleeping most days, in the weeks before he was admitted.
Because he felt so much better getting up at the same time every day, he decided to go to bed at the same time every night, too.
Psychiatric wards are not the quietest of places, but just sticking to the routine of being in bed at a set time, did him so much good.
Such seemingly insignificant changes. Yet their results were undeniable.
So much so, we were told by his psychiatric team, to instigate a similar routine, upon his hospital discharge.
So, when Clarke did come home, we started our own little routine:
First of all, Clarke had to be up and out of bed by 9am; bed was where he hid away from the world, so I thought this one would be really difficult.
But it’s been three years now, and he’s never deviated from this part of his routine.
In fact I’ve never seen him in bed past 7am for at least two years. But the rule remains 9am.
Rule number two was to always get dressed as soon as he was awake. Because Clarke in a downward spiral, rarely gets out of his dressing gown.
The third rule was to complete one task every day.
As I was very pregnant with our first child at the time, most of these tasks were DIY related.
This was an excellent choice, because there’s an obvious completion to the task.
So the sense of accomplishment is inevitable.
The last thing we had to do was go to bed at the same time every night.
To this day I swear our first born was a sleep lover from the beginning, because she got so used to our sleep routine, before she arrived.
Lots of different things got added to our schedule, as life went on.
But we’ve never forgotten what a transformation we experienced with an introduction of a schedule into our lives.
We didn’t stick to it verbatim. But we always go back to it, if we experience a down turn in our wellbeing.
2020 has seen most of us lose our regular work schedule. And the effect this has had cannot be underestimated.
So, our advice to you has to be the same advice we give ourselves:
Go back to Square One in any of the ways that will work for you:
Get our of bed by the same time, every day of the week.
Get dressed as soon as your feet hit the bedroom floor.
Choose one task to start and complete by a set time that day,
Eat two meals at set times.
Be in bed by the same time every night.
(We also would leave our phones downstairs at night, but we can discuss this another time.)
These are the basics we know bring huge dividends, because they are the foundation stone that we have built our now long-lasting mental wellbeing on.
You don’t even have to implement them right now, if you don’t feel ready.
But if you aren’t in a great place right now, it might be worth looking at our schedule, and then asking yourself:
How many of these basic things are missing from my life right now?
When did l stop doing them?
And did I feel better, back when these things were a natural part of my life?
If you are anything like us, the resounding “yes” to the last question may be all it takes for you to start making those changes today...