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Originally published on 1st January 2019 Last updated on 6th January 2021
Whether you’ve just celebrated an event like Christmas, a wedding or the New Year, or perhaps went on holiday or took any other kind of break, you may be finding that getting back in to a good routine is daunting and tricky.
But it’s crucial for your thyroid health.
For me, this situation is most prominent following the week from Christmas to New Year, where healthy eating choices often go out the window, I may drink more alcohol than usual, I’m not sticking to my sleep routine, productivity is quite low and I’m exercising less than usual.
Getting myself back into a good routine is crucial though, in order to keep my thyroid health on track. It’s easy to slip in to long-term poor eating habits, getting used to less exercise and going to bed much later, but all of these things can be detrimental to our thyroid health and exacerbate symptoms.
Now, don’t get me wrong, enjoying a break every now and then is essential to good mental health, well-being and balance, but recognising when you need to start implementing the things that keep you as optimally healthy as possible again, is incredibly important.
Here are four areas I always reassess after any break in routine.
It’s easy for your usual sleep routine to go out the window when other routines do, too.
I know that I function best with 8-9 hours in bed, getting to sleep around 11pm and waking around 8am. However, if I go to bed after midnight, still get 8-9 hours in bed and wake late morning, I feel rubbish! I feel much better starting my day earlier in the morning and well-rested, compared to waking up later and feeling groggy and regretful of my bedtime choice the night before.
When on holiday, at Christmastime or whenever I’ve taken a break, it’s really easy for me to get in to a bad habit of going to bed past midnight and getting up late morning, but breaking this habit is essential.
I’ve realised over the years just how crucial sleep and how installing a consistent routine is important to my energy levels and mood.
If you also have to be awake for work at a certain time each day, it is important to get your body back in to this practise before returning to work following a break. Give yourself at least a few days if not a week to do this. Your body will probably need some time to adjust.
We all like to enjoy some not-so-healthy food and drink, but it’s important to be aware of how everything you put in to your body can either help or hinder your thyroid health. I really understood this after completing my qualifications in diet and nutrition.
I eat more mince pies and chocolate over Christmas, and more ice cream on holiday than I want to admit, but I also know that it’s only time-limited, done while I’m on my break or holiday, and that it’s hugely important for me to get back to giving my body the food it needs to functional optimally, too.
I know when I’m overdoing it with sugar in particular, because I get daily acid reflux and a lot of wind, as my body tells me this non-nutritious food is doing a lot of harm. When I’ve also been missing out on as much dietary fibre as usual, I quickly become constipated and start breaking out in acne.
Drinking alcohol for too many days in a row, even if it’s just one drink each evening, soon contributes to the acne and feeling sluggish and fatigued too. I find that getting back to restricting my alcohol intake to just special occasions is quite an easy adjustment and makes a lot of difference in how I feel.
Dietary adjustments are always one of the more difficult changes to make, so I don’t really recommend cutting things out ‘cold turkey’, but rather making small and easy changes one at a time.
For example, on day one, I’ll make it a conscious effort to get my breakfast back on track, replacing the unhealthy habit of perhaps having a high sugar breakfast, for something more protein based and substantial. The next day, I’ll focus on doing the same for lunch, then dinner and then snacks. You’re allowed to aim for progress instead of perfection.
It’s important to be aware that when you have a health condition such as hypothyroidism, you can overexercise and make your health worse. So when I talk about getting your body moving more, I’m talking about the right kind and amount of exercise for your body. You have to listen to it and go at your own pace, but that doesn’t mean abstaining from exercise altogether.
We should be aiming for a minimum of twenty-minutes of exercise a day, though ideally thirty, which can include gentle walking, yoga, gardening and housework.
I find that over any break or holiday, my exercise routine is inevitably affected in some way. I have less time for long walks, my house is full with visitors I have to entertain so my yoga goes out the window, or I simply get so tired with everything else going on, that I don’t have the energy to spare for exercise.
And that’s OK. Life gets in the way sometimes, but establishing some kind of routine again is important for overall good health. As with anything, always start slow and comfortably and increase your movement gradually so as not to set yourself back in your thyroid health.
Picking Up Productivity
I make a point to switch off from as much work as possible over breaks or holidays, which is great for ensuring I don’t burn out, but getting back in to being productive again is always a bit of a task. As with a lot of what I’ve said above, often easing yourself back in can be the best way to manage this.
Don’t make it your mission to get everything done in one day, such as going back to work, doing the housework, completing all of your errands etc.
Create a manageable plan so that you’re not quickly overwhelmed and all that time de-stressing doesn’t go to waste.
I like to get the housework done a day or two before I go back to work, so that when I do go back, I can focus on that solely. I’ll also plan any other errands or tasks that need doing, for example cleaning the car, sorting out the attic, taking old books to a charity shop, in to my calendar. I’ll designate actual days to do them so I can pace myself and avoid overdoing it all in one day but rather ease myself back in.
Related article: Tips for Keeping on Top of Housework with Thyroid Disease
But remember, if you’re needing to get back in to the routine of things after any break, holiday or event, be kind to yourself and do not beat yourself up. Life is eventful and busy and all we can do is be mindful of what our bodies need and attempt to give them that.
Establishing a routine, including sleep, exercise, nutrition and energy expenditure, has been key to bettering my thyroid health and continuing to make progress with it.
What other things would you add to this list?
The online thyroid course ‘Freedom From Thyroid Fatigue’, which walks you through how to overcome thyroid fatigue and get on top of your thyroid health with a personalised approach.
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article in detail. Reclaim your thyroid healthy life.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.