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Rebuilding My Routine: A Journey to Mental Well-Being in a New City

In the months leading up to my arrival in Toronto, I had been experiencing some trouble with my mental health. There was too much uncertainty, and I was questioning every single one of my choices. So, it clearly wasn’t a fun time. I told myself things would get better once I was actually in Canada, and things did improve, but with that, there also came other challenges. I think I was in survival mode just trying to get through the days. Living out of a suitcase in an Airbnb, trying to keep up with school, eating and sleeping enough, all while looking for a job and a place to live. As you could expect, my habits took a hit, and so did my well-being.

I was barely eating, meal prepping was too mentally taxing for me, my ADHD symptoms were unmanageable, and I was constantly exhausted. I had the hardest time waking up and getting out of bed, and I was constantly late to class even though I lived 15 minutes away, right in the middle of the Danforth. Some days I was engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination (when you sacrifice your sleep for personal time). So, I just lay there, paralyzed, scrolling on my phone for hours until I felt physically ill. As you can imagine, that only made me feel worse, mostly because I was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even do the things I actually enjoy. But why did I keep doing that to myself if I already knew how I could make it better? I guess it’s partly because it’s easier to go back to the patterns you already know rather than trying to make an effort to change.

I knew I had to develop a routine that would serve me well under my new circumstances, but I just kept putting it off. Why? Because it was simply too overwhelming for me, and when something is too much for my brain, I just avoid it completely. So, I was just getting by, holding on to my own sinking Titanic, foolishly thinking that maybe what I was doing was enough for me to keep sailing through but ignoring that even though it was happening slowly, I was still sinking. I attributed my messy habits and lifestyle to my circumstances, which yes, played a huge part, but I kept fooling myself by saying that once I was more established in Toronto things would magically get better. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s exactly what I constantly told myself when I was still in Mexico. I now realize I could’ve saved myself so much suffering if I had just focused on the tiny things that slowly add up, such as small habits and routines that start my day off right; and that even if they’re the only thing I can do that day I still end up feeling accomplished because I am actively doing something that is good for me both in the short and long run. But I’m still learning, and that’s okay. It’s my first time living through this after all.

Flash forward to November. After a grueling few weeks, I had finally found a place to live in for at least the next year and was finally moved in. Looking at my empty apartment I was overcome with possibility. This place was mine! (And the landlord’s, of course) and I finally felt comfortable and not like I was merely a guest. But then I was also overcome with dread and fear. I was afraid everything would be the same again, new surroundings, same terrible lifestyle. I decided I wanted to start this new journey in a better headspace than the one I’d been in for the last few months. I decided to do what any person trying to change their life would: I downloaded an app! I wanted to try a routine tracker that essentially would ease me back into those healthy habits I once had.

The first habit I thought I should try to recover was time tracking, this would be a great first step and would help me stick to the rest of my habits way more easily. Time tracking is great, I don’t know why I stopped doing it, it used to be second nature to me at one point. It’s such a great tool, especially for ADHD brains, because one of the things we struggle with is time blindness, and when you track your activities down to the minute you get a bunch of important insights about how you’re spending your time, and how long things actually take. It’s also great for daunting tasks because it helps you realize that doing those pesky dishes doesn’t take as long as you thought it would, and it just makes everything more doable. After getting back into the groove with my time tracking, I put together a feasible list of habits (that I had previously successfully tried) that I could incorporate into my morning to set myself up for a good day without doing too much at once and burning out.

Those habits are, meditating, taking my meds, stretching, or doing a quick workout, writing a to-do list on my bullet journal, reading for 15 minutes, and tidying my space. This is what an ideal morning looks like to me, but I don’t always get to do all of these because sometimes life is hectic and I don’t have unlimited time or energy (this could potentially be fixed by having a night routine that prepares me for the next day, but one thing at a time!). My process is still far from perfect, but I’m trying to slowly build it up. And for now, that’s good enough for me.

One Comment

  • Julie Martinez Garcia

    I loved reading this, as I struggle with this too. I’m so glad someone’s talking about it. Time blindness. Bedtime procrastination. Too real.

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