Adopting new habits: Want to join me?

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You know, I didn’t have “write a blog” on my to-do list today, but I thought I’d share something, because it seemed especially relevant to the TOPS audience.

Some background first: I’m a night owl, and I always have been. My brain just works better at night — lately, it’s like, I can get all three of my children asleep; my husband, too, considering he works a very early-morning shift … and then it’s one of the best feelings, to be able to “tuck in” my household, and then pull open my laptop in the silence and concentrate on the work that I wasn’t able to get to earlier in the day: The writing tasks, or the MUST FOCUS types of assignments. I typically do the bulk of my deep thinking/heavier writing things between the hours of 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. And I really don’t mind. I might even prefer this strange schedule that I’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

However! For those who know me personally, I have a lot on my plate these days. My older two kids are in the second grade and kindergarten, my husband works off-hours and he’s constantly exhausted (meaning, he’s known to fall asleep on the couch midday), and our youngest is 17 months. That’s a challenging age, at least, it is for me. I’ll take a newborn all day, compared to how much vigilance is required to parent a near-toddler. I swear, if I take my eyes off Bridget for even a second, she’s throwing plates off the table, climbing on something she shouldn’t be climbing, diving off the furniture, eating her sister’s fun-shaped erasers (to be fair, they do look delicious), 😉 flipping over the baby gate, drawing on herself with markers, begging to go outside, then come back in, no, GO BACK OUTSIDE, no, COME IN NOW, and phewwwww, it’s exhausting!

I try to go out with friends every so often as an outlet (again, usually once my house is in bed for the night), and I attempt to make it to this hot yoga class semi-regularly, and all of a sudden, I don’t have as much time in the evenings as I’d like. I’m helping people with homework, I’m thinking about who has soccer, dance, needs a permission slip signed, I’m packing lunches, and my brain has NO space for deep writing tasks when all is said and done.

And that’s perfectly OK.

Remember my blog about everything being a season?

Maybe this just isn’t my season to work at night.

That’s fine; I’m fairly decent at keeping in mind that nothing is permanent, and this stuff is fluid. Life evolves, maybe I’ll get back to my beloved nighttime work in 3 weeks, or maybe 3 months, or perhaps 3 years (although I sure hope it’s not 3 years!)

Being honest with myself about my capacity was an important first step.

Still — I do have to get my work hours in, and I can usually only knock out 4-6 hours at a time on most weekdays, based on my childcare situation. So the question came up in my mind a few weeks ago … if I’m acknowledging that there needs to be a shift in my schedule, when am I going to make up that work time? If not nights, then when? There is a lot going on behind the scenes at TOPS, and I can’t get off schedule when it comes to my own team’s projects.

It was my husband actually (whose alarm goes off at 1:30 a.m. every day, so he’s very aware of how many hours are in the morning, lol) who suggested I could go to bed by a somewhat reasonable hour — even 11 p.m. would be good, based on what I had been doing — and knock out a chunk of work in the early morning hours. Our older kids start school fairly late (9:20 a.m.), so in theory, I could easily wake up at 5 or 6, and knock out 2-3 hours of my day before anyone needed me.

WOW you guys, I’m here to confirm — easier said than done!

And please, don’t laugh at me! haha. I do realize that waking up at 5 or 6 isn’t even THAT outrageous; many of you do it like clockwork!

I have a friend who wakes up at 4 some mornings to go work out, and believe me when I say, as much as I adore that yoga class of mine, that could never be me.

But I’ve gotten used to my kids waking me up at 8:15 or so — remember, I’m a night owl, so sometimes up until 2 a.m.! — and my default alarm goes off at 8:30 if all 3 of us have truly slept so late that we’re in danger of missing school … so you have to admit, even 6 a.m. is quite the shift for me.

And yet … this blog is actually coming to you from 6:55 a.m. (I’m not sure that’s the time I’ll publish it; I still have some work to do!), but I’m here to tell you, a lifestyle shift IS possible.

