Structure and routine equals peace, chaos equals distress and anxiety


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I’m one of those people who does well when my routine is intact, and things are structured and in place. On second though, let’s not go with the term “well”, but perhaps “better” is a more properly suited term. Anyways, when life throws curve balls at me and things change unexpectedly, it can throw me into an anxiety filled feeling of worry and distress.

I used to be a fly by the seat of my pants kinda guy, back in the day. Nothing really phased me, I would pretty much be like, “whatever, I’ll deal with it and move on”. My life was a whirlwind and always moving at 100 mph in every direction possible. As I’ve gotten older and especially in the last few years, structure and routine are my friends. They are my peace makers, my emotional soul mate feelings if that makes any sense.

I  have routines that I follow, whether it’s the way I get out of bed and get ready for work in the morning, or how I go about certain tasks at work each day. How and when I do laundry, how I schedule my weekly therapy sessions, what music I listen too in the morning, etc. You probably get the idea that the more structure and routine, the better.

Speaking of therapy, that’s a big routine, when that one gets out of whack, man look out! If my therapist has to cancel on me at the last-minute (which thankfully isn’t often), that instantly sends me into a tail spin and I’m completely done for the rest of the evening. Therapy is a lifeline for me in so many ways, and I thrive on that interaction with her each week. For the last few months it’s been twice a week, Wednesday’s and also Friday evenings.

I’ve gone to length’s that when she is going to be out-of-town or at a meeting, I will schedule my 2nd session on another day, or even take a half vacation day at work just to get in and see her.

Same situation when I have plans to hang out with friends, or plans to do pretty much anything. If they get altered at the last-minute, I’m done.

Case in point, and I may have shared this before in an older post. I had plans to hang out with my best friend. We were going to our favorite hangout to get something to eat and hang out. She had to cancel because she was sick (which eventually turned into pneumonia). This happened right before a therapy session, which instantly turned into a total feeling of overwhelming anxiety. So I ended up spending the entire session talking about why I shouldn’t read into her cancelling because she’s sick. It wasn’t her fault and she rarely cancels. My brain though was having none of that kind of positive or rational thinking!  There’s that rational mind/wise mind thing again, God I hate that!

Life is unpredictable, it’s just par for the course. So having this type of distress hit when things don’t go as planned

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is tough to handle often times. To be completely honest, I really struggle with it when it involves me personally.

I need structure too, things have to be in order. My house is generally clean and organized (although not spotless). I can’t stand clutter, it drives me nuts. This blog, the way it’s laid out is very precise and the posts on the main page are all organized into boxes.

When my life feels like it’s out of control, I have to figure out a way to reign it back in. I’ll do anything to find some type of structure to build on. I have to figure out a way to control it.   Another example, if my son is struggling in school, which he does in some subjects, I have to help him more than I probably should. I will contact teachers to schedule makeup assignments and quizzes for him.  I know he needs to learn to do this on his own, but until he “gets it” I have to step in. Part of that is just being a responsible parent in my opinion, and the rest is my need to bring order back to the situation and have a plan in place.

I could go into countless other examples at my job, my home, with my friends, but I’m hoping you get the picture.  When any of these situations breaks down and I can’t have my routine the way I need and expect it to be and the structure of my life gets out of balance, the anxiety goes through the roof.

When that happens, the depression kicks into overdrive and you won’t find me anywhere but on my couch vegging out in front of the TV, reading, or napping, until it passes. After I process it, I can regain perspective and can work the problem or just let it go. It’s only a matter of time until it happens again though.


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Blogger-Podcaster-Author-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

6 Responses to " Structure and routine equals peace, chaos equals distress and anxiety "

  1. Ashley says:

    This entry really hit home with me. When I was a child, I thrived on structure and predictability. My mom was highly aware of my tendency to get distracted and anxious. As I got older and became an adult, structure in my personal life fell by the wayside. My anxiety and depression took every last drop of energy out of me. The last thing I could manage was to be organized and structured in my daily life.

    Now I have a daughter and I am realizing that the lack of structure at home is hurting her. She is eight and I pray that I did not “break” her. I have been in survival mode for so long now. The thought of making life more difficult for her or seeing her struggle is killing me. I am working with my husband to create a more structured environment for all of us.

    Does being structured come easy to you? For me it is like trying to get blood out of a stone. I would love some suggestions if you have any. 🙂 ~Ashley

    • Lyric says:

      Hi Ashley! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. For me, it was kind of the opposite, in the sense that when I was a kid, I thrived on living by the seat of my pants, so to speak. While I had structure in the home, I was all over the place, running here and there, and just kind of taking life as it goes. My parents tried to keep routine and structure, but I was having none of it.

      Now that I’m older, I find I absolutely need structure and routine, and when that breaks, I go downhill in a hot second. I try to provide structure for my youngest son who lives with me part time. I always work on his homework with him, make sure he has time to unwind afterwards, gets dinner around the same time, make sure he goes to bed about the same time every night, gets up about the same time each day (when he has school), and try keep a routine going as much as you can with a 14 yr old. I don’t know if I could say that structure comes easy, but the idea of it comes easy to me. I’m just don’t adapt very well to change, so I try with everything I have to keep my routine intact at all costs.

      I guess the advice I would have that works for me, is that I plan a lot. I use reminders my phone, I keep everything I need to do on my calendar on my phone, since it’s always with me. I’ll leave notes for myself on the counter to remind me to do something, just an extra measure so I don’t forget. Basically I just my best to stay in the habits that are comfortable for me. The downside is though, when life throws curve balls at you, which we know is all the time, I have to work so hard just to not fall apart and let anxiety, worry, and frustration take over.

      Kids do need structure, I believe that, but they also know that we aren’t perfect. If we do our best and always show them love so they know we genuinely care about them, that goes a long way too.

  2. wes says:

    Again dude. It’s like you’re reading my mail or something 😉

    • Lyric says:

      Great minds think alike right? Or at least mine and yours do..LOL! In all honesty it’s so true though, I’m so much more comfortable when my routine is intact and the plans I make happen the way I hope. Deviation from the routine and structure and who knows what my mind will do.

  3. […] minute, it’s a total anxiety rush and can send me spiraling into depression in a hot second. Being so routine oriented, and needing my structure, causes me such grief when things deviate from the normal schedule too […]

  4. […] I crave structure and routine; and without my life feels out of sync and anxiety builds. It’s a very uneasy feeling that […]

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