Half term – the joy, the indulgence and the stress

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I’ve had the children home on half-term this week. While it’s been lovely to spend time with them, it’s also meant the total disruption of my usual routine. And I don’t cope well with that. I haven’t found time to write, and I’ve really missed it – writing has definitely become one of the ways I clear my head and find solutions to my problems.

So, why is being out of routine so difficult? I think it’s because our routines give us a structure that enables us to do all the things we need to do to support our physical and mental wellbeing, and when we don’t have our routines, we lose a lot of our support strategies. For example, this week I haven’t been setting the alarm and have been getting up when I feel like it. Although I’ve enjoyed the luxury of being able to read in bed for a bit before I get up, it’s meant that I haven’t been exercising in the mornings, and breakfast has been a quick piece of toast and marmalade, rather than my usual fruit, yoghurt and homemade museli. So, with no exercise to wake me up, and with a more sugary breakfast than I’m used to, is it any wonder I’ve been feeling sluggish until mid-morning?

With a later start in the morning, and frequent breaks to spend time with the children, whereas I’d normally have all my work done by mid-afternoon, it’s been taking me until early evening to get through everything. I’m really lucky to be able to work from home and take a break whenever I want to, but when work drags on later in the day, it’s harder to find time to go to the allotment, or to exercise, or to cook a healthy meal.

On a superficial level, it’s been a really nice week. I haven’t had the stress of rushing around, I’ve been able to spend time with my children, and the weather has smiled on us almost the whole time. But, when I woke up this morning feeling frustrated and tearful for no obvious reason, I took a few minutes to look a little deeper. And I realized that when I’m out of routine, a lot of things don’t get done. I’ve had the joy of spending time with my children, but that time had to come from somewhere, and so some parts of my normal routine were going to have to be skipped for a week. But, by not thinking this through in advance, the things that have been skipped are all the things that I do to nurture me – my writing, my exercise, my time at the allotment, my time in the kitchen focusing on healthy food. Because I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve done this week, I didn’t think it mattered, but when I woke up this morning feeling rubbish, I realized it does.

I’ve fallen into the trap that we all fall into sometimes of putting our own needs behind those of the people around us. But, the thing is, the people around us want us to be happy; they don’t want us to always be neglecting our own needs. And we are better able to support our families when our own needs are met. We have to find a balance, a way to care for those around us and also to nurture ourselves. Our routines help us find this balance, which is why when we’re out of routine, we risk being out of balance too.

I don’t think it does us any harm to be out of routine from time to time. Taking a break from everyday life can reinvigorate us and give us the opportunity to try new things or do things that don’t normally fit into our day. But in fitting these extra things in, we need to be mindful of what we are leaving out. We have to make sure that we continue to nurture ourselves, so that we don’t end our break more stressed than we started it and so that we can slot easily and comfortably back into our familiar routine when the time is right.

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