4 Ways to Get Back in a Healthy Routine After the Holidays With Chronic Illness
Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
Whether you’ve just celebrated an event like Christmas, a wedding or the New Year, or perhaps went on holiday or took any other kind of break, you may be finding that getting back into a good routine is daunting and tricky. But it’s crucial for your health when you live with chronic or mental health conditions.
For me, this situation is most prominent following the week from Christmas to New Year, where healthy eating choices go out the window, I drink more alcohol than usual, I’m not sticking to my sleep routine, productivity is nil and I’m exercising way less than usual.
Getting myself back into a healthy routine is crucial in order to keep my health on track when living with mental and physical health conditions. It’s easy to slip into long-term poor eating habits, getting used to less exercise and going to bed much later, but all of these things can be really detrimental.
Now, don’t get me wrong, enjoying a break every now and then is essential to good mental health, well-being and balance – but recognizing when you need to start implementing the things that keep you as optimally healthy as possible, again, is incredibly important.
It’s easy for your usual sleep routine to go out the window when other routines do, too.
I know that I function best with eight to nine hours in bed, getting to sleep around 11 p.m. and waking around 8 a.m. However, if I go to bed after midnight, still get eight to nine hours in bed and wake late morning, I feel rubbish! I feel much better starting my day earlier in the morning and well-rested, compared to waking up later and feeling groggy and regretful of my bedtime choice the night before.
When on holiday, at Christmastime or whenever I’ve taken a break, it’s really easy for me to get into a bad habit of going to bed past midnight and getting up late morning, but breaking this habit is essential.
I’ve realized over the years just how crucial sleep is and how installing a consistent routine is important to my energy levels and mood.
If you also have to be awake for work at a certain time each day, it is important to get your body back in to this practice before returning to work following a break. Give yourself at least a few days if not a week to do this. Your body will probably need some time to adjust.
We all love to enjoy some not-so-healthy food and drink, but it’s important to be aware of how everything you put into your body can either help or hinder your thyroid health. I really understood this after completing my qualifications in diet and nutrition.
I eat more mince pies and chocolate over Christmas, and more ice cream on holiday than I can count, but I also know it’s only time-limited, done while I’m on my break or holiday, and that it’s hugely important for me to get back to giving my body the food it needs to functional optimally.
I know when I’m overdoing it with sugar in particular, because I get daily acid reflux and a lot of wind, as my body tells me this non-nutritious food is doing a lot of harm. When I’ve also been missing out on as much dietary fiber as usual, I quickly become constipated and start breaking out in acne.
Drinking alcohol for too many days in a row, even if it’s just one drink each evening, soon contributes to the acne and feeling sluggish and fatigued too. I find that getting back to restricting my alcohol intake to just special occasions is quite an easy adjustment and makes a lot of difference in how I feel.
Dietary adjustments are always one of the more difficult changes to make, so I don’t really recommend cutting things out “cold turkey,” but rather making small and easy changes one at a time.
For example, on day one, I’ll make it a conscious effort to get my breakfast back on track, replacing the unhealthy habit of perhaps having a high sugar breakfast, for something more protein-based and substantial. The next day, I’ll focus on doing the same for lunch, then dinner and then snacks. You’re allowed to aim for progress instead of perfection.
It’s important to be aware that when you have a chronic health condition such as hypothyroidism like myself, you can overexercise and make your health worse. So when I talk about getting your body moving more, I’m talking about the right kind and amount of exercise for your body. You have to listen to it and go at your own pace.
I find that over any break or holiday, my exercise routine is inevitably affected in some way. I have less time for long walks, my house is full with visitors I have to entertain so my yoga goes out the window, or I simply get so tired with everything else going on, that I don’t have the energy to spare for exercise. And that’s OK.
Life gets in the way sometimes, but establishing some kind of routine again is important for overall good health. As with anything, always start slow and comfortably and increase your movement gradually so as not to set yourself back in your health.
Picking Up Productivity
I make a point to switch off from as much work as possible over breaks or holidays, which is great for ensuring I don’t burn out, but getting back into being productive again is always a bit of a task. As with a lot of what I’ve said above, often easing yourself back in can be the best way to manage this.
Don’t make it your mission to get everything done in one day, such as going back to work, doing the housework, completing all of your errands etc.
Create a manageable plan so that you’re not quickly overwhelmed and all that time de-stressing doesn’t go to waste.
I like to get the housework done a day or two before I go back to work, so that when I do go back, I can focus on that solely. I’ll also plan any other errands or tasks that need doing, for example cleaning the car, sorting out the attic, taking old books to a charity shop, into my calendar. I’ll designate actual days to do them so I can pace myself and avoid overdoing it all in one day but rather ease myself back in.
But remember, if you’re needing to get back in to the routine of things after any break, holiday or event, be kind to yourself and do not beat yourself up. Life is eventful and busy and all we can do is be mindful of what our bodies need and attempt to give them that.
Establishing a routine, including sleep, exercise, nutrition and energy expenditure, has been key to bettering my physical and mental health and continuing to make progress with it.
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