Part of PTSD is flashbacks, loss of time, panic attacks, and other time disruptor activities that leaves a person bewildered and wondering what they were doing. Most people have the experience of walking from one room to another and wonder what they were there for. The jokes are many about wondering about the ‘here-after.’ What am I ‘here-after’? For me with PTSD, it could be down right terrifying. Familiar would become unfamiliar, disorientation, and plain forgetfulness add to my distress. Routines help me plod forward on autopilot when my mind shuts down and refuses to help me organize my thoughts. When I start learning a routine, I actually right it down on a 3×5 card and post it where I can easily see it. A simple example my sister shared with me when she is cooking she lines up the ingredients in the order in which they go into the mixture. She puts away each ingredient after adding it. Should her mind wander or blank for a few seconds, she looks at her line of ingredients and compares it to the recipe. The next ingredient in line is where she is in the recipe. I also learned that I could not have complex routines with many steps. Too easy for me to get frustrated trying to remember too many things at once. As a child, lists were never ending reminding me to do useless things over and over. I refused to use them. Took many reintroduction to the value of routines. Now, I work at a high school that trains students to become preschool teachers. The value of routines is explained to the students. I became an avid listener to these instructions. One of the biggest challenges for a person with PTSD is to put structure and routine in their lives. For some the routines boarder on rituals. Refusing to sleep until the routine is done. I recommend using routines to assist in organizing your day. However, should I start living for the routine I might consider if the routine is helping me reach my goals. Morning routine includes medication, self care and eating. At night, I put my hearing aides with my glasses in a safe place after feeding my cat. Some things that are not done every day can be entered into a computer calendar that sends me an email reminder to set and attend appointments, birthdays, other periodic events that need attention. I send myself a reminder the day before I need to do them. When my head is crowded with chaos thinking having outside reminders improves my chances to meet responsibilities.
“People just don’t seem to get me. Don’t understand that I need my space. Always telling me what to do. They think rules and routines and clean hands and your p’s and q’s will make everything all right. They haven’t got a clue.”
― Rachel Ward, Numbers
I started searching for coping tools before I knew I had PTSD. When our children were young, I experienced severe symptoms without knowing the cause. I just thought that I was depressed. For about a 7 year period I barely functioned. I could be up for no more than 20 minutes a day. This is when I learned the value of a routine. It provided structure for my day. I would get up around the same time every morning. I would get dressed. Not feeling like getting dressed didn’t matter. I would get dressed any way. It helped separate day from night. I would plan one thing to accomplish. I knew it seemed silly but I felt if I could do one thing each day then I had done something. During this time someone asked me what a good day was…..I got up. A great day was get up and get dressed. If that is where you need to start, then that is where you start. I learned during this time that I could do anything for 5 minutes. I developed many 5 minute routines. I could empty the top rack of the dish washer. I could put a way the silverware. I started organizing these bits of time into simple routines.
One method I learned was from Sidetracked Home Executive – SHE. http://shop.makeitfunanditwillgetdone.com/sidetracked-home-executives-from-pigpen-to-paradise I read the book years ago when it first came out in print. (Very old BI, Before Internet.) Sometimes you can find this book at a library. I stopped following everything she said because she worked in 15 minute chunks and spent a lot more time on house work than I had energy to do. But her ideas can be adapted to what I can do. Adapt…adapt…adapt…
“Of all modern notions, the worst is this: that domesticity is dull. Inside the home, they say, is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and variety. But the truth is that the home is the only place of liberty, the only spot on earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an experiment or indulge in a whim. The home is not the one tame place in a world of adventure; it is the one wild place in a world of rules and set tasks.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Remember routines are not a one size fits all program. What works for me, may not work for someone else. The value is in the repetitive process that becomes part of the subconscious training, similar to walking. We don’t have to think pick up foot, move it forward, set it down; walking is automatic routine of many actions working together. Routines can be like this. I will encourage over and over to get up and get dressed which I learned from Flylady.net, however, I couldn’t keep up with her routines I need to make mine fit me.
Start with one thing. Practice that one thing for a week. Then add another related item to that. Do not write the items you have no problem remembering, just the ones that seem to get forgotten. I started with my morning routine. I am still working on it. I find that if I stick to my routine then I am able to get all my morning activities completed. Evening routines help prepare my body to go to sleep.
I don’t want just my opinion. These are articles about the importance of routines and how they can help….
Judy recommends, “Another of my routines is to put the reminder on my electronic calendar and have an email sent. It doesn’t stop there. I’m not allowed to delete the email until the task is done, so I know it’s done because it’s been deleted.”
Structure: Why Kids Need Routines: http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/family-life/structure-routines
Family of vets shared these ideas: http://www.familyofavet.com/PTSD_TBI_routines.html
One perspective as to why PTSD survivors do better with routines: http://aspousesstoryptsd.com/blog/?tag=ptsd-and-routines
Routine building websites
One of the first places are learned about routines is from Flylady. I also learned that I needed to build my own routines since her goals are not mine. This is a place to start.