I’m a yoga teacher, so when I bring up flexibility, people usually think I’m talking about physical abilities and how far someone can get into a particular pose… which, let me just say, is definitely important for your general health and wellbeing. But you DON’T have to be flexible to begin a yoga practice!! Your flexibility levels are highly individualized. Start where you are. Leave comparison at the door. Tune into your body and you will notice the changes in it when you begin.
But that’s not the flexibility I’m talking about here. I’ve been pondering more and more about the kind of adaptability that we can tap into when something unexpected happens. THAT type of flexibility.
I recently wrote a post called “Chaotic or Calm?” about how planning ahead and having a routine in your daily life can help ease stress levels. Time management and budgeting are super important and I’ve found that having some set structure in one’s day can help us get more done and make the most of the hours we’ve got in a day, AND make the most of the dollars we’ve got in our bank accounts too!
So yes, having a regular routine can have a huge impact on the quality of life we experience.
That said, total rigidity in our schedules and habits can negate the benefits of set structure because, let’s face it… shit happens, crises occur, and surprises (both happy and challenging) can spring up at any time. And when that is going on, we need to decide how to deal with those unexpected events in ways that work with the time management and budgeting habits we’ve put into place.
So, you might be wondering how that can even be a thing?
Listen to me here, there’s freedom to be found in structure!
How…? First off, its crucial that you are able to recognize what your biggest priorities and non-negotiables are in your life. Which daily and weekly things are at the top of your list? You know the ones. Those things that if they don’t happen, everything else seems to slide sideways real quick. Those are the ones that you strive to keep in place on the regular because taking care of them and knowing you have a plan in place to support them will definitely lighten your daily decision making load and there’s been studies that show that having to make less decisions can reduce stress and feelings of overwhelm. Oh yeah! And that’s going to set you up for success!
So let’s call those things your baseline. It’s what sets the tone and structure of both your days and weeks. A few less things to have to actively think about because they are part of your everyday habits. Check!
Having that kind of routine in place frees up your decision making for the secondary levels in your life. These are typically things that pretty much have to happen at some point, but not necessarily in exactly the same way every week. So maybe this might look like deciding what groceries you are going to buy that week (and subsequently knowing what meals you’ll be making), or maybe you have time blocked off to work out but you need to decide what that will look like based on the weather. You know, stuff like that.
Those are the sorts of habits I’m encouraging you to put in place so you’ve got some sense of routine in your life that happens without you having to think on it too much.
There is, however, one big caveat I want to put out there though… you need to let go of complete and utter rigidity in your routine (wait, what?), because that can actually work against you in the long run. This is where flexibility can be your best friend!
What does this sort of flexibility look like?
Well, first of all it doesn’t mean that if something comes up and you can’t avoid dealing with it in a way that won’t disrupt the regular flow you’ve got in place that you end up abandoning all that you’ve worked so hard to put in place. Please don’t do that.
Rather, tell yourself “this is temporary, but unavoidable,” (like an illness or injury) or “this is a special opportunity that we don’t want to miss out on,” (such as family visiting from out of town or winning tickets to an amazing show) or “this is something that I wasn’t expecting to buy or pay for, but its necessary or a very good deal on something we use all the time,” (say if the furnace breaks, or the jars of pasta sauce your family loves is on case lot sale and you can save a bundle!) You know, those times when someone is ill, someone is visiting, or there’s an amazing sale on something you use all the time or something has broken and absolutely has to get repaired or replaced.
You’re allowed to make exceptions when you really have to, and this doesn’t mean you’ve failed or you’re weak, or you’re undisciplined.
When and if you find yourself in this situation, check in with yourself and your family if needed. Then take a moment to properly assess what’s going on and how important it is. Be super honest with yourself. If it is something that you really can’t ignore or put off, then make your decision, act accordingly, and get back to your regular routine as soon as possible.
Structure, flexibility, and freedom. Make the best use of them!