And this is where TOPS comes to mind.

Let’s say you’re trying to get healthier: I firmly believe you can do it! Let’s say you need to reset: You can! Here are my words of advice.

  1. Acknowledge what “season of life” you’re in. Whether it’s admitting to yourself that night hours just aren’t working for you at the moment, or maybe you stepped on the scale recently and you’d never seen that number before … give yourself a moment for self-reflection. Seeing that need to change is an important first step. Don’t beat yourself up, just reflect, and get ready to dive in and do the work.
  2. Set yourself up for success. For me, that looks like going to bed at a decent hour (again, even 10 or 11 is a good start!), not tackling the WHOLE problem overnight (admitting I’ll never be a 4 a.m. wakeup kind of girl), taking baby steps toward your goal, and making this a sustainable healthy habit. Maybe for you, if you’re on a healthy living journey, you could grocery shop on Sundays in order to get your work week off on the right foot, meal prep a bit, and circle that TOPS meeting nice and big on your calendar so you don’t miss it. You don’t have to tackle the whole problem today, but you can at least set yourself up to flourish.
  3. Do the easy things first. When I pull open my laptop at 6 a.m., I’m not tackling my most daunting projects. My brain is still fuzzy, and for now, I’m trying to alter my brain chemistry to make “waking up early” a routine. According to Dr. Google, “on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In [one particular] study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.” (This is the article I poached that from, if you’re curious).
    *So, what might this piece of advice look like in your life? Well, if you’re going from not much physical activity to a goal of being able to run a few miles, or spend an hour in a workout class, I wouldn’t dive in the deep end. Don’t expect yourself to do the hard thing right away. For me, I consider it a success for the alarm to go off, I’m working within 15 minutes or so, and I’m then catching up on emails, writing this blog, or circling back to people on project statuses. (Helps to make sure my laptop is fully charged next to my bed!) For you, a success might be, have that alarm go off, lace up your shoes and go on a nice, long walk, before you can talk yourself out of it. If we overwhelm ourselves too quickly or make it seem HARD, that only does us a disservice, and we won’t want to stick with our new habits. See what I’m saying?
  4. Productivity leads to more productivity. Do you ever feel like you knock ONE item off your to-do list, and all of a sudden, you’re rolling? Sometimes you just need to get the ball moving, and I think you’ll be surprised how good it feels, mentally and physically. Again, this blog wasn’t even really on my list for today, but I’m going to get my kids ready for school in an hour or so, and feel that much more motivated to dive back in once they’re out the door. All because I started! Sometimes you just have to begin. So go on that walk! Do your healthier-than-usual grocery shopping. Start your day off with a satisfying, balanced breakfast. The way one good practice leads to another, and another, and another, might surprise you!

Finally, it’s worth calling out, I didn’t make up all this advice on my own. A lot of YOU, our beloved TOPS members, tell us this stuff quite often: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle — healthy habits to adopt for the rest of your life, a shift in lifestyle, etc.

For those of you who’ve worked the TOPS program and found success, you likely know all of this already. But for anyone who might need a gentle reminder or a reset … I’m with you in solidarity!

We can do hard things. Acknowledge where you are today, and let’s get to better living. One day at a time! Whatever that may be.

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14 thoughts on “Adopting new habits: Want to join me?

  1. Michelle, I hate to tell you this but when reading that hilarious retelling of life with kids and chaos, you left out the cupcakes you have to bake for the class party…..

    Love your blog. Keep them coming. And I remember those days raising three crazy boys each two years apart. I equate that time to, “I have no life” but like all things we survive. We give and do our best in all areas of our lives. No more worthy of a cause than our children and husband!

    1. AH I didn’t realize your boys were each 2 years apart! I will say, having the older two can be REALLY nice, considering Bridget’s age gap. I do see people on “the other side” of motherhood and I know these years are fleeting. You’re right – family stuff is absolutely worthy!

