How to Deal When Your Routine Is Totally Trashed Over the HolidaysIt’s not weird if you’re craving an early bedtime, vegetables, and walking.
There’s lots to love about the holidays (cue the Mariah), but this time of year can also completely destroy the delicate ecosystem that is your routine. Suddenly, your calendar is lined with parties (on weeknights!?!) and you have 6,000 gifts to buy and work tasks to wrap up before you set your OOO. It’s a mess, and it can leave you feeling like one—or at least a little Grinch-y and slightly constipated.
Therapists agree that this is a thing. “Routines help us feel safe, comfortable, and in control,” says licensed clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, PhD. Habits also help you avoid decision fatigue, make you feel like you’re taking care of yourself, and create a sense of predictability in an otherwise crazy world. Ah, stability, ILY.
While you might not be able to (or want to) unsubscribe from the holidays altogether, these expert-approved tips will help you gain a better sense of OK-ness till everything goes back to normal. Honestly, these hacks might even help you enjoy(!?) the next few weeks of ugly sweaters and waaay too much family time.
1. Decide what you cannot survive without.
If you have a very intricate routine that involves 10 different skin-care products in the morning and a bedtime ritual featuring a very specific brand of tea (Sleepytime is life), some aspect of your routine is likely getting the boot this time of year.
So it’s time to prioritize. “If your schedule is going to be thrown off significantly, you might need to compromise,” says Dr. Howes. Rank your self-care go-tos from most to least important, and then focus on keeping up the habits you value the most. If you know that getting a solid eight hours of sleep (or, um, 10) is key, make it a point to head to bed on time. If you need that meditation sesh first thing, get a moment of chill every a.m. When you can prioritize your nonnegotiables, you won’t feel as stressy about dropping the “nice-to-haves.”
2. Get creative.
If you're staying with people who don’t have all the tools your routine requires, you might have to go out of your way to make it work. But patching together a plan of attack that looks something like your day-to-day can help, says Dr. Howes. Say your digestive system cannot function without a gross but necessary morning smoothie. Order a lil blender to your parents’ house and head to the store to find something green to stick in it. It might not be exactly the same, but it’s better than nothing. You might even (gasp!) enjoy the challenge.
3. Flex your boundaries.
Ah, boundaries, the official sponsor of the holiday season. And when it comes to keeping up a routine this time of year, they can really come in handy. The goal is to preserve the non-negotiable parts of your day, even if it means canceling plans or compromising on a family activity, says Dr. Howes.
That can be hard, it’s true. But you can start drawing your line in the sand by giving people a heads-up. That can sound like, “I wish I could stay out for the holiday party afterparty tonight, but I’m a monster without sleep! Let’s get coffee tomorrow so you can catch me up!” Or, “Do you mind if we start our holiday bake-a-thon a little later in the day? I’d like to squeeze in a walk before we get after it.”
When it comes to family stuff, especially those ~traditions~, you might take some heat for changing things up. If that happens, remind your people that you’re not really asking for permission here. That said, there’s nothing wrong with finding a compromise to meet both of your goals (like jumping into the cookie bake an hour or two after the die-hards get it started at 6 a.m.).
Yes, you’ll be missing out on some of the family fun, but if the silly little mental health walk (or whatever it is) is important to you, then it’ll be worth it.
4. Accept the chaos.
In some cases, clinging to your routine will actually be more stressful than just throwing in the towel for a few weeks. For example, if you only see the cousins you love once a year, heading home to get in bed instead of playing one more round of Uno with them might keep you wide awake anyway.
So if you feel like you’re white-knuckling it, give yourself permission to just. let. go. “Remember that this is temporary, and there are benefits to being flexible,” says therapist Amalia Miralrío, LMSW, LCSW. Allowing your routine to step aside can create space for meaningful connections with your people and life experiences that are good for your well-being.
5. Consider it a way to reevaluate.
As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder—unless it doesn’t. This is true of crushes and tracks for your routine too. If your daily rhythm is on hiatus during the holidays, frame it as a chance to reassess what is and isn’t working for you, suggests Dr. Howes.
Maybe you don’t really miss sweating first thing in the morning or you’re counting the seconds until you can get back to journaling every damn day. Whatever you’re noticing, taking time off can ultimately motivate you to jump back into your most meaningful habits and create space to think about changes that would make your normal schedule more sustainable, he explains. Look at you being all strategic!
6. Dig into your feelings a little further.
This one might sound simple but it’s a biggie. If going off of your regular grind has you feeling weird but you haven’t explored the iceberg of emotions beneath that, this is a good time to do so. By naming how abandoning your routine makes you feel, you can start to process those emotions a bit more without having to necessarily do something about them, says Miralrío.
Take a sec to ask yourself, What am I feeling when my routine goes totally off track? Do you feel overwhelmed? Out of control? Irritated? Pinpoint an emotion or a few that feel true and jot them down in your Notes app or journal before sitting with them for a bit. (Aha, agitation. I see you. You’re welcome here.)
7. Phone a friend.
If you’re struggling to deal with all of the stuff your dismantled routine brings up, call in some backup. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or your therapist. Let them know how you’re feeling and ask for support, suggests Miralrío.
Miralrío recommends saying something like, “Hey, I know there's not really a solution to this, and I don't expect you to have one, but I'm so overwhelmed with the changes in my routine. Do you have time to talk?” A vent sesh can make you feel more OK not being OK, and we definitely all need that right now.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.