Structure: What it is, why it is important and how to create it

What is structure? One of the things that I remember the most about a hospital stay was being provided a piece of paper that had all the activities, from classes to recreation to mealtime for every day of the week all on one piece of paper. That piece of paper had been dog eared and folded many times to fit in my pocket and was referred to many times by the time I left the hospital.

Knowing that I could rely on whatever the paper said to actually occur and slowly get back to my ability to get somewhere on time, to attend things, and to be able to trust that what was on that piece of paper was really going to happen was so vital to my healing.

I send a big thank you to the intelligence and understanding of the people who knew to create structure for their patients. It is a life long lesson that I absorbed and helped me very much.

I’ve also been in hospitals that had nothing of the sort when it came to structure, just absolute chaos with no attempt at keeping order. I often felt unsafe. Despite my many attempts to understand the order there, it seemed there was none. Despite a month of staying there, I really did not get better.

I don’t talk about the circumstances at these hospitals to rate or not rate a hospital, but because my illness needed it to get better.

At one point, after one of my battles with my illness and having made it back home after a hospital stay, I knew in my soul that creating structure for myself was vital. That time, my Mom helped me find volunteer jobs, that I could hopefully do, to get out of the house, be expected to be somewhere at a certain time, and do a worthwhile activity that would make me feel good. I helped at a food pantry and I sorted clothes at a thrift shop.

Thankfully, I get better and better as I persevere over my illness. The really important day came when I started to make structure for myself. One way I did this was I found a planner on Amazon that besides having the entire month whole at a glance, it actually had a daily breakdown of each day, by the half hour. This way I could plan my day down to the half hour and it was visual.

I could see my activities as blocks of time. Each day, I reminded myself to take my medicine, especially in the morning. I started using color pens, using the same color for the same activity each day.  I could figure out that I needed some time each day to get ready, and if I put that time on the planner I would feel less hassled. The day could start off and be nice.

The planner even had space for daily goals. They did not need to be lofty (by someone else’s standards). Sometimes just getting my laundry done and put away is a lofty goal for me.

I guess creating structure is a way for me to have (or to feel I have) control over things, or my day. It also creates trust that there can be some order to daily activities, and a sense of pride in knowing I was able to make my own decisions and find what works for me. Being flexible concerning structure is pretty important too. I think having a general idea of how you might expect the day to go is very good, but being willing to change is just as important, too.

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