The Importance of Routine

  • Why Routine is Hard After TBI
  • The Benefits of Routine
  • Routine for a Fuller Life
  • Tips and Tools

Why Routine is Hard After TBI

Without routine we can easily feel bored and end-up in the doldrums.

Very often, when people feel a lack of purpose or are overcome with hopelessness after a brain injury, it is because they have forgotten the key benefits of living a routine lifestyle.

People often feel they have nothing to do or accomplish, and while they may or may not be consciously aware of it, they can still feel that effort is futile. 

Life changes after a brain injury. People are often unable to return to work or education and feel so muddled and overcome by the changes they are dealing with that they don’t know where to start.

If you struggle finding the impetus to automatically get on with your everyday life, then you will find it harder to initiate the things you do want to do. It is vital that you understand why routine is so important to how well you recover. 

Getting intellectual facts or knowledge to conceptualise into insight or realisation can take a lot of work. When you read information it can help to pause and ask yourself questions about the meaning it carries for you. 

Things will cascade into a downward spiral if you fail to take the reins and pick up the gauntlet. One small step forwards will create a momentum for the next one to happen.

Failing to realise how important routine is can lead to a myriad of other problems and can also exacerbate the impact the loss of executive skills makes. 

Routine can be difficult when you don’t know how well you will sleep or how exhausted doing something will make you feel. You need to be careful of recognising when you make excuses or are procrastinating.

There are ways to help you break your thoughts down so that you can understand their impact on you more readily. Something you think can feel like the truth to you but when you investigate it, you can see it for what is is in the cold light of day. 

You don’t know from one day to the next how much energy you will have, and it can seem as though there are so many variables that setting a routine is fruitless. 

People can put off having a routine because they don’t know what to do with the time they have left once everything on the ‘to-do’ list is done.

The Benefits of Routine

Routine helps us in many ways, including helping us feel as though we have purpose.

Repetition and Habit

Habitual daily activities can help us feel we have made accomplishments and instil a sense of self-confidence when we do what we intended.

One things that really helps the brain reorganise itself and to perform better is repetition. Repetition helps us create habitual behaviours and habits don’t need our constant attention or energy. 

Regularity and Efficiency

Regularity promotes efficiency and therefore supports our self-worth. Decision making is easier because we are following previous choices we made, rather than inventing the wheel from scratch each morning.

Knowing what we want to do everyday helps us reduce the number of plans we need to make and frees up space in the thinking mind we can utilise for other purposes.

Time and Opportunities

Although saving time isn’t necessarily going to be a priority if we aren’t at school or work it is important to use it efficiently to save energy. Routine can help us make the most of the time during the day when we do have the energy we need to achieve things.

Once everyday tasks are out of the way we have more time to focus on challenges or new opportunities that have arisen.

We can get the most important tasks done if we are aware of where we are going to fit them in beforehand and this minimises the risk of neglecting or forgetting our priorities for the day. 

Routine helps us overcome the concept of having enough or too much time. The more we do – the more we can see what needs to be done. 

Don’t forget; time is also money so although we may not be able to recognise financial gains we will be making them because we will be reducing waste in many ways that we aren’t always aware of.

Practice and Repetition

Practise makes perfect so sticking with a set regimen can help the injured brain know what to expect and what is expected of it. The more your brain feels secure the less anxiety you will feel. Anxiety after a brain injury isn’t caused only by worrying thoughts – the brain itself can feel a sense of panic because it lacks the security of knowing we are capable of taking conscious care of our survival. The brain thinks it has to do this for us.

Structure helps us feel a sense of life flowing rather than it happening to us. It helps us put the horse before the cart and to feel in charge of our lives instead of feeling like a victim to our life.

The more we do the same things the same way the more we will strengthen the pathway to do it. Practising routine helps the brain to know what we are prioritising and when it knows this, it will help us do things automatically again instead of struggling with each tiny details or undertaking.

Proficiency and Ease

We get better at doing the things we do regularly. The better we are at doing something, the less energy we use and the easier doing it becomes. It is crucial that we try and get as many everyday functions under our belt as possible because this gives us more time and energy to notice and focus on improving more complex deficits. 

Procrastination and Momentum

Routine helps us ingrain activities into our working systems allowing us to reduce or eliminate procrastination. When you hesitate, dither and waffle about doing things rather than doing them, you confuse your brain. 

