Breaking Routine

on vacationThe blog is back from vacation and so am I.  Summer is a time when many of us experience breaks in our routines.  When you live in a tourist area like I do, people who don’t live here want to visit.  We also find ourselves called by family and friends to other parts of the country. When the weather is good, everyone seems to be on the move.  For school kids this change is welcome.  But the further away from school we get, the more attached to our routines we seem to become.

Changes to our standard behavior patterns can be an important and necessary opportunity to refresh and renew our creativity and enthusiasm.  Spending time with family and friends can make change feel good.  Sometimes we need a break in our routines.  Even the most committed resister of change can experience joy in doing something different or renewing relationships.  But changes to routine can have a down-side also.  Having visitors or being a visitor can require lots of change and we all have a hard time with change.  For example, dietary patterns might change.  How you eat, what you eat and when you eat may be totally different from your usual fare. It can seem like fun to throw caution to the wind and do something completely out of character, but there may be consequences which can sour that good time.   Yet trying to adhere to the strict rules we sometimes impose on ourselves can be equally problematic.

Sleeping and waking habits may also be altered.  Many people find it difficult to sleep in a unfamiliar environment.  Being a “white noise” proponent myself, I keep a fan going in my room all year long.  When I don’t have my fan, sleep can be elusive.  Lack of sleep is often combined with the desire to pack as much experience into short periods of time as possible.  So instead of a restful vacation or welcome break in our routine, we end up becoming exhausted.  How often have you heard the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation”?

Then there is our usual exercise routine.  Those of you who regularly read my blog know that I am a strong advocate of making exercise a habit.  It then becomes a natural part of your daily or weekly rhythm so that you don’t have to think about doing it – you just do it.  In fact, when you don’t do it, you can feel the lack.  This part of your daily behavior pattern will invariably get disrupted with visitors or travel.  If you are used to coming to classes, it can be difficult to carve out time to exercise on your own.  Sometimes you can try classes in the place you are visiting which can help but is not always a solution.  You may have the best of intentions but the first time they go awry you’ll be tempted to forget them completely.

So what can we do that will allow us to enjoy our time off without completely sweeping away the comfort of daily routine?  My first suggestion is to drop the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. “All or nothing” need not be your mantra.  There is a middle way between the extremes.  Try the words “sometimes” or “just for today” on for size.  It may not be necessary to throw everything you’re used to out the window.  It is possible, for example, to be mindful about food choices without depriving yourself or going overboard against your better judgment.  You can invite your guests or hosts to join you in some form of physical activity like an early morning walk or yoga class.  Try a new activity like tennis or golf.  You may not do very well, but it can be liberating to remember that you never have to do it again if it doesn’t work out.  If you have a solitary practice that is meaningful to you, perhaps you can shorten the time frame (10 minutes instead of 30, for example) or change the time of day (before bed instead of first thing in the morning).

Throughout this blog one common thread often repeated is that we make up our own rules and we can also change them.  So let go of all the rules you’ve built around your routines and be open to new experiences.  Being flexible is more than touching your toes in a forward bend. The flexibility we practice in yoga and Pilates should extend to all aspects of your lie.  Dismiss all your rules about appearances and expectations.  Stay in the moment.  Time spent worrying will be precious down-time lost.

Although the changes referred to here are mostly temporary, sometimes more long-term behavior modification is necessary – job change, for example, or an illness or injury.  There can be a sense of loss when these kinds of events occur.  But this can also be an opportunity to think about developing new routines. You were probably not born with the your current patterns (most of them, anyway).  They developed over time and can be redeveloped.  Prioritize.  Figure out which aspects of your usual routine are most important to you and why.  Then see if you can modify your usual behavior to accommodate changed circumstances.  Being open to new experiences can help to lessen the anxiety of change.

As vacationers, though, we will all eventually return to our usual routines.  This can be a great comfort.  Time away can also foster a new appreciation for the simple daily rhythm of our lives.  Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to again pick up some of the better habits that we’ve worked so hard to develop.  It can feel like starting all over.  Especially if some of those habits were difficult to adopt to begin with. Take heart, though.  You did it before, you can do it again.  Let that be your mantra when you’re tempted to blow off that exercise class or eat that second helping of cheesecake.

My most recent vacation was wonderful and I did incorporate some of the suggestions above so I know they work. But I love coming home. It was a treat to spend time with old friends doing things we enjoy doing together.  But it is with humility, gratitude and renewed appreciation that I now slip back into the comfort of my routines and rejoin the community that is so important to me.


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