routineRoutine Matters by Trish Delacruz, Area Director Plano/North Dallas As school is back in session and tight schedules become even more rigid, it is important to make the most of every minute of your day. From waking the kids up in the morning, to picking them up from soccer practice, each second seems to be spent rushing around to meet the demands of work, children and spouse. Endurance, problem solving and being at peak health are crucial in overcoming the challenges we face. We need to be at our best, physically and mentally, in order to confront the stress life often brings. Just as with many of the contestants of the show “Survivor”, being in top physical and mental condition gives them the edge.  We must also be in good health, to guard ourselves against unpredictable events and the pressure a regular day brings.  But, we know….. that the contenders of Survivor have nothing on parents!  Put those contestants in a car for 25 minutes with three screaming children, carpooling to ballet lessons, and they will surely wish they were on Exile Island! 

So, you ask, what can you do to prepare you and your family to approach the day armed and ready?  The answer is establish routines!  That’s right.  Establishing and maintaining routines and structure help everyone overcome stress and low performance in daily functioning.  Not only do routines institute clear and consistent rules and expectations for everyone in the family, healthy and productive habits begin with regular routines. “Routines provide security and stability, reduce conflicts and stress, and improve family relationships.” Now who doesn’t want those things? 

Where do we begin in setting up routines in our life? Goal setting is a perfect place to begin!  What do goals have to do with routines?  Goals are the end result achieved through maintaining consistent positive actions; hence routines.  By learning the skills of goal setting, developing success habits, and maintaining a goal-setting routine, a success map is created. A map that will guide you straight to the achievement of all the goals you desire and deserve.  By reviewing what you hope to achieve, an understanding of what it will take to get there will establish the steps that will ultimately turn into routines. As routines must fit the needs of the individual and family, there are some basic time frames and events to begin your quest into developing routines.  For example, in the morning, everyone begins their day with the anticipation of being at a certain place at a specific time.  Getting up at a certain hour, showering, eating breakfast, and out the door at a designated time are all part of the routine.  Each activity has a specified time it is to be performed.  During this time, any other activity would interrupt the flow of the morning and possibly cause the schedule to be thrown off. Without a routine in the morning, the day would start off hectic and the family may be tardy and have difficulty focusing throughout the day. Significant times for family routines are mealtimes, family time, homework, bath time, and bedtime.  Without routines, the family may not eat timely, homework may not get completed and everyone would get into bed late.  The repercussions for not having structure and consistency would throw the entire family into a tizzy and result in less energy the next day and less mental ability to overcome the challenges of the following day. Research conducted over the past 50 years found that family routines offer stability during times of stress and are associated with “children’s health, academic achievement and adolescents’ sense of identity. In an issue of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Family Psychology “indications that children as young as infants and preschoolers are healthier and their behavior is better regulated when they follow predictable routines in the family.”  When children wake up and go to bed at a regular time, better sleeping patterns are established.  The review also pointed out that preschoolers have improved health through the adherence to routines. 

Evidence of the value of routines is seen through the education system. Routines are the backbones of the classroom.  Classrooms have routines for specific activities and instruction.  Routines for turning in assignments, lining up for lunch, and taking breaks are routines established to help students get comfortable with expectations.  These routines help maintain order and consistency and offer students stability and security.  Not only do these practices facilitate orderliness, the students achieve balance and independence.  Children love routine and thrive in an orderly environment.  In a predictable environment, children look for ways to participate and are more likely to learn new skills. As athletes rely on discipline through rigorous routines and workouts, they adhere to practices that allow them to perform at maximum capacity.  Routines help them focus attention, reduce anxiety, eliminate distractions and enhance confidence.  Mental preparation is not a one time effort, but rather a continuous process prior to and after their performance.  Athletic routines instruct the competitor on how to become efficient and master the sport.  This is the ultimate goal.  Routines help athletes in getting one step closer to achieving the goal. Not unlike athletes, we also need routines to hone our efficiency in our coping skills.  By doing so, we are better prepared to handle life’s obstacles and challenges in a healthy and constructive manner. So, liken yourself to an athlete!  Develop routines that promote mental and physical health and wellness.  When you and your family get enough rest, proper nourishment and maintain a balance of tranquility and peace, you are all ready to conquer whatever life brings your way.  And then you can say that you are truly more than just a “Survivor.” You are a front runner in the race of life! And you never know… day, you may end up being the “Sole Survivor” for the grand prize!