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When life becomes chaotic, sticking to our normal routines often goes out the window. Nudge yourself to get back on track because it will reduce your stress level in the long run.

Reduce Stress by Setting Up Routines

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Often, when we face stressful situations, we tend to shut down and stray from our regular schedules. Maybe we spend more time in bed, on our phone or in front of the TV, trying to escape whatever is bothering us.

What helps right the ship when we're in turbulent seas is precisely the opposite – following a routine. Routine helps us cope with change, improves our perspective and forms healthy habits.

Routine acts as an anchor for us, providing strength and support. This is especially important for children who need structure and discipline for growth and development, but adults can reap just as many benefits.

Routine and healthy eating

Having a routine makes us more efficient and reduces the need to make decisions. When we're stressed, even simple decisions like what to make for dinner can become challenging. That's why it becomes even more important to plan meals when we face stressful times.

By planning our menu, we also eat healthier instead of grabbing quick, processed or fast-food meals. Make your week run more smoothly by creating a meal plan over the weekend for the next week and buy groceries according to the list. That way, your meals can be on autopilot.

Setting up an exercise routine

We tend to exercise more when we schedule time for it. We recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, but that can be broken down into five 30-minute sessions or even into several 10-minutes sessions each day.

You're also more apt to exercise if you plan an activity you like. Go for a brisk walk instead of a run, if you prefer that. Try a stretching or yoga video on YouTube if you don't feel like lifting weights. Take a walk in the woods if you're bored with routes in your neighborhood. Making plans with a friend to workout is also an excellent way to ensure you'll get out and enjoy it.

Winding down

Lastly, find activities at home that take your mind off the day. If you need to, block out time in your schedule to make sure you get some well-deserved relaxation and downtime.

This can be as simple as watching TV, reading a book, catching up on the phone, walking the dog or sitting in the backyard for an hour. Whatever sounds good to you, give yourself the license to slow down and de-stress.

When we feel more organized, we also sleep better because we're not worrying about what we should have done and what we need to do the next day. Our minds can be calmer, and we have a better sense of peace in our lives.

Straying from your schedule is inevitable and normal. So, if you struggle some days, don't let it get you down. You can't worry about yesterday, but you can focus on TODAY.

It's important to take care of your mental and physical health. Just know that it doesn't have to be a huge undertaking. Take a bath, pour yourself some chamomile tea, and go to sleep early – it will do wonders for your health!

Anjali A. Gresens, MD, FACS, is a bariatric surgeon at Sentara Comprehensive Weight Loss Solutions in Norfolk.