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Learning to create daily routines that fit my needs as someone with a chronic illness and who is neurodivergent has been a game-changer. It’s helped me manage my energy levels and symptoms effectively while ensuring that I can prioritize the things that bring me joy as well as meet my obligations. This tailored routine has not only enhanced my overall well-being but also empowered me to make the most of the good days and navigate the challenging ones with greater ease. By finding the right balance, I’ve learned to adapt and thrive, regardless of the obstacles that come my way.

Dealing with a chronic illness can be a real rollercoaster, and it takes some clever tricks to handle the ups and downs. Daily routines play a big part in how we tackle these challenges, but there are loads of myths floating around about them. In this blog post, we’re going to bust some of these myths and give you practical tips for handling life’s curveballs while dealing with a chronic illness.

Disclaimer: While I sometimes offer tips for maintaining wellness while dealing with a chronic illness, and for advocating and being allies, I’m not a licensed medical physician, psychotherapist, psychologist, or legal professional, and I’m not offering medical, psychiatric, or legal advice.

For my full disclaimer policy, go here.

Discover the reality of daily routines and chronic illness—debunking myths, embracing adaptability, and sharing relatable insights for life's unpredictable journey.

Myth #1: Routines Are Only for Good Days

One of the biggest misconceptions is that you only need a routine when things are going well. People often think that on “bad” days when you’re really feeling the symptoms, routines go out the window. Well, let’s set the record straight.

The Reality: Routines Matter on Both Good and Bad Days

Believe it or not, routines are crucial for managing chronic illness on all kinds of days, good and bad. Here’s why:

  • Consistency: Routines give you a sense of stability and predictability. This can be a real comfort on tough days when you don’t know what’s coming.
  • Energy Management: On bad days, your energy is limited. A routine helps you decide what you need to focus on most and prevents you from overdoing it.
  • Medication and Treatment: Following a routine ensures you don’t forget to take your meds or miss important treatments. It’s essential for managing your condition effectively.
  • Self-Care and Coping: Your routine can include self-care and coping strategies that help you deal with symptoms and emotional challenges on both good and bad days.

Practical Tips for Adapting Your Routine to Bad Days:

  • Stay Flexible: Make sure your routine can bend without breaking. Have a basic routine for the essentials but be ready to adapt it to your condition’s ups and downs.
  • Prioritize: On tough days, focus on the most important tasks. Don’t hesitate to postpone or delegate less urgent stuff.
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Cut yourself some slack on bad days. Some days, things won’t go as planned, and that’s totally okay. Be gentle with yourself and remember it’s not your fault.

Myth #2: One-Size-Fits-All Routines

Another myth is that there’s a one-size-fits-all routine for dealing with chronic illness. People sometimes think they can just copy someone else’s routine and it will work for them. But the truth is, everyone’s situation is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another.

The Reality: You Need to Customize Your Routine

Managing chronic illness is a personal journey, and your routine should be as unique as you are. Each individual’s experience with a chronic condition is unique, from the nature of symptoms to the energy levels and daily challenges faced. By tailoring your routine to align with your specific needs and limitations, you are essentially crafting a roadmap that complements your personal journey.

 

Practical Tips for Creating a Customized Routine:

Here’s how to create a routine that’s tailored to your needs:

  • Know Yourself: Understand your condition, how it affects your life, and what your limitations and energy levels are. Be honest with yourself about what you need.
  • Talk to Your Healthcare Team: Get advice from your healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, therapists. They can give you insights and recommendations based on your medical needs.
  • Trial and Error: Be open to trying new things. It might take a while to figure out the routine that suits you best, and that’s okay. Don’t get discouraged if you need to make changes along the way.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Review your routine now and then. Your condition and needs can change over time, and your routine should change with them.
Discover the reality of daily routines and chronic illness—debunking myths, embracing adaptability, and sharing relatable insights for life's unpredictable journey.

Myth #3: Routines Are Too Confining

Some folks believe that routines are stifling and make life boring. They worry that sticking to a strict routine will rob them of spontaneity and freedom. But here’s the deal: routines can be both structured and flexible. In fact, a well-designed routine offers not only a stable framework but also the freedom to adapt to life’s unexpected twists. It’s like having a reliable anchor that keeps you grounded but is also equipped to sway with the changing winds. 

This duality allows for the best of both worlds – the security of a structured routine and the excitement of spontaneous moments, ensuring that life remains dynamic and enjoyable. So, it’s not about constriction; it’s about finding that sweet spot where structure and flexibility coexist harmoniously, providing stability without sacrificing the thrill of the unexpected.

