Breaking Habits

The trouble with taking a break

The problem with taking a break and changing the routine is precisely that – it breaks the habits. I find myself more often overwhelmed and needing to regroup in the middle of a holiday or long weekend away. As I opened my journal and started to write, I noticed I have been skipping journal days and felt I was getting uneasy. The habits I tend to keep give me peace, and breaking habits quite the opposite.

Limited by Habits?

Am I bound to my habits in a way that it hurts when I don’t follow? No, I can break any of them any time. In fact, as I write this I broke my Tuesday morning habit of releasing my weekly article, as I realized last night I could not keep my eyes open or brain functioning anymore. It was not that late, but I have been giving sleep priority. The habits I have been choosing to adopt over the last year have been carefully chosen as helping me live my life in accordance with my values – none because they are cool or I “should” do them. Which means that i) they are easy to keep and ii) it hurts to break them.

No “me-time”

Yesterday was writing day and I felt overwhelmed and a bit saddened that I did not reserve time for myself. Indeed on long weekends or holidays it is difficult to have time whatsoever for myself. I have allowed myself to sleep late the last few days (as late as kids allow), and even though I kept my morning yoga routine, it was not nearly the “me-time” I hoped for, as I was often with one of the kids in one leg or chatting to me.

As I started writing this, I was surrounded with family at the end of a beach day. I have come to realize that I rather do some short moments where I look inside while still in the middle of everyone, as it allows me to pour out what is in my head and heart. That is the best path to avoid being uneasy through dinner. And in a flash like this, I knew what I was writing about today.

How difficult it can be to take a break when you take
a break.

Unusual but not unheard of, I let pen do its thing and allowed it to solve one of the habits I did not want to break this long weekend – my Tuesday morning article.

The book I never wrote

For years I wanted to call myself a writer again. For years I thought of the days when paper was not enough to hold all my thoughts, mostly poetry when I was a teenager. And for years I said, one day I will write a book. In fact, I even published an article in my former life blog about “the book I never wrote”.  I dug out an excerpt, as the entirety no longer made sense:

“I decide to check my email. And there is an ad. One of those I never read but something caught my attention. It is the book I never wrote, the book about the experience in Mozambique, told by someone who has been in and out the last 10 years. My first thought was positive, I will buy it! I will make it a 2 in 1 and ask Hubby B to buy it as a birthday present.

And now it has been 10 minutes since that email and it has sunk in. It is the book I never wrote. The book I started three times in different years, I believe 2004, 2008 and 2010, always with different approaches, but I never brought it to fruition. And that is only counting the books about Mozambique. My last one was so much more than that, and one that I really felt I would pull through, but then life gets in the way. And who is going to read it anyway.

I am on mat leave and many times I looked at the different parts where i have my notes and scribbles. Many times I looked and thought this could be a good time. And then the thought goes with another feed, another Whatsapp, another charity thing to do, another thing I have to do that always comes first.

And I get hit by a sudden sadness. Will I ever write it. Will I ever write them. Will I ever get to dedicate time (that not in a tube or plane) to do something I have always loved? Does it even matter?”

Why all this sadness?

This sadness shows why I did not want to break the habit of writing my weekly article today. 6 months ago, I committed that I would no longer feel sad about the book I never wrote. And as such I said that if I wanted to be a writer, then I would be a writer. I trashed my 10-year-old blog, I launched a new one and I was no longer haunted by the fear of sharing it with people. I always wondered who on earth would want to read it. Now I know quite a few people do.

Launching a writing habit was one of the most important things I have done for myself over the last year. Firstly, it removed one of my FOMO items – writing a book. I no longer worry about it. I know I will. And even if I don’t, it doesn’t matter, as I am now sharing other forms of writing with those who need it. Secondly, it acts as therapy. I often find that as I write, whatever problem is in my mind is suddenly put on paper and becomes a much more distant fact, as if it no longer belongs to me. And finally, it goes with my value of sharing knowledge with others. I share what I learn in my career at work on in my charity, I share the struggles and lessons or tips that help me at home. Most importantly, I share my passion for growth.

So breaking this
habit is not an option. 

What is the solution then?

You are on holiday, you have no fixed waking or sleeping hours, you are stumbling between family events and you don’t even remember where you left your computer or any of your writing devices for that matter. It is hard not to feel overwhelmed in the need to do everything else rather than “me-time”. Breaking habits seems like the only way out. I have found some solutions, though clearly not all (or I would not be writing this)

  • Accept a break: a break is usually what it means – time to break with the routine and the habit. So to the extent that you can accept it, that will take some of the anxiety away. It helps to be mentally prepared in advance, rather than think you will do all the 10 things you have been postponing in a single weekend when you are taking care of 2 children and family. It is not happening.
  • Carve-out mini “me-times”: As I did yesterday afternoon, maybe stop for a moment while everyone is around you but not needing attention and take some time. 5 minutes for meditation, 5 minutes for journaling, 5 minutes for calling someone you wanted to speak to. Any of those will help in getting to the end of the day in a more complete manner.
  • Take different “me-time”: I admit it, I had me-time this weekend. I started reading a fiction book for the first time in a long time, for the new book club I have been invited to join. The book keeps you going easily and I did not want to stop. I always loved reading and this book is intense. So I made different small times to read over the last few days. I may have even exaggerated in balancing the small amount of free time that I had, but I know I had some.
  • Be flexible: sometimes, it may just not work. I wanted to be angry last night as I could not write through the full article and Hubby B interrupted me for something admin we had to do. By the end of that I really could not type post a dinner full of red meat and a glass of red wine. It was more than I could fight for, no matter how good at keeping habits I am. It was a really nice dinner. And I just woke up earlier today, to write as the sun rises. I have a choice. I could choose breaking the habit or changing the habit slightly.

Breaking habits is no failure

Breaking habits may sometimes feel like a failure. The inability to keep up when things are less structured or when all is good and you are on holiday. Again, it goes back to my point of why you have certain habits. When adopting new habits, it is most important to really know why you are choosing to adopt them. That will determine whether you want to keep them through your holidays and through your rough times. They are pointless otherwise.

And as every good rule in life, habits are there to be broken. Just not too often that you make a habit out of breaking habits. If you value them, you will find a way. Without anxiety. And no failure.

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

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