Routine. Funny how one little word can have both positive and wildly negative implications. Routine is the yearned-for quiet glass of wine in front of a box set when you're working away from home; it's the thing you want to get babies into (as far as I understand it); and getting into one is the only way we'll ever get to achieve our goals at the gym or healthy eating aspirations. But that same routine is also the thing we go on holiday to get away from, at whose door we lay accusations of boredom, inertia, and even broken relationships.
Routine was also one of the first words Dr Sam used in my first consultation, to describe what my skin really needed. Some discipline, some method, some regularity, building up my treatment slowly and carefully and not deviating from the plan.
Of late, though, a few parts of my life have distracted a little from any hope of a routine. Everyone has times at work when things get a little more hectic than we're used to. And then you get times where your friends and family want to know what you're up to, why they never see you and you keep cancelling things at the last minute, and start not organising them at all; times when your standard dinner is at your desk and your commute via a late night taxi. All routine goes out of the window at these times in life – for a month or so recently, a healthy packed lunch became a distant memory and coffee sadly seemed a much more feasible option than a gym class for raising my heart rate.
With this stress, as we all know, often comes unhappy skin. Sure enough, my skin, now used to finding new ways to make its emotions felt, started to prickle up with dry, itchy patches again, even more suddenly than it had done before, at the mere thought of my Things To Do list. Above all, I hadn’t made time for my skin. I’d let myself run out of moisturiser, I’d forgotten to put suncreen on several days, I’d probably hurriedly applied more than the disciplined, prescribed amount of half the distance between the tip and the first crease on your little finger. And that’s before you even get on to the lack of sleep and exercise.
I must stop moaning there, though, before you get out the violins, because, in amongst all the extraordinary stress, something extraordinarily lovely happened. On a snatched weekend away, the boy asked me to marry him, and I said yes. Crazy happy and suddenly the focus of family and friends (and their enthusiastic Prosecco-buying), I was also able to self-administer a healthy dose of that most wonderful cure-all: perspective.
Now with a new-found purpose, I fought to find time to fit in celebratory drinks with the people that matter, alongside my work schedule. It's quite amazing how many of the important things in life you can fit in when you really want to. And if I could fit time in for an evening of chatting over champagne, I could surely find time to get my skincare back on track.
Dr Sam and I spoke after the latest dry skin break out, and we discussed essentially a re-set of my treatment plan: back to basics. Re-focused on the things that really matter in life, I’ve discovered the patience I had at the start of my treatment, and have been building up the use of creams again, exactly as prescribed by Dr Sam. However rushed and busy my mornings and evenings, I pause to make sure I’m using only the tiny, recommended amount of each cream, and I give it time to dry before I put my moisturiser on so I don’t spread it around my face and neck onto more sensitive areas.
These seemingly tiny details are the building blocks of a skin routine that I’d misplaced somewhere in my busy-ness, and as a result, my months of discipline had been undermined. It is, of course, hard to tell how much my skin is looking better from these changes, and how much is insuppressible post-engagement glow. But I’ve learnt that I can maintain the crucial foundations of good solid routine, through periods where life takes a departure from the blueprint - whether that’s handling work stress, or reacting to unforeseen, ecstatically lovely moments of Prosecco-swilling happiness.