The Reality: Routines Offer Stability and Freedom

Routines provide stability and predictability, which can reduce stress and anxiety. But they can also be flexible and allow you to enjoy life’s unexpected moments:

  • Less Stress: Routines can actually reduce stress because you know what to expect each day. That predictability gives you a sense of control.
  • Maximize Good Days: On days when you’re feeling better, a routine can help you make the most of your energy and get more done.
  • Balanced Life: A routine helps you balance your responsibilities, self-care, and leisure. You can make time for your hobbies and interests without neglecting what needs to get done.
  • Adaptable Structure: Your routine can have built-in breaks and free time for spontaneous activities, keeping your life dynamic and enjoyable.

Practical Tips for a Balanced Routine:

  • Fun Activities: Put things you enjoy into your routine, like hobbies, time with friends and family, or taking short walks. This makes your routine more fun and motivating.
  • Plan for Spontaneity: Keep some free time in your routine, especially on good days. It allows room for spontaneity or just taking a break when you feel like it.
  • Self-Care Is a Must: Make sure self-care is part of your routine. It’s essential for your emotional and physical well-being.

Myth #4: Routines Are Set in Stone

Many people think that once you’ve got a routine, it’s unchangeable. This misconception can be a downer, as it may feel like a routine can’t adapt to the ever-changing nature of chronic illness. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Routines can and should be flexible, capable of evolving with the twists and turns that come with managing a chronic condition. 

Embracing change is not a sign of weakness but a recognition of the dynamic nature of health and life. By allowing your routine to adapt, you’re not only accommodating the fluctuations in your condition but also proactively responding to your evolving needs. This flexibility empowers you to make necessary adjustments, ensuring that your routine remains a supportive and effective tool in your ongoing journey with chronic illness.

The Reality: Routines Can Be Flexible

Your routine should be adaptable and evolve with your needs. Life is ever-changing, and so are the demands of managing a chronic illness. What works today might not be as effective tomorrow, and that’s perfectly normal. By acknowledging the need for adaptability in your routine, you create a system that grows with you, ensuring it stays relevant and beneficial. Think of it as a living document, open to revisions and adjustments based on your health, energy levels, and any unforeseen circumstances. 

This adaptability not only allows you to navigate the challenges of chronic illness more effectively but also promotes a proactive and empowering approach to your overall well-being. So, rather than viewing change as a disruption, see it as an opportunity to fine-tune your routine and make it an even more reliable companion on your journey.

Practical Tips for a Flexible Routine:

Here’s how you can create routine that shifts with your needs:

  • Regular Check-Ins: Check your routine periodically to see if it still works for you. If it doesn’t, make changes to fit your evolving condition and lifestyle.
  • Seasonal Adjustments: Remember that your routine might need to change with the seasons. Weather, daylight hours, and other factors can affect your symptoms and energy levels.
  • Life Events: Special occasions like holidays, family gatherings, or vacations might call for temporary changes to your routine. Plan ahead to accommodate these events.
  • Recovery Days: Build in recovery days after challenging activities or events. These days give you a chance to recharge and avoid overexertion.
Discover the reality of daily routines and chronic illness—debunking myths, embracing adaptability, and sharing relatable insights for life's unpredictable journey.

Crafting Adaptive Routines to Foster Empowerment

Dealing with chronic illness is a day-to-day journey, and routines are a vital part of the process. It’s important to debunk these myths about routines and see how they can enhance your life, even when you’re managing a chronic illness. Routines are not just for good days – they’re equally important on tough days. Your routine should be customized to your unique needs, flexible to give you freedom, and adaptable to change with your circumstances. Embrace the power of routines to make your life more fulfilling and balanced, even in the face of chronic illness.

If you’re looking for practical guidance in developing routines tailored to your needs, consider downloading the free Daily Routine Guidebook for Spoonies. This resource is designed to provide actionable tips and insights, helping you create routines that enhance your well-being. Simply fill out the form below to access your free guidebook and embark on a journey toward a more balanced and empowered life with chronic illness.

 

Wishing you strength, resilience, and the comfort of routines uniquely tailored to your journey,

April Smith, founder and coach at The Thriving Spoonie, a compassionate and empowering brand for those with chronic illness. A smiling cisgender woman with short wavy brown hair, green eyes, and dressed in a blue denim shirt, confidently faces the camera, smiling. The image is overlaid in the top right area with her name in black script.
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