Given that your brain is already overwhelmed with trying to repair itself every little thing we can do to support and help it counts. 

It is also easier to persist with doing things we may find challenging if we do things repetitiously. The other benefit is that repetition builds myelin and help the brain to repair so making things easier for ourselves means we will get back to feeling more in control more quickly.

Achievement and Goals

You may have many goals and some will be bigger than others. If you can get everyday things nailed then you will have more time, thinking space and energy to focus on the things you want to achieve.

Each accomplishment will help you feel as though you are getting your life back. 

Routine and how well we are doing with it also helps us to monitor our progress. We need this self-feedback to increase our propensity for insight and to bolster our self-confidence.

How routine can help you live a fuller life

If you don’t understand the benefits, you won’t be motivated to make change.

Routine can help you have a better quality of life after brain injury. Your brain loves order and patterns because it helps it utilise energy efficiently – just as any living organism, plant or animal does. 

Underestimating the needs of the brain will mean working harder for longer because your brain is persistently utilising its now limited energy resorting the wheat from the chaff over and over. You wouldn’t try to bail a boat with a sieve.

Because it is so hard to think after a brain injury and because this problem can persist for years it is crucial to try and instil routine in your life to minimise the effort your brain is making.

The more ‘work’ we can help it with the more your brain can keep focused on healing itself.

If you can’t think clearly enough to consider or plan what you need to do on a daily basis, you can ask for help or get to work on improving your brain environment. Think eat, sleep, exercise.

Eating a nutrient rich diet will support brain function. Sleep helps the brain to eliminate waste from your brain and exercise helps detox your body by getting your heart and lymphatic system to clean your blood more efficiently.

If you spend all day not knowing what to wear because you can’t decide what you need to do then another day has passed without any positive contribution from you towards your recovery.

If you have a weekly timetable to follow you will know what to wear because you will know what you intend to do. It is okay to swap activities and chores to a different day if you need to. 

Once you have your days in order you can focus on giving time to planning and reaching your goals.

Face and question your fears as and when the arise. Get used to being proactive and doing things as they arise. This approach will give you time to do things you enjoy.

If you can’t manage previous pastime activities try new things. Don’t allow ‘can’t do’ beliefs stop you in your tracks.

Tips and tools for creating routine

If you don’t understand why routine can help you this can be an obstacle to your recovery.

Very often problems with understanding ‘new’ information is connected with lack of insight or problems with creating links between facts or knowledge and awareness and understanding.

A good way to recognise if this is happening to you is to try and think of a question. Many of us have no idea how to construct questions after brain injury which seriously impeded our progress. 

Other people can try and help or endeavour to teach you but real cognitive training starts inside of you. It starts with learning how to ask yourself questions again, and by doing this often enough it becomes part of your skill set again.

Some examples of good questions here are:

Did routine help me lead a successful life before my brain injury?

What can I remember about my daily routine?

In what ways did routine help me meet my goals?

Once you get started try and think of questions for yourself. Remember – what, when, how, why, who.

Break things down

An injured brain will struggle to hold multiple ideas. if you help it by breaking things down you can then work towards your goals one step at a time. 

Failure to break things down means you will get stuck in a loop and won’t make progress which can be demotivating and make you feel as though you aren’t making progress. You need to be aware that helping your brain is helping you.

Get things in order

A daily planner diary will have the hours of the day listed down the side. You can use a tool like this, or devise your own, to help you get things in order. For example, you will want to brush your teeth after you have eaten breakfast.

Try and think about the order you did things in before your brain injury. You may struggle at first but each ‘command’ we make to the brain has been understood – it may take more persistency on your part – but eventually the memories will come back to you. Have faith that your brain is working on it behind the scenes.

Recognise psychological obstacles

Think about your attitude. It may be difficult to ‘spot’ or ‘hear’ what you are thinking. If this is the case for you try using a journal to write down your thoughts. You will be surprised how much you can learn about your thoughts when you read them back. 

Use strategies

Ask yourself questions, use tools, externalise your thinking so that you can ‘see’ it, and do the work however futile or difficult it may seem. 

BEST Suite

Use BEST Suite apps to help you relearn how to think and do things for yourself. The work you have to do to set the app up entails learning and making choices which help you to rewire your brain to notice and do the things you want.