Structure vs. Stress: How Routine Can be Your Shield against Anxiety

Team IIBP Business Psychology, General Psychology, Issue 40, Mental Health, Mental Health Champions, Volume 4

Routine. Sounds monotonous? Every morning waking up and struggling to decide what to do first, whether to have a coffee, or to go for a shower, or to go for a morning walk followed by breakfast. All of these things can cause stress and make you feel anxious. But being ahead of time and setting a routine can help you to have a better kick-start for the day. Researchers have found that routine can have many psychological benefits. It helps in providing structure and organizing your lifestyle, this order can help you to improve your mental as well as physical health in various ways.

Routine can be defined as the automatic sets of consecutive actions. It usually takes more than one repetitive action to form a routine as distinguished from a habit, which is sometimes more specific and well- defined (Avni-Babad., 2011, p. 224). For example, having an ice cream after a dinner could be a habit but going for a walk, looking after a pet, attending a meeting, etc can be a part of routine. Meaningful life can be experienced through a specific set of schedule. Routine was found to be highly associated with higher meaning in life (Heintzelman et al., 2018). Routine also helps in alleviating psychological disorders including Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and insomnia.

Routine helps relieve anxiety. Anxiety refers to the lack of control over one’s thoughts and emotions which is often triggered by uncertainty. By setting a structure we create a sense of predictability and stability, sense of achievement and control, and enhanced time management, which in turn helps in managing anxiety. It also reduces the decision fatigue.

It can be mentally demanding to make numerous choices every day. Routine makes theses daily decisions automated and hence providing more mental energy for crucial tasks.

In addition to serving as a buffer against anxiety, these daily tasks also contribute to better productivity and creativity, enhanced cognitive functioning, reduced stress levels, more focus and energy, consistent sleep and wake cycle, elevated positive emotions and gradually improves overall well-being.

This grind can include a fix set of wake/ sleep times, journaling of thoughts, practicing mindfulness and meditation, specific time for chores, daily tasks, meetings, looking after someone, disconnecting from technology and including activities that give you joy and peace. It can be achieved through identifying priorities, setting goals, creating schedule, incorporating self-care, starting with small and building it ahead will help you to achieve these baby milestones; at the end consistency is the key, Isn’t it ?

Guess what’s common in all of the famous and creative people such as Sigmund Freud, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin and many more, all mastered their skills, had a specific routine, consistently followed their routine, exercised regularly, had breakfast and woke up early. This drill helped them to excel and be successful in their respective fields.

Sigmund Freud who was founder of psychoanalysis, also had a structured day. He used to wake up at 7:00 am, have breakfast, trim his beard, treat his patients from 8:00 am to noon, and go for a walk from 2:00 pm till 3:00 pm. Again see his patients till 9 pm, have dinner and spend quality time with his family and ended his day with reading and writing up till 1:00 am. Despite working for 10 hours with patients, never failed to make time for physical activities and his hobbies. This routine, and required breaks helped him to restore his mental energy and work efficiently throughout his life.

The definition of the ideal regimen is subjective. What seems to be an ideal routine for Freud may not work for Obama. So, discover what works best for you, enhances your productivity and by adding pinch of consistency to it you’ll be able to work proficiently. It might take some more time and effort initially, but the benefits will definitely outweigh the efforts. So why not with these baby steps, patience, perseverance make life more fulfilling and anxiety- free by creating a routine today.


–> Avni-Babad D. (2011). Routine and feelings of safety, confidence, and well-being. British journal of psychology (London, England: 1953), 102(2), 223–244.

–> Chae, H., & Choi, J. N. (2019). Routinization, free cognitive resources and creativity: The role of individual and contextual contingencies. Human Relations, 72(2), 420–443.

–> Heintzelman, S. J., & King, L. A. (2019). Routines and Meaning in Life. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 45(5), 688–699.


About the Author