Building habits when you love change

I was texting with my mom today and she was asking me how I was doing being away from home for so long. I kind of laughed it off and blamed her for turning me into someone who gets antsy when I’m any one place too long. We moved a lot growing up. I’m fairly sure that’s turned me into someone who craves a change of scenery every so often. I haven’t lived consistently 12 months-in-a-row in one place in over 10 years. Last summer we spent a month of the summer in Florida, then two weeks away from home in Canada. The summer before that we spent a month in Paris. The summer before that I spent a bunch of time all over. You get the idea. Even at work, about every three months I’m itching for even a slight change.

I’ve learned to love habit and routine. It’s a little bit of normal in a whole lot of change. Change I like, change I choose, but change nonetheless. These daily habits help me adjust. They’re predictable. This summer few things are predictable except that I load the dishwasher and run it after lunch and before bedtime. The TV is off all day long until 7 or 8PM and then my in-laws turn it on and watch it until they go to bed. I have a coffee at 1PM. These are some predictable things.

It’s possible I’m a weird genre of people who like change. At times the comfort derived from habits borders on OCD. Eg: Willy will try and get me to walk a different way to work and I get weird. It makes me crazy (thanks to The Power of Habit I understand why!). I walk  one way to the metro in the morning and a different way back from work. That’s just how I do it.

Keep at it

Despite the fact that I find comfort in these routines, when there’s so much change it can take a lot of work to rebuild routines or start new ones. For the first few weeks here I had a morning routine that I was enjoying. I have no idea what derailed it but I haven’t done it in easily a month. Now I’m trying to go back and restart it. It will take some effort at first. The momentum will come as I enjoy the routine. I will feel less and less like I’m working at it.

But it’s almost a fact in my life that some sort of change will come up in my life, there will be another blip on the radar and I’ll have to fight for consistency. It’s predictable. It’s almost a routine in itself. Fail. Start up again. Succeed. See things start to nosedive. Correct. Succeed. Fail again if I’m not giving it the attention it requires, or if I’m stressed or something.

It’s a pattern I’ve noticed and I’m working on.

Are you someone who likes a lot of change? Are you able to form good habits despite your enjoyment of change?

A Week Like Last: Why routine and habit has become crucial to my functioning

I’m writing this from North Carolina and I’m very happy about that. Willy finished his final papers and exams at 5PM Friday evening. It was an intense two weeks of assignments and exams for him. I joked with my coworkers that he was hardly a whole human being anymore. His life was studying and writing, save sleep and a short time for meals. I had a busy week consolidating things at the end of the school year, having final meetings before we went on vacation and then switched gears to start working on a new project when I return.

Last week was a big reminder that I still need to grow in developing habits and routines in my schedule that are non-negotiable. Buying groceries is one of those things. There was much chaos last week and I’m confident we could have maintained a sense of normalcy if I had a structured time I did groceries (we didn’t have much in the fridge last week and were too busy to go get some), still making time for other things.

My ideal has become building a series of habits and routines that reduces the amount that I need to think and maximizes getting things done. “Things” being primarily the things I don’t like doing and don’t want to do and therefore don’t make proper time for: Like washing my floors and grocery shopping.

I can’t remember if I’ve posted about this before, but this isn’t the first time that I’ve felt like my life is a bit of a gongshow and I think to myself: I know how to fix this, I just have to do it.

Just doing it is half the trouble, right?

But this week is about chilling out, enjoying the sun, eating really cheap food here in America, and relaxing.

Decision making in the groggy moments of morning

This week has been unseasonably warm. It’s basically April up here right now this strange week of January. So I’ve been motivated to run again because the sidewalks are free from ice and snow. Three out of the last four days I said to myself before going to bed “tomorrow, you’re going to get up and go for a run right away.”

Didn’t happen. Any of those days.

Both yesterday and today, about thirty minutes after I had gotten out of bed, I noticed I regretted the fact that it was too late for me to go for a run.

So what’s the deal?

I realized this morning that my decision-making skills were non-existent. My grogginess factor was so powerful that if that continues in the morning, I will never ever accomplish anything until I wake up. That’s when I realized I was having all this success last fall because I had never once tried to get up and go right out the door for a run. The plan was always wake up, do light therapy, journal, then go for the run. By the time I had spent that 30 or so minutes waking up, I was awake and enthusiastic enough to grab the shoes and go.

