Keeping your habits while getting the most out of holidays
With the holidays close in view, many feel anxious about maintaining their self-improvement goals, no matter if it's a newly established exercise routine, learning portion control, or building habits to deal with stress. It can be daunting to maintain your habit when surrounded by family during the holiday season. So, what should you do to keep your habit even after the celebrations?
You need to strike a balance between maintaining your routine and enjoying yourself – People celebrate holidays for a good reason. They're your best opportunity to relax, rest, and recover so that you will be in sharp condition when the holiday is over.
What's your favorite way to spend the holiday? Immersing in your favorite things like reading, watching TV, playing games, or eating tasty food are fantastic ways to mentally rest and recover for the upcoming year.
How a routine is like a walk in the park
Think about the last time you tripped and fell. It was probably painful or at least inconvenient, right? Either way, you got up, and continued your journey forward. It would be strange that you just lay there on the ground after falling down (unless you're dealing with a lot, then please do have a moment).
In the very same vein, it would be odd for you to quit your habit altogether just because of a few days of missed workouts, meal planning, or some other habit. Now, resuming your habit is not as easy as getting back up from a fall, but you should pay attention to the days after your busiest holiday period:
It's very case-specific if these determining days are still part of your holiday days (where you're off from work or free from studying, etc.) or a return to the daily routine of your obligations.
Either way, you should devote a lot of willpower for those days as they determine how your previously established routine will continue. At this point, your routine is only a few days away, so re-establishing it (if it even stopped to begin with) will be much easier.
"Lite" it: A powerful way to maintain your habit
Humans are built for routine. Regularity and habits make us very effective from getting hooked to running thanks to an exercise high to being able to function as a hard-working member of society thanks to a regular sleep schedule. That's why suddenly missing your routine is a big (if temporary) step back to a more chaotic and arbitrary lifestyle. Luckily there is a good way to keep your routine up with relatively low effort.
I call this "lite-ing" your routine. A horrible name, I know, but think of it this way: You have no time to go to the gym on Christmas Day evening, so you go for 20 minutes of push-ups and squats instead. Is it equally strenuous? Hell no. Does it still force you to lift your butt off the couch and do some physical work? For sure.
Even though exercising at home might be sub-optimal compared to the gym, doing a little bit of exercise is a great way to guarantee that your fitness habit will stick even after the holidays.
It works for practically any activity: Used to drawing for 2 hours every day? Draw for 15–30 minutes in the morning. Used to reading several chapters of a book at lunch? Read a chapter before going to sleep. There's always a way to do a little bit of your habit during busy days to keep it even somewhat regular.
I used Lite-ing to keep my gym habit when I was really busy: At the start of December, I spent 5 days at work due to attending Slush 2021 while also studying law preparing for my final exams, so my week was filled with work. After working in the office or being at Slush I'd come home to study with what little energy I had left after the day. I obviously didn't have time to spend 60–90 minutes in gym every other day during this time.
Even then, I grabbed my trusty 35 lbs (15 kg) dumbbell and did some rows, bicep curls, body-weight squats, and dumbbell presses to break a sweat and get away from it all. It definitely helped me transition back to my full 4–5 weekly gym workouts habit when I got more time after that hectic week.
Even the most industrious worker can't outrun burnout
Some people make the mistake of thinking that holiday season is a great opportunity for them to kick-start their side hustle ambitions or studying extra hard to get a head start to the others at the start of the next school term. To some, this absolutely holds true. But for the large majority, myself included, this is a bad idea.
Holidays are a great chance to rest since others are doing it, too: You're not missing out on school or work, so you can focus on resting as much as you want. I used to see holidays as opportunities to get ahead, but as the years (and burnout) passed, I've found holidays to be best used for relaxation and recovery.
Is there anything better than a cozy holiday morning with nothing but your favorite activity waiting for you?
Rest is crucial for productivity because no one can work for an extended period of time without recovery. There are very few maximum-performers like Musk or Gates that are driven by being totally immersed in their work with almost no rest. For most of us and even the hardest working 5 %, rest is the better option. You can't stay awake without sleeping regularly, and you can't perform at your best without resting regularly either.
Here's the simple bottom-line: For this holiday, focus on doing something you absolutely love. Turn off your phone, reserve time for yourself and just focus completely on whatever you've been waiting for. I'm going to read a book or two on my list and then play some video games that will go on sale soon. I'm here, set, and ready to disconnect to be more than ready for the next year!
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