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Navigating the Rapids of Life

Updated: Jan 14

-Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, DBH

May 29, 2020

A sudden lack of routine in life can feel like we are propelled from still water directly into rough rapids. The more control and skill we have, and we can ensure our survival unscathed.

One way to secure safety in the midst of rapids would be to access a covered bridge to protect us from all elements. But life doesn't always offer that opportunity.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of troubled water, where the only way to survive is by powering through with intention. This is accomplished by gaining control, and leading one’s self to safety.

Disrupted routines impact us at all ages, causing an increase in worry, disrupted sleep, unhealthy nutrition, lack of physical activity, lack of ability to concentrate, an ineffective use of time, and lower self-esteem (Northwestern Medicine, 2020). All of these consequences can lead to increased anxiety, loss of optimism, and depressive symptoms, as well as poor overall health.

In a study by Ludwig (1997), established routines were found to be “linked with nine specific adaptive outcomes that constitute wellbeing among the participants.”

Adaptive well-being outcomes

  • Meeting obligations

  • Maintaining activity level

  • Maintaining health

  • Anticipating or looking forward to things

  • Maintaining control

  • Balancing work, rest and play

  • Accomplishing and achieving

  • Feeling good about self

  • Providing continuity

Disruptions to routines can cause distress in ways that we don’t even realize, until we feel our moods change. Establishing routines in the midst of chaos, however, can lead to enhanced sense of self and purpose.

Psychologist Mariana Plata provides some simple tips to establishing routines by having them “incorporated seamlessly into your daily life in differing levels or aspects: on a personal level, a relationship level, and/or a professional level" (2018).

In whatever way you decide to add structure to your day, including these practical guidelines can help increase well-being, in the midst of the rapids of the COVID pandemic, and beyond.

Personal routines

  • Carve out 15-30 minutes of self-care each day to nurture overall health, including physical activity and mindfulness or relaxation

  • Include a plan for 3 small nutritious and lower carbohydrate meals and vegetables for energy

  • Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day (8, 8-ounce glasses), adding more with increased heat and activity

Relationship routines

  • Carve in time in your daily routine to connect with others in your life

  • Social connection each day, through phone or electronically if you cannot in person

  • Family meal each day without phones, television, or internet distractions

  • Family or your own bike riding, walking, or activity at a park

  • Establish a date night weekly, if even in the back yard for a picnic, or dining together creatively over Facetime or Skype

Career/work routines or Contribution routines

  • Stimulate your intellect by reading a book or studying something in your profession that interests you and improves your knowledge

  • Network and connect with your colleagues once regarding your field and similar interests

  • Keep a log or journal about goals and working towards them

In times when life is disrupted through trauma, grief, stress, or illness, we may feel an increase stress resulting from loss of control and unpredictability. As creatures of habit, we tend to find comfort in predictability.

Adding structure to each day begins to create predictability, as well as a foundation of renewed control, and power. Being able to navigate through the rapids of life not only enhances our sense of self, but increases confidence, and resilience, too.


Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting



Ludwig, F.M. (1997). How routine facilitates wellbeing in older women. Occupational Therapy

International. 4(3), 215-230. Retrieved from

Northwestern Medicine (2020). Health benefits of having a routine. Retrieved from

Plata, M. (2018). The power of routines in your metal health. Psychology Today.

Retrieved from



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