After setbacks this past year in my exercise and healthy eating routine, I started to build up my habits little by little again. Nine weeks before this holiday week, I started to build my first habit. : 5 min of exercise 3 times a week and 2 times a week of a simple qi gong routine (6 min).
The big challenge came during this holiday week. My family and friends do not have a particularly healthy lifestyle routine, and I am just restarting on that path. Now, after a week of fun after a lot of big changes in our lives, came a lot of work and stress. Well, that didn’t exactly make it easy to continue with this new habit, right?
So, what was my experience this week?
I am happy to report that I did manage to keep my 5 min exercise routine and 2 qi gong sessions this week. Although I didn´t follow the same exercise routine that I was doing during the past weeks, I just focused on fitting 5 min of body weight exercises, regardless of which routine I was going to follow.
I should also say that my eating was worse than normal, a lot of “Mexican antojitos” and treats. Keep in mind that I haven´t started working on my eating habits yet.
What did I learn from this experience?
When you are under a lot of stress, or when you have a time off after a lot of stress, your weakest link breaks unless you have built a strong habit around it. For example, if you tend to eat whatever you feel like, then when you are stressed out, or when you have time off after a lot of pressure, you will be tempted to eat unhealthy foods even more (“Why not?, you need an “emotional break” after all, you deserve it, and it will be just for a few days”).
Social accountability is key. If you are around people that do not have healthy habits, then it will be harder for you to build yours. It is a lot easier to go with the flow and follow what everybody else around you is doing than to be the “different” one. The only one that chooses to eat veggies when everyone else goes for chips. Many experts say that you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. This is especially true when you haven´t work around your “big why”, (your big why is a reason that in itself is more powerful than any temptation you can encounter).
When you break your routine for example, on holidays, your habits also can be affected unless you plan ahead for those situations. For instance, instead of buying just any junk food when you get hungry, prepare some healthy snacks in advance. If you feel you won´t have time to fit in your exercise routine on those days off, prepare a shorter routine you can do in 5 min or so, or make a point to incorporate more physical activities like walking, rather than just taking the car or taxi.
Remember, “Habits are tied to triggers. When the trigger happens, the habit follows” Leo Babauta. When you are on holidays, your triggers won´t necessarily be there, since the triggers are situational. For example, your trigger to do exercise could be your alarm clock going off when you are sleeping in your bed, and you see your track pants set out on your chair.
When you are on holidays you might have the alarm clock going off, but your track pants won´t be in the same spot and you won´t be in your bedroom. This means that the actual trigger is not there. So when you are on holidays, you can create temporarily triggers that allow you to continue with your habits while you are on those days off, such as setting out the exercise clothes that you packed to bring along.
Take a strategic break from your habits. If you get very stressed out about keeping your habits, that won´t work for you. That will make you sabotage your efforts and even worse, it will make you beat yourself up for not sticking to your habits which are like promises you have made to yourself.
So, if during your holidays there will be a lot of things outside of your control, or you just feel it would be so overwhelming to keep your habits, then you will be better off to just take it easy and enjoy yourself without guilt, knowing that you have consciously decided to schedule a pause, rather than to get into the stress mode that will affect your actions anyways. This can be very difficult for some of us to do.
In order to keep your habits you need a “big why” and a routine (triggers) to make them stick, basically, you need to incorporate them as a part of your lifestyle, not as separate actions that you want to incorporate into your life.
Now, I would say that if you have built your routines and you are so used to them, the “big why” might not be that crucial. I think that the “big why” is very important if you don´t find the motivation to do the everyday little actions that you need to create and stick to your habits. For instance, I don´t eat desserts after my meals. I really don´t do it for health reasons. I honestly just have that habit without a “big why”.
Conversely, I should say as well that normally the habits that make us grow and give us the life that we really want, will require a “big why”, since they will make us get out of our comfort zone in order to grow.
If you want to work on your habits while you are on holidays or any other unusual situation like a deadline of a big project, or when family members are staying at your place, then you will need to make some adjustments for your circumstances to deal with your habits.
You will need to plan in advance to maintain your healthy lifestyle. For example, you might need to come up with temporary triggers to make you stick to your habits or you can take a strategic break and be ok with taking it.
Now, I must say that when you have incorporated a healthy lifestyle into your routine, and that is engrained in you, it won´t be a big challenge for you to keep that lifestyle even when you are on holidays or in any other unusual situation. You will naturally seek out healthy food options and physical activities since that will be where your new comfort zone is.
Have you ever tried to keep a new habit on holidays? What have you done to keep it up? or have you put a pause on it?
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By Carina Franco yoursimplehealthylife.com