After struggling with crippling life-long depression, avoiding, and finally coming to acceptance of the disease I have discovered one of the most effective ways to mitigate and overcome depression is a comprehensive daily routine. “A routine is a course of deliberate actions performed regularly, both mechanically and mindfully.” – Oxford Dictionary
In my entrepreneurial journey routine had rarely been in my vocabulary. I was constantly searching for the next best thing, the next innovation, and how could I make our business better and more profitable. The truth is, we, as leaders spend the least amount of our time on ourselves. As a result, 30% (pre-pandemic) of entrepreneurial leaders struggle with daily depression.
Routine is tough, at times boring, and achingly repetitive. Yet, as Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” For you football fans, Lombardi drove his players crazy with the extraordinary number of times plays were practiced, over and over. Lombardi had an uncompromising routine that was rarely challenged. The results? Under his 9 seasons of leadership, the Packers had a record of 89-29-4 and had won 5 Championships and Super Bowls.
As leaders, we practice the status quo of behaviors and tactics required to succeed. We are similar to a high-performance athlete. Author Malcolm Gladwell claims we need 10,000 hours of ‘deliberate’ practice to achieve a high level of proficiency in any endeavor. Stretch that over a leader’s professional life and we are talking about a few minutes a day…
The following activities have been proven to be very beneficial. And by the way, this routine applies to any leader, regardless of his/her state of mental health.
Exercise – A daily routine of exercise is a critical component in improving and strengthening both physical and mental health; it doesn’t necessarily require a gym membership. The simple act of a daily walk is a tremendous start. I started with a daily walk and now run 2-3 miles 6 days a week. If you know me, running is the last activity I would be participating in. “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Whatever you do you have to keep moving forward. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Mindfulness – Simply put, this means being in the moment, being present, and not ruminating on past failures and disappointments. Pay close attention to your surroundings and what is presently happening, and just as importantly, what your reactions are to those around you. “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind in the present moment” – Buddha
Visualization – This is not gratuitous dreaming. Visualize yourself getting what you want and imagine participating in the success. On my run, I typically listen to a 20-30 minute podcast and then finish with a visualization of what I expect for the rest of the day. “I would visualize things coming to me, it would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.” – Jim Carrey
Meditation – This is no longer a new-age fad, this a powerful tool to calm the mind. Meditation requires patience and a quiet uninterrupted environment. Just a few minutes a day can be very powerful. You may want to consider guided meditation as a start – and there’s an app(s) for that! I have found apps such as Calm and Breethe very effective. “Meditation is not an escape from society, but to come back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is seeing, there must be acting.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Gratitude – This is a simple act of thinking or visualizing who and what you’re grateful for. Take a moment upon waking and before going to sleep to be grateful. Some have found writing down what you are grateful for powerful as well. “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” – Willy Nelson
Nutrition – Take inventory of your eating habits. Start with the routine of eating three meals a day. This doesn’t mean coffee for breakfast, a slice of pizza for lunch, and a 16-ounce steak for dinner. Moderation and consistency are the keys. And of course, from time to time, treat yourself. “The Doctor of the future will give no medication but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet, and in the cause and prevention of human disease. – Thomas Edison
Replenish – This is simply refilling what is consumed. Physically, consuming water is critical. Just as important is replenishing your spirit. Take inventory of your passion, purpose, and the direction you are headed in, are they aligned? – “When you take time to replenish your body and spirit it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brown
Self-Compassion – This what we do least for ourselves, as we are more concerned about others than our wellbeing. The truth is if we as leaders are mentally healthy we can do so much more for our families, businesses, and our teams. Stop being so hard on yourself, and for a change do something for you. “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield
Journal – When you start your routine, journaling will be key to keep track of progress. Journals have become a revived industry. Avoid a blank paged journal and choose one that combines the business and mental wellbeing aspects of your day. I recommend the 5-Minute Journal.
So, you’re likely thinking this is a long list and you already have a lot to do. What if I told you you’d have less to do if you practiced a routine? Imagine spending less time on time-wasting, ‘kill me now’ activities and more time on creative and productive endeavors.
Diving into all of the above simultaneously could create a negative experience. I started with exercise and meditation and found the rest followed easily.
If you are struggling with depression a routine could change your life…