A Break in Routine

For many of us, the holiday season is a very trying and tempting time. It’s a time when we get together with a lot of others: family, friends, perhaps strangers. There are a lot of parties to go to and things that one simply ‘must’ do. It can all be very overwhelming.

A lot of the stress comes from the extra people around. We are creatures of habit and we like things to remain the same, but with others around, our flow is interrupted. It causes us to think and react differently than if we didn’t have all of those people around us. In situations out of our routine, it is easy to fall back on only patterns and habits. This is especially true of family. We have years of practice at pushing each others’ buttons.

We can survive the stress of this time of year by concentrating on the things that we can control. As much as is possible, stick to your regular routine. There is nothing wrong with scheduling your day to include time for yourself and your sanity. Keep going to as many meetings as you usually go to, or more if possible. This will keep you fresh and on point in your program of recovery. You need not justify your attendance. It’s what you need. If they don’t understand, it’s not up to you to explain.

Keep up your practice of meditation. Having others around the house may cramp your style. Perhaps someone is sleeping in the room where you usually meditate. Maybe there is more noise in the house than you are used to.  Take the dog for a walk, go to the corner store for something, and when you’re out of the house, take time to be quiet and get in contact with your Higher Power for a moment or two. Get up earlier if you don’t see that you have any other time. It matters not how or where you do it, but do it.

So many parties are concentrated around this time of year and it’s expected that we attend. I’ve discovered that a call ahead, asking the host if there’s something we can do to help them set up is very appreciated. Remember they could are also stressed. The ‘arrive early and leave early’ recommendation is very good advice: there are often a lot of temptations at seasonal parties. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone. You don’t need to put yourself to the test. No one has ever blamed me for leaving early and once I am gone, I know that no one will miss me either. And more often than not, I am told the next day that I was very wise to leave when I did.

Keep that routine in your life as much as possible. Keep your balance. If you have to, break the time down into increments. Give your sponsor or other program members a call. They are probably going through similar situations and could use the distraction as well. You will get through this stressful situation. Know that this situation is temporary. If this is your first time going through this in recovery, know that you will get through it and you are not alone. We all have to make our own unique plans for keeping it all together during a change in routine. Soon January will be here, the decorations will come down and your routine will get back to normal.

Happy Holidays!

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Limiting Distractions

As I was going over some of my writing from last week when I was away, I saw in the space at the top of one page I had written: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction. I can choose what’s important for me.” To be honest, I don’t remember writing it. It’s in the middle of five pages of script. I’ve been reading a lot of material lately with respect to self improvement, so it probably stems from there. And it has caught my attention over and over again in the past couple of days: “Most of what’s happening around me isn’t important, it’s a distraction.”

I was reminded of the 80-20 rule which basically says that 80 percent of the time I am involved in things that aren’t important to me and it’s only the things I do during about 20 percent of my time that help me move forward. The idea with eliminating distractions is to change the percentages more toward more of what is giving me results. Over the past couple of months I’ve been learning what my distractions are and changing my habits.

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Probably the biggest distraction and time waster for me is my cell phone. How many times a day do I pick that up to check on something? Sure it’s handy, but it is also a tool and not a master that must be attended to every time it beeps and chimes. I eliminated a bunch of apps that are a distraction. And in the morning I leave my cell on the night stand until I have finished my morning meditation, journal writing and walking the dogs. There is just so little that has to be dealt with right as soon as I get up.

Another distraction I have been whittling down: Facebook. I can waste hours going through stroking egos by giving likes to notifications and videos, and making comments. Again, Facebook or other social media isn’t the culprit, it’s the time and attention that I lavish on what is mostly a distraction. Netflix is another distraction for me, especially a series. No longer do I have to ‘tune in next week on the same channel’ to find out what happens next. I don’t even have to click; automatically it opens the next episode. Before I know it, I’m investing another 42 minutes into it. I’ve limited the amount of news I read daily. I choose the videos I watch on Youtube, I stay away from Instagram and Twitter. So what has happened as a result of my limiting my ‘screen time’?

I have written more in the last two months than I have ever written before. Little of it is publishable, nor would I want it to be. But, if I want to call myself a writer, then I have to write. I am reading some of the classics of literature that somehow I failed to read in the past. I am organizing my home to be more conducive to writing and my other goals, including moving my desk to a more pleasant place. I’ve joined the gym again and work out regularly. And I am organizing my priorities. I am working on increasing the 20 percent: focusing on the areas where I wish to grow. I’m creating large windows of time in my day by eliminating distractions and focusing on what is most important for me.

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