Followers of my other blog know that I am in the midst of a crazy few months. I won’t get into the details here, but the gist of it is that the beginning of the school year, a house purchase and move and my wedding are all coinciding like some great super storm. I’m dealing with the annual adjustment to the limited time and energy left over after a day of teaching. I’m spending my evenings and weekends packing and painting. I’m trying to cook in a kitchen at the same time I’m shutting it down and putting it in boxes.
And through it all, I’m trying to maintain my fitness and squeeze in my usual workouts, both for the physical and mental (oh, do I need that stress relief right now!) benefits.
We all go through periods of transition where our routines are disrupted and time and energy are in very limited supply. Perhaps, like me, it’s related to a job or a move. Maybe you’re welcoming a new family member and time for yourself has become something to dream about as you’re rocking the little one back to sleep. Again.
These times are when we are the most vulnerable to falling off the fitness wagon. It’s so easy to come up with excuses not to work out when the excuses are based in reality. It’s so tempting to put it off until later: “I’ll get back to the gym once the busy season falls off.”
It’s a slippery slope. Make an excuse once and it becomes easier to make it again. Get used to not working out and it becomes a habit. Once you start to tell yourself you’re too busy, you’ll begin to live as though it were true.
Furthermore, the importance of taking time for yourself and your health is heightened during periods of stress and overfilled calendars. Here are some tips on how to stay active during periods of upheaval and stress:
Be Easy on Yourself (But Not Too Easy)
Normally on the weekends, I try to fit in a long run, a yoga class and at least one visit to the gym. For the first three weekends in September, I am letting go of this expectation. Those weekends will be filled with moving, painting and generally settling in to the new place. Trying to do all that and my usual exercise would be insane.
But I’m not giving myself three weekends in a row off, either. I’ll aim for at least one run or yoga session each of those weekends. I know that it will make me feel calmer and will help to loosen muscles tight from painting. I won’t worry about distance or time or the position of my heels during down dog; I’ll just make the commitment to take a few minutes for myself each weekend.
It’s appropriate to adjust your goals based on external factors. If you approach challenging periods with an “all or none” attitude, you’re setting yourself up for none when all becomes impossible to maintain. Look at the realities of your situation and adjust accordingly. And then do what you promised yourself.
Set a Deadline
Some transitional periods come with their own hard deadlines firmly installed, but most can drag on if we let them and even become permanent. Create a deadline for your adjusted schedule. Post it. Believe it. Follow it.
For me, I’m giving myself through October. That gives time to settle in to the new house and gets me past the wedding stuff (which is super low key anyways:) ). By November, I will put the crazies behind me and recommit to a more balanced and consistent routine.
Are you a gym goer? Do you faithfully attend the same exercise classes? Do you walk 3 miles every morning? Whatever your routine, it can easily be disrupted during transition. But even though you may not be able to attend Monday night Zumba, you may still be able to exercise.
This is a time for (realistic) out of the box thinking. In what ways does your current situation force you or allow you to be active? If you’re remodeling, you’re most likely spending hours engaged in physical labor. New baby? I bet you’re carrying around a ten pound weight much of the day. Moving? How bout them stairs?
Recognize the exercise you are getting, even if you’re not wearing your yoga pants. It still counts. Be careful, though, not to overestimate the impact, which is especially easy to do if you’re short on sleep where everything feels more difficult.
Be Careful With “Rewards”
When we are stressed, we have a tendency to reward ourselves with comfort. Maybe it’s a cupcake or an extra cocktail. Perhaps it’s a lazy afternoon in bed or hours playing a computer game. It’s okay to treat yourself after a long day, but be careful about falling in to the trap of feeling you deserve it all of the time. Those occasional treats can become the norm and before you know it, you’re spending all day in bed and eating cupcakes every evening. (Although, I gotta admit, that sounds really tempting right now…)
Try “treating” yourself in small ways throughout the day to avoid a binge at the end. Also, look for treats that don’t negatively impact your health. I have been amazed at how much better I feel after applying hand lotion in my favorite scent at work. It’s a few seconds that I take for me in the middle of the chaos. Other treats? A few minutes alone on a seat in the sun. A break in the car listening to your favorite song. A cuddle session with your pet.
Yes, your life is crazy right now. But remember what is important. Be sure to make time for yourself and your loved ones. Everything else will fall into place.
And, if you’re interested in trying out painting as a new fitness craze, let me know. I have plenty to go around;)