According to EasyWake.me‘s 12 most important facts about sleep inertia (the grogginess after being woken up), “within the first three minutes of waking, decision-making performance can be as low as 51 percent of the person’s best decision-making ability before sleep. Decision-making performance may still be 20 percent below optimum performance 30 minutes after waking. Sleep inertia may affect cognitive performance for up to two hours.”

This is a super helpful realization for me because it’s the difference between me tweaking my plans and feeling demotivated and wanting to quit. Realizing I need at least 15 minutes where I get vertical (out of that comfy bed) or do light therapy. Then I will maybe be rational enough to make the right choice to go run or another form of exercise.

Here’s to tomorrow morning and outrageously warm weather for January!

What about you? Do you now have a little bit more hope for your morning routine with this information? Share your thoughts in the comments here.

Morning routine + being sick = grace

Photo by Jason

Photo by Jason

I have to be honest with you. I’ve been sick in various ways for the past three weeks. I haven’t been getting up at 6:45AM these days because I want my body to have all the rest it can get so my nose will stop running and I’ll stop coughing and sneezing. I have kept running, but only once a week (instead of three) and a more low-key run. You know what? I’m still quite pleased with myself!

It has taken determination to get out on those runs when it was -5ºC out and I was coughing up tons of phlegm and I did it with the encouragement of my husband. I didn’t want to lose the memory of how I actually enjoyed the runs and they weren’t as bad as my mind was making them seem. I’ve been too afraid to increase the intensity of the runs while being sick, too, so I’m still on week 2 of Couch to 5K. But again, I’m OK with that. I realize that part of what I’m doing is developing habits of running and so it’s not the end of the world if I’m not increasing intensity every week because at least I’m running.

Sometimes ‘productivity’ isn’t just about getting things done, it’s about the long-term implications about the choices we make every day. Which is why, I’m perfectly happy to not push myself maybe too hard and believe that it’s 100% perfect or don’t bother. There’s something worth celebrating in that last sentence. I used to be a person who thought if I couldn’t reach my standard of perfection I might as well give up entirely.

I’m really looking forward to this cold going away so I can not be a disgusting mess in public, but also so I can run again (because I actually like it!).

Update on adjusting my morning routine

Remember when we talked about our morning routine and I wondered if it was even possible if I could become one of those regular human beings who can wake up at a reasonable time in the morning? Or at the very least that it would be a bit more normal for me to be awake at 7am.

I can’t even believe I’m about to write this. I had a celebratory moment with my mentor as I shared this with her. “I can’t believe I’m hearing you say this!” was her exact words and you know what? SHE’S RIGHT.

I wake up every morning either right before my husband’s 6:45 alarm or even 15 minutes before.

WHAT THE CRAP.

Also, I’ve managed to survive every day that I’ve woken up at this hour without a nap.

WHO AM I?

I cannot give enough props to the light therapy because it’s all thanks to that blessed light. In effect, it re-calibrates your circadian rhythm so if you look at it in the morning when you wake up, it will make sure you keep waking up at that time. Glorious.

But what about the actual components of my morning? How is that going?

Exercise, Center myself, See my husband, and Day Prep.

  • I’m waking up on time. I appreciate having that time with the light to keep waking up. I’ve noticed it takes me about 45 minutes to become a real human being in the morning, and so it’s helpful for me to stay in bed and under my covers and just click on that light.
  • Then I pull out my journal and Bible from the bedside table, still under the covers. Having it right beside my bed makes it super easy to move on to. I keep the light on while I’m journaling.
  • If it’s a Tuesday or a Thursday, I will grab a glass of water and drink that while I’m snuggling into the lights’ rays so that I’m well hydrated for my run. (Seriously, I can’t believe I’m writing ANY of this. 6:45? Run? Hydration? Miracles do happen, people. I am evidence of that).
  • On those days, I eat a bowl of cereal, suit up, grab my C25K podcast and hit the bike path by the Lachine canal in my hood.
  • I come back home, stretch and multitask as I read my iPad, enjoy the props my hubby gives me for running,shower, eat more,  and peace. Also, I put on clothes before I peace, but I think you got the drift.

Currently that schedule is pretty tight to fit everything in. I need to be more intentional about not reading twitter while I stretch after my run and think more through my day. Or find a way to add that elsewhere.

So far, though, I’m still in the honeymoon phase. It’s still exciting and fun and I’m running off the thrill of feeling like a totally different person. If I learned anything from writing that novel in 30 days when I was in first year university, though, soon the excitement will wear off and I’ll be stuck with a commitment I no longer like but am determined to finish for bragging rights.

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