The Power of Routines and Structure

Routines and structure

The Power of Routines and Structure

In times of uncertainty and discomfort, it’s important that we depend on our routine and structure more than ever for self-regulation. You may ask, what is self-regulation?  Self-regulation refers to our feelings, our energy level and our ability to send and receive information. Think of a time when you’re relaxing outside, listening to the birds, and feeling the sun on your skin compared to when you’re stuck in rush hour traffic and someone just cut you off.  There is a difference in your energy, your feelings, your ability to send and receive messages in both scenarios, right?

During this time each of us are faced with feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, fear and confusion (among other emotions). Our need for routine and structure is more critical than ever before.

If you notice yourself feeling heightened levels of negative emotions, it might be helpful to implement as much of your previous routine and structure into your daily experience as you can.  Our structure and routine give us a sense of purpose, productivity, and meaning. Think about what you did in parts of your day prior to the pandemic that would benefit you now. For example, did you enjoy walking from class to class or walking around the mall?  Then maybe a walk would be beneficial. If you’re very social, maybe you establish a time, a rhythm for reaching out to your friends, family members, and co-workers daily or weekly.

As an adult, I’ve created a ‘Star Chart’ at my house. This is how my household is staying the course to ensure that we take care of our academic, physical, and mental health needs.  Each day when we feel uneasy and aren’t sure what to do with ourselves, we look to the chart to give us a friendly reminder of the things that bring us joy, or things that we just need to do (insert sigh here, dishes still have to be done). A household schedule can be beneficial for everyone in the family.  Get your family together and discuss ways of creating schedules and rules. Take recommendations from each family member and come to agreements, because ‘buy-in’ is key to its success! For our parents out there, it’s important to remember that your enthusiasm and willingness to practice the creating your own chart or schedule is going to set the tone for how the young person receives it! If you’re not talking about it, referencing it, and following it neither will they.

What if I get a lot of stars on my chart? Well, let’s celebrate! Celebrating doesn’t always mean buying something… we can celebrate by telling others about our progress, enjoying a long bath, or watching an extra episode of our favorite TV show. For those with children or teens, it might be letting them choose from two options of what to have for dinner or the movie you all will watch.

There are no bad ideas! Be creative. No one knows you better than you know yourself, so what do you need right now and how can you practice getting your needs met daily?

Remember, each person is important and doing for yourself only expands our ability to do for others.

If you’re experiencing challenges during this time in creating structure and overcoming stress, reach out the CHRIS Counseling Center. You can contact us at



Jaime Hunn, LCSW
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