  2. Michelle,
    Thank you for this blog and the info in it. For me personally, there’s so much I can relate to; I’m a life-long night owl as well; needing to rearrange my schedule so that I don’t stay up as late (I don’t have little children, both my husband & I are retired & he’s an early riser) I need to be able to get to some early meetings on time more often. I am also the leader of my TOPS Chapter. Our SPA is challenging us this month to work on our sleep. This gives me a new angle to encourage the Chapter members. So for myself & my Chapter, thank you!

    Good luck on the challenge you’ve set for yourself. A fellow night-owl
    Peggy Blake
    NC 0957 Wake Forest

    1. You know what, Peggy, excellent point – I didn’t even touch on all the benefits of a regular sleep schedule … sleep is so important when it comes to healthy living. Thank you for the kind words!

  3. Loved the Blog. I too am a night owl. Get my second wind at or around 10pm being a 3rd shift worker most of the 20 years I worked in a factory. I had a friend in Indiana that stated the 2 rules in life are 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff and rule 2. Everything is small stuff. I also like to think 100 years from now it won’t matter anyway. :). Have a FANTASTIC DAY!!

  4. Michelle,

    Thank you for your blog and your thoughts!!

    How funny it seems we are on the same wave length. I was just thinking this AM about the season of life I am in! My boys are grown and live in a different state. My husband works and I do volunteer work. For 10 years I was caregiver for my mother-in-law. That was a season all on its own. These days I see friends who are retired while we still are not. I know this is a season as well. Time passes. Things change. We can still love where we are.

  5. Hi Michelle:
    loved your blog, actually I love them all. MY CHILDREN ARE GROWN AND SOME OF OUR GRANDCHILDREN, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE JUST YESTERDAY WE HAD A HECTIC TIME WITH SCHOOL AND WORK AND I WAS A GIRL scout leader for fourteen years. though it was some times hectic, now being retired, I miss those days.

    I cherish each moment. we are busy with friends and family, still enjoying dancing , swimming and walking.

    Just enjoy life , no matter the time.
    Jo Morse FL 0439

  6. I too am a night owl, but my husband loves to go to bed around 10. we are both retired, but I love the peacefulness & time alone& he likes to snuggle & really wishes I would change my habits & come to bed at 10. I just listened to a podcast that said people now adays are always in a hurry & lack true motivation. the word motivation struck me. I use to have a lot of motivation, but being retired & having lots of time to keep me busy, ex 6 grandchildren and 2 great, my life has become very complacent. I enjoy my life but I am not motivated. that’s what I need to work on. thanks for your articles. you are so honest & down to earth
    I was in your shoes once with having 3 full term birth in 2 1/2 years & being crazy busy. keep taking one day at a time & before you know it, they will be on their own & then you can revert back to your night owl days! have a fabulous summer!

  7. Hi Michelle I am also a night owl, but I got to bed around 10pm and I am always up at 4am. Since I was in the nursing home the second time I have been up at 4am. It will never change, personally I like it. That is when I am able to get my stuff for the the day. I usually try to get everything done that I have to do early because then I have time to sit around and do nothing(lol). I am a retired RN and I always worked the night shift so I guess it is just in me. So I am single and I don’t have any kids and I live with my Mom. I have been in Tops for about 4 years now and I haven’t lost weight. I need to lose around 100 pounds before the DR will replace my knees and I really need them done. So any help I will get from this blog might help!!! I am the leader now I just started about 5 months ago, but my group is small so I don’t think there is much help there. So I am looking forward to getting to know everyone.

    1. Hi Jennifer! Night owls unite. 🙂 I wish you well in your healthy living journey! I’d encourage you to poke around the TOPS website – we have SO many great resources that might be able to help further. Glad you came on as a Leader! That peer-to-peer support at meetings is likely going to be key. Keep me posted! Fingers crossed for that knee replacement.

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