My Daily Routine

Routine has become so, so important in my recovery from brain injury. And if you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll notice that a common trend for my ‘bad days‘ is when I stray too far from that routine and my brain can’t cope.

Maria Popova, founder of Brain Pickings, has described routine as a crutch. Which, when you think about it, is so true! I didn’t have a physical injury and thus I didn’t have any physical piece of equipment to rely on to aid my recovery such as crutches, wheelchair, sling, etc. Instead, I devised a routine of activities that aided, and continue to aid, my recovery.

Overtime I’ve found what works for me, and as my life changes so too does my routine. I found for a while that I wouldn’t change anything in my life because I was too afraid to stray from my well established routine, that I felt was working for me. But after time I realised I needed to be flexible and as circumstances changed in my life, I needed to adapt my routine.

So, I identified the key elements that I felt were necessary in my TBI recovery and once they fit into my routine I could continue to live a ‘normal’ life.

Key Elements in My Routine

The following are the key elements I needed in my life to ensure I could manage my brain injury and optimise my recovery:

  1. Minimum 8 hours sleep every night
  2. Exercise
  3. Avoid chaotic situations, such as commuting on busy busses or sitting in traffic
  4. A healthy diet, including at least 4 meals a day
  5. Spending time with friends and family – I need social interaction

So here’s what a typical day looks like for me during the week…

5.30am - 9am

I typically wake up between 5.30am and 6.15am. I don’t have any ‘special’ morning ritual – although I’d love to get into one or both of the following items: a short mindfulness practice and journaling 3 things I’m grateful for. This comes up so often when I read about what others do to help set them up for their day, so I will definitely be implementing this soon if I can!

I usually leave the house within 20minutes of waking up and get a bus over towards where I work (I live north side of Dublin City and work on the south side) and go to the gym. By getting an early bus it’s far less chaotic – less people, less traffic and much more reliable!

I follow a training program so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do everyday, it’s just get in, train and enjoy! By training this early it’s nice and quiet, which is also a major plus for me!

As I’m now over the south side, I can then walk to work in about 20 minutes. I love this time as I get my fresh air before a day in the office! And I usually listen to a podcast, or if I’m not feeling it I just pop on my headphones and enjoy the fresh air and silence.

9am - 1pm

First things first, I eat!!! I have a HUGE breakfast! I usually have a big bowl of porridge, with protein, berries and 2 bananas. If I’m feeling like a treat I’ll also have some peanut butter. I also take my Omega’s and Vitamins with breakfast. Then I WORK! Sometimes I’ll snack on corn cakes, and I’ll always have at least one cup of peppermint tea in the mornings. No caffeine for me, thank you!

1pm - 2pm

Lunch!!! It’s a major exception if I don’t take a full hour for my lunch. It’s so important to take some time off during the day to help your brain to recover from all of the activity of the morning. I usually head out for about a 15minute walk first, even if it’s just to the local Tesco and back, and then I eat 🙂 Lunch is usually pretty carb heavy as well – so for example today I had rice, roast sweet potato and veggies, chicken and cashew nuts.

2pm - 5.30pm

Then it’s back to work! Then at around 4/4.30 I have more food at my desk. This could be more porridge with protein and peanut butter (yummy!), yoghurt with fruit and nuts, or at the moment I’m loving rice cakes with chicken and peanut butter! It’s like chicken satay. Don’t judge it until you’ve tried it! 🙂

My workday is very varied so I could be at my desk all day, in meetings, at a shoot, out with clients or all of the above! So whilst I do my best to stick to this timing schedule I have to be flexible. But as long as I’m getting all of my food in and get some fresh air / a break at some point I’m usually fine.

Also, when I have a meeting that lasts over 1 hour, I try where possible to take 5 minutes to myself afterwards to allow my brain to relax again after all of the activity. This could be anything from just making a cup of tea and having a chat, to practicing ‘mindful’ breathing at my desk.

5.30pm - 8pm

Home time! I can get a bus straight home to my house about a 5-minute walk from my office, but I haven’t once got it! In the summer I’d sometimes walk the whole way home (approx. 1hr walk), or at the moment as the evenings are darker and the weather isn’t quite as nice I walk about 30 minutes and either get a lift the rest of the way with Noel, or I hop on a bus to bring me the rest of the way home.

I love having that time to unwind after my day, get some fresh air and maybe listen to another podcast if my brain has space for more information.

When I get home I usually relax for about 30minutes to unwind, either practicing some mindfulness or just chatting with Noel. Or, now that I’m doing my new Life Coaching course, I do a little bit of reading, which I absolutely love so it feels like unwinding 🙂

Then it’s time for dinner. I usually prepare one big meal on a Monday to keep me going for a few days, so for example a big chilli that I can heat up quickly when I get home after work. Sometimes, when I’m particularly tired and if I don’t have any full meal ready to heat up I’ll have something quick and easy like an omelette or scrambled eggs on toast. (I almost always have a supply of cooked chicken in the fridge so I can add this to make any meal a bit more substantial.)

While dinner is cooking / heating up I get my meals for the next day ready. This is all bulk cooked at the weekend, so it’s just a case of putting the various ingredients into boxes, so very easy!

8pm - 10pm

We usually have diner around 8pm and just chill out on the couch. We’re trying to spend less time on our phones in the evenings, but it’s actually really difficult to not look at your phone for the entire evening. But we’re getting better!

Once I’m finished my cup of camomile tea, some time between 9&9.30, I head to bed and if I’m not asleep by 10pm there’s something wrong! I’m lucky, I fall asleep really quickly and even if Noel is still awake with the light on and making noise I can sleep through! I aim for somewhere between 7.5 and 8.5 hours sleep every night. So the earlier I’m up the next morning the earlier I get to bed.

Obviously, I have a social life too. So sometimes I’ll meet friends after work for dinner or a coffee (decaf tea!). And now that I’ve started my course I have class on Thursday evenings and spend another evening coaching or being coached. So I just adapt my evenings to suit – prioritising getting a healthy, substantial meal into me and getting to sleep early!

Weekends

My weekends aren’t quite so structured, but I will always incorporate exercise, nutritious food and lots of sleep – usually getting between 10 and 12 hours sleep per night at the weekends! I also listen to my body, so if I need a nap I’ll take a nap. If I want to clear my head, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I’ll eat at less structured times – I’ll just eat when I’m hungry or feel that I need some energy.

I love to cook different meals a the weekend that I don’t get to have during the week as they’re not as convenient and I love to go for nice walks by the sea! You honestly cannot beat fresh, sea air to clear your head.

So that’s how a standard day in my life looks! To some it may be boring or overly structured, but it works for me! I tick the boxes of what helps my recovery and the routine helps to keep my brain relaxed, as I’m not trying to think on the spot unless it’s necessary.

I’d love to hear how you all structure your days, and if there’s anything you find really useful, or couldn’t go without! Drop me a mail here.