What does having a routine mean to you?

Do you find routine boring?

Do you find it comforting?

Do you feel it’s holding you back? 

Do you find it a necessity? 

Do you desperately need it for your survival? 

For someone like me who suffers badly with anxiety, having a steady routine and therefore knowing exactly what I’m doing, is vital. A solid routine helps me to feel safe. That being said, even I like to mix it up from time to time and recognise the importance of doing this. Staying in your comfort zone is all well and good, but if I stayed in mine all the time, I’d never leave the house! Pushing yourself a little further, allows you to experience so much more and ultimately lead to living a more fulfilled life. I know all this to be true, but it’s still easier said than done.

Having an element of routine and the structure that comes with this, seems to me to be the sensible way to approach life. But I’ve always been an excessive planner, even before my mental health issues. I’m the sort of person who likes to know what’s around the next corner, both literally and figuratively speaking. Where as some people might enjoy the element of surprise, I deeply fear it!  Some might see this as a tad obsessive but then again most of you don’t have an anxiety disorder to contend with. Obviously much depends on what hardships you’ve faced in life and how many mental scars you’ve been left with.

Sports men and woman can be extremely obsessive with their routines. Some of their superstitions can seem ludicrous to most of us. Anything from having a lucky pair of socks, to lining their water bottles up in a precise order. These acts might seem odd, but we all share in having  little idiosyncrasies- perhaps to a lesser extent. Lets take an every day thing like having a shower. Without even realising it, you will automatically do things in a certain order, and it would feel strange to do things any differently.

When I get out of the shower I always start by drying my feet first and then working my way up my body, eventually drying my chest and arms, and finishing with my head. Many people may think this to be extremely odd, they may in fact do it in the completely opposite order to me. It might make more sense to dry your hair first to stop it dripping everywhere, but I’m bald on top, so don’t have that problem! Anyway what ever your preferred method is, I bet you’ve done it exactly the same way for as long as you can remember. If you try altering this routine, even slightly, it will completely throw you out of sink. It might even ruin the whole experience! The fact is we all take comfort in routine to a certain degree.

You’ve all heard of the saying,practice makes perfect’ . Having a repetitive routine can be used as a legitimate learning method, as the more you do something the more automatic it becomes. Bruce Lee puts it perfectly when he says ‘Don’t fear the man that knows how to do 10,000 kicks, but fear the man who knows only one kick but has practiced it 10,000 times’  

I’m striving to be the Bruce Lee of table tennis! I already have a half decent backhand but my forehand is slightly weaker (some might say much weaker, but I’m going to stick to slightly!) When the ball comes to this side I’m constantly having doubts about the shot. Is my technique right? Am I letting the ball drop to much? Is my bat angle right? Are my feet in the correct position? Through repetitive practice routines, my shots are improving and becoming more consistent. Hopefully one day they will be automatic and effortless, just like my backhand.

Driving a car is a good example. Most drivers would tell you that in their first couple of driving lessons, nothing felt natural, everything was like an alien concept to them, and they couldn’t imagine ever being able to drive on their own. But then, with much  perseverance and repetition, what seemed like an impossible feat, not only became possible, but soon became second nature to them. This exact same mind-set can be applied when facing any challenges. Like I’ve already said, I use it in table tennis to try and improve my game.

It’s also about taking one manageable step at a time, as apposed to giant unrealistic leaps! This is especially relevant if you have a mental health illness and you’re in a vulnerable, unpredictable state of mind. A friend of mine, who’s battled her mental health all her life, told me that when the illness is at it’s worst, her daily challenges can involve simply getting out of bed, and getting washed and dressed. I can appreciate this, as depression tightens it’s grip over you, even the simplest of tasks can take great effort. You can’t see the point of doing anything anymore- including washing and dressing. But it’s important to keep challenging yourself, however small and pointless these challenges seem. This same lady is now able to travel the country on her own, giving inspirational talks in rooms full of  people, she continues to spread much needed awareness and fills me with hope for my future. She has proven to me that anything is possible, but who knows if she’d have ever reached this stage, if she hadn’t continued challenging herself, even in her darkest hours. Somehow I doubt she would.

Inspirations- using positive influences

Having people who inspire you is extremely important for your mental health. My main inspirations are friends and family, however I’m also inspired by various sports men and women. There’s a lot of bad things highlighted on the news everyday. Tragic events happening all over the world and closer to home in recent weeks, with the terrorist attacks. If you’re like me and you already suffer with your anxiety, such events can influence you leaving the house, as you don’t feel safe to do so. It’s hard I know, but this is when it’s important that we also remember all the positive events taking place and I use my inspirations to help me do this.

Everyone loves a good under dog story, someone who has achieved great things against all the odds.

Inspirations- YES I CAN!

This Egyptian Paralympian (Ibrahim Hamadtou)  was told that he could never play table tennis as he had no arms or stumps to grip the bat. He proved that with single mindedness and remarkable determination, anything is possible!


The Paralympic moto is ‘Yes I Can’. I’m sad to say that most of the time mine is ‘No I Can’t!’ I find myself blaming my depression for this but sometimes this is just a convenient excuse. When I’m playing sports my competitive spirit shines through, if only I could view depression as my latest opponent, maybe I could put it in it’s place! Seeing my inspirations and all their achievements gives me a huge boost and makes me want to try harder to emulate their success.

Inspirations- achieving greatness

InspirationsBefore anyone says, I know its sad to have a picture of yourself on your bedroom wall, but it does have a positive purpose. The person pictured next to me is a professional darts player called James Wade. The thing we both have in common is that we’ve won tournaments whilst battling our mental health illnesses. James is one of the best darts players in the world, where as I play table tennis in local leagues. James suffers with bipolar and had to have time away from the sport due to his illness. I too had to have a year out from playing in the league when my anxiety levels reached there highest peak and I struggled to leave the house.

James Wade is ranked number 6 in the world and is an extremely talented player, he also comes across as a really nice guy, he’s always respectful of his opponents and conducts himself well, win or lose. When I watch him on the stage he appears very comfortable and in his comfort zone, but off the stage doing interviews and even on his walk ons, I can see a lot of myself in him. Frailties such as low self-esteem, looking awkward and nervous and like he wants to be anywhere else. That’s why it’s truly remarkable that with such obvious confidence issues, He’s still able to perform to such a high standard in front of crowds of thousands of noisy fans, not to mention the millions watching on sky sports! For this reason I admire him more than any other sportsman.

Going back to the pictures on my wall. They’re the first thing I see when I get up in a morning and I use them as a really positive message to start the day. They remind me that anything is possible and I can still achieve good things despite of my illness. Whether your inspirations are well known celebrities or friends and family, doesn’t matter. What matters is that you use them as a positive influence in moving forward and becoming the best version of yourself.