No matter what you do, or where you go, when you’ve been away from your regular routine for more than a day or two, the first day back is rough. So welcome back to Monday! Back to routine, back to normal life – at least for 4 more weeks.
Over the Thanksgiving break, I was quiet here on the blog. I really wanted to invest my energy in my family, and be present with them. Thursday we spent the day with family, and enjoyed two delicious meals (and am now officially over turkey until next Thanksgiving). I even managed to convince my crew to let me capture some family pictures to Christmas cards – can I get an AMEN!
I mean, look at these faces!
The rest of our time off – and yes I mean the next 3 days – were spent in full-on sloth mode. It took us 3 days to put up 4 Christmas trees, a rate of progression that makes my husband cringe, but ensured we never felt rushed. The boys played, we watched Christmas movies, and for the first time in months, just enjoyed having no where to go or anything to do. It was certainly a weekend of thankfulness.
But today – ugh! Re-entry. I was introduced to this concept a while ago and have been observing just how true this struggle is. Whenever we’ve been out of our normal routine, even for periods as brief as 3 days, the re-entry into normal life can be a struggle.
Getting in bed at a logical time (ie. not staying up until 1 am to binge watch Netflix). Remembering to lay out clothes for the next day. Showing up to work, ready to get down to business. Even going to the grocery store. All the ordinary tasks you do on a daily basis with little thought, can feel exhausting. Overwhelming even. And if you have kids, well forget about it. They fall apart. I’m already dreading tonight and tomorrow evenings, because I know the drama that awaits from tired kids, struggling to get back into routine.
It’s part of life that in my house we just label as “the suck.” It’s the parts of life that just happen, that you have to just push through. I often think of astronauts because rarely do you find a more uncomfortable re-entry then that of hurdling through the Earth’s atmosphere in a blaze of fire. [A bit dramatic, but true.] Re-entry might not be the most pleasant experience, but I would bet there isn’t an astronaut out there that would say it wasn’t worth it to travel to space.
In short, there’s no way to avoid re-entry. There are however, ways to make re-entry a little more palatable. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked to help ease the pain of re-entry after a long, but fun, break.
1. Expect a few difficult days.
Military operations meticulously plan missions and look at every possible outcome. Why? Because they want to know what will happen in the best case scenarios but also, they want to be prepared for the worst case ones too. They have a plan on what to do when the worst goes down so they aren’t left standing around surprised.
This friend, is what you’ve got to do. Sure the first couple days may go smoothly and you never missed a beat. But what if they don’t? By anticipating “the suck” you give yourself a mental leg-up to handling life. Be reasonable here. This is not the time to talk a good game, and tell yourself it’s all good.
For me, I know that the first couple of days back, I’m probably going to be a bit more tired, which means, I’m probably not going to be as patient as I should be. I also know that I’m more than likely going to find myself quickly overwhelmed with things that need to get done (groceries, client projects, laundry, and a mountain of returns come to mind). I also know my kids are going to be riding the struggle bus hard. Now, this doesn’t make me a negative Nancy as some might say. This helps me build my game plan. Which leads me to the next tip.
2. Get back into routine as quickly as possible.
For my family, this starts the night before. It would be so easy to soak up the last few hours of a long break, but doing so will surely make for a rough start the next day. Last night, we did what we’d do any other school night – showers, bookbags packed, clothing laid out, lights out at normal bedtimes. Do the kids like it? Nope. Did it change how they felt this morning? Nope – they still were not excited about going to back to school. What it did do though is follow the routine they know, which will help them adjust back to regular life easier.
For me – Monday’s are my free mornings. I could have drop the kids off and come home to enjoy 4 hours of peace and accomplish nothing. In the short run, that might have helped me feel less tired, but it certainly wouldn’t have helped me fall back into my routine. Instead, I made my to-do lists, and planned to spend the morning doing all the things I normally would do.
Again – do I want to? That’s a big fat negative. Yet I know getting myself back into my routine will make me less anxious and irritable, which will help my family, so I do it.
Here’s where step 1 comes into play though. I know I’m likely going to be tired, so while my to-do list is long, I have to set reasonable expectations. The reality is I’m probably not going to have the capacity to make it to all the stores for returns, and get groceries, and knock out all the laundry. That’s OK! It’s OK to admit you might need a little adjustment time. So instead of charging into today with a mile long list, I prioritize. Today I have to get groceries and start on laundry. I have a simple and quick dinner planned so that the evening is as calm as possible. If I can squeeze in one extra stop and 30 minutes of client work, that’s great. If not, it will be ok.
Whatever your day looks like, look at it with realistic eyes, and be honest about what you actually can get done. Then be ok with that. Even if you don’t accomplish everything you normally could, getting into your rhythm will help you get back to normal faster.
3. Don’t neglect your quiet time.
I’ll be the first to admit, when I’m tired, rushed, or out of sorts, my quiet time is often the easiest task to cut. There, I said it! You can stop shaming yourself too.
No one is demanding updates on your study time the way they might be about a project at work. No one is loudly whining about your quiet time, the way they are when dinner isn’t on the table the moment they are hungry. People depend on your to show up, and if you don’t you hear about it. In those moments, it can be hard to prioritize the right in front of us needs vs. the long-term needs of our hearts. Yet, it’s in the messy moments where we need Jesus more than ever.
God cares about the mundane of our lives. Don’t believe me? Check out my Instagram post from Thursday evening. If God didn’t care about the mundane, we’d have been in a really mess.
He knows the stress you feel. The exhaustion that is weighing down on you. The struggle of getting on with the getting on after time away. So instead of cutting the corner, why not draw closer to Him, even for just a few moments. Ask Him to grant you patience when you simply have none left. Ask Him for energy where there is none. Acknowledge your need for grace and ask that He help you give grace more readily. Basically, ask Him for help. Don’t assume you’re in this alone – because you’re not. God is with you and ready to jump in if you’ll only ask.
The bad news – re-entry is tough. Here’s the good news though – it’s temporary. Within a few days routines will feel comfortable, moods will settle, and life will return to whatever your version of normal might be. And just as an astronaut wouldn’t change their mind about going to space because re-entry is tough, my guess is you wouldn’t change your mind about having the time away with your family. So embrace the suck, build a battle plan, and know “this too shall pass.”
Happy Monday Friends – let’s do this!