Structure and Borderline Personality Disorder

Young woman writing in journal on the beach
Chris Tobin/DigitalVision/Getty Images

If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), it can constantly feel like you're out of control. You may feel erratic, frustrated and upset. However, through treatment plans like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), you can begin to manage your symptoms and get more control.

A major part of DBT is an emphasis on mindfulness, helping you become more aware of your feelings, thoughts, motivations and your surroundings. You may find that mindfulness is more easily achieved when you have structured activities and a regular schedule.

Creating Structure

BPD is marked by changeable moods, anger, and impulsiveness. When you are having long days with few or no planned activities, you are more likely to experience emotional instability, low moods, self-harm, and impulsivity. Creating more structure will provide you with the balance, distraction, self-care, and opportunities for positive interactions that you need for good psychological functioning.

Adding structure and routine to your daily life can help your overall health and help you manage your symptoms. Eating regular meals, exercising daily and getting proper sleep can help you as you undergo therapy.

Developing a Schedule

Work with your therapist to establish a realistic routine; below are some ideas to get you started:

  • Get out a blank sheet of paper or print out a weekly calendar.
  • Start by planning out tomorrow. Write the day of the week on the top of the sheet. Below, list waking hours in 1-hour intervals. If you wake up at 7:00 a.m., for example, start with seven and list all of the hours of the day until your bedtime.
  • Fill in any planned activities or appointments you have already scheduled.
  • Fill in meal times.
  • Fill in one remaining blank space with a self-care activity, such as going for a walk, going to the gym or taking a relaxing bath.
  • Fill in another remaining blank space with productive activity, such as cleaning the house, going to the grocery store or paying your bills.
  • Fill in another with an activity that connects you with other people. This could be calling a friend, getting together with someone for dinner or going to a support meeting
  • Fill in the remaining blank space with an activity that brings your life more meaning. For example, attending a church service, volunteering or helping a friend.
  • Repeat for each day of the week.

Some days you may be busier than others, and you won't be able to add all of these activities. Allow some flexibility. You want structure, but you don't want to exhaust or overburden yourself.

Use your schedule to keep you motivated each day. Keep your list with you and mark off activities as you complete them. Give yourself a reward when you're done. Treat yourself by spending a little extra time watching TV or having a special snack.

Remember that the activities you choose don't have to be monumental. Perhaps all you can muster for your "meaningful" activity is to go buy a pack of gum at the store and give the cashier a nice smile and greeting. Just manage what you can each day and report back to your healthcare provider about how you are feeling and how you are coping with your routine.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • "Borderline Personality Disorder." National Institute of Mental Health, 2015.

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.