It’s a well-known fact that people thrive with some degree of structure. Establishing a sort of rhythm or routine helps us feel safe, accomplished and focused. Some people adopt a lifestyle that’s highly structured. When that’s challenged, they can feel lost or unproductive. Others might implement some structure but maintain a strong desire to live spontaneously and embrace the unpredictability of life.
Think back to your childhood. Did your caregivers establish a routine that encouraged independence, but also provided security? Did others around you take care of themselves physically and emotionally, which inspired you to do the same? Or were you raised in an environment that was highly unpredictable or chaotic and unfortunately encouraged anxiety or uneasiness? If not, don’t fret. Many of us, regardless of how structured we were before 2020, have been incredibly challenged due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.
No matter if you have your days completely mapped out or you’re struggling to find your toothbrush in the morning, the 4 S’s (Sleep, Sugar, Sweat and Silence) can be used as a guide to simplify the art of structuring yourself in a healthy, constructive way. Remember, it’s not about rigidity, but understanding what you need to thrive, feel safe and build confidence.
The Four S’s of structure
Sleep is your ultimate reset and must be made a priority. Start by establishing a routine that does NOT include your device, sugar/caffeine or intense/emotional conversations. You’ll begin to notice positive shifts in your patience, motivation and mindset.
Unfortunately, sugar is everywhere. It’s highly addictive and incredibly difficult for most to limit or omit from their lives. Be mindful and begin to identify your behavior patterns. When do you typically crave and consume foods or drinks with sugar? Protect your mornings and evenings and perhaps use these blocks of time as ‘no-sugar zones.’ What you put into your body and when truly does impact your hormone levels, mood and cognitive functioning.
Some type of movement every day is key. Changing up our blood flow and increasing our body temperature have amazing effects on your body and mind. You don’t necessarily have to break a sweat every day. Practicing yoga or participating in a step challenge can be just as effective. Your body is your sacred tool and on your team. Remember to nurture it daily!
Setting aside at least a few minutes every day without distraction positively impacts our mental health and ability to be present in life. Whether you meditate, unplug from your device or take a quiet walk, your level of self-awareness will increase. This alone time gives you an opportunity to reflect and connect with yourself. That’s so important, and it takes practice.
The past few years have constantly reminded us of the fact that, ultimately, we don’t have control over everything. Our freedom lies in how we respond and how we attempt to care for ourselves. Focus on creating a structure and establishing boundaries that encourage hope and motivation, rather than stress and a sense of defeat.
About Leah Marone, MSW, LCSW
Leah Marone is a psychotherapist who specializes in anxiety, depression, grief/trauma and sports psychology. By having a variety of clinical roles in various states and countries, she has developed diverse professional experience and a global perspective. Currently, Marone sees individuals and families at her practice in Charlotte, NC. She is also sought out by corporations to work with executives and teams on improving communication, productivity and job satisfaction.
Marone grew up in Indiana with a basketball in hand. Sports not only encouraged growth on a number of levels, but the experiences challenged her to become more comfortable with vulnerability. She completed her master’s in Austin, TX and then proceeded to allow the “travels bug” to take over. Her passion for adventure has not dwindled, simply morphed with motherhood. Marone and her husband strive to provide their two daughters with the tools to gain confidence to seek out their own adventures every day.