Fall Back Into a Routine
Summer is now a current pastime since the official start of Autumn has just arrived, greeting us with cooler temperatures, shorter days, and lots of rain in some parts of the country. With work and school back in full swing (for those who have littles), or if you, yourself, are continuing your education or learning a new skill, one thing is for certain: the luxury of sunbathing and lounging without an alarm clock to wake you up on most days can be quite foreign, let alone jarring. If you find it challenging to get back into work-school mode and the hustle and bustle of fall seems to zap all your energy on a daily basis, then keep reading. Just because some of the feel-good spirit of summer vacations, farmer markets, concerts in the park, and neighborhood gatherings have started to fizzle doesn't mean our zeal for having a good time has to. This article will suggest easy-to-adopt tips to help you manage and cultivate a marvelous “fall” with optimism and motivation. Doing so will better ensure you can enjoy the days that lead into the end of the year, and equip you with a healthier immune system--amidst the season(s) changing.
Any transition, let alone ones from the leisurely days of summer to the regimented work and school week, much done insulted inside, can be quite a drastic one. This past summer has been more “open” than those of recent past years, as more businesses have welcomed in-person experiences and lifted many restrictions due to COVID. The stark difference has most of us longing for even more gatherings, celebrations, and memories to be made. After the energy of summer concerts in the park, beach, and lake days, BBQ’s and picnics have begun to quiet and settle, it is not surprising that more and more people begin to feel the creep of stress and overwhelm build.
The fact that the traditional flu season in the United States starts in mid-October and lasts through the new year and into February and March should serve as a telltale sign that better preventative measures should be considered for anyone concerned about their mental, emotional and physical well-being. Even something as simple as ensuring your Vitamin D levels are optimized, considering Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—caused by a lack of the Vitamin D hormone and insufficient sunlight exposure is highest during winter months, can be a wonderfully preventative habit to adopt to keep moods and immune systems higher during fall and winter months.
Below are 6 tips that will help you and your family members transition into the new fall season with a better routine, sense of ease, motivation, and productivity so everyone can feel the ultimate healthiest and happiest all along the way.
1. Establish a consistent morning routine and practice it (even on weekends). If you've lost a productive and efficient am routine during the sunny summer days, no problem. Start now and establish one that is realistic and get yourself back on track. Set a routine timer on your smart devices to help you be accountable on your rest and wake times—even on weekends. Your body thrives on consistency and so does your innate circadian rhythm which wants balance and also has a deep hand in encouraging your body to produce the right hormones responsible for mood and mental clarity. If you travel to different time zones for work, be mindful of the routine and try to eat and sleep at the same time as your “home” clock. This keeps unnecessary stress at bay and your “fall into your routine habits” much easier.
2. Continue doing your favorite hobbies. This reminder is extremely important to your overall lifestyle satisfaction. Make time in your current fall schedule to make sure you have plenty of time to nurture your inner child’s play desire—going to the beach (even if you have to bundle up this time around to do so), going bowling or to the movies or meet up with friends at your favorite diner helps you to brew joy and connectedness to nature, community, and others—all important to driving good immune system functioning.
3. Set up weekly preparation, planning, and catch-up time. If you fail to plan, you’re more likely to fail your plan. Our minds really dislike uncertainty, so the more you can write out, envision, and commit to preparing for success in the next week or two to come, the better. Preparation allows the mind to set anxiety and worry aside and builds your body’s confidence barometer. Studies show over and over again those who write their goals and to-dos down succeed far more than those who do not declare their aspirations on paper. Your mind believes what you tell it (and write it down), so start scribbling!
4. Calm your nerves and any defeating chatter in your head by moving your body. A growing body of research is finding that movement best breaks the cycle of mind anxiety brought on by a trigger experienced in the brain. In other words, the more you move your body in times of stress, overwhelm, panic, and discomfort caused by a sense of reactivity to something occurring in the environment or circumstance beyond what seems to be your control, the faster the icky feelings will subside. 90% of blood flow ceases to reach the frontal cortex of your brain (the space for executive functions and logical thinking. Instead, you react with emotion and impulsivity—activating the sympathetic nervous system’s stress response of either freezing, fighting, fawning (doing whatever someone else wants you to do) or fleeing. If you want to keep your body healthy, happy and well, choose to go for a walk (even a short 5-minute walk is extremely effective), deeply breathe fresh nourishing oxygen into your lungs for a minute or two, take a cold shower, do gentle yoga (or a forward fold for a few minutes), hold a muscularly difficult pose- like a plank pose or execute consecutive push-ups until the stressful thoughts subside or give/receive a long 30-second hug. Listen to calming binaural tones that calm your agitated brainwaves, jump on a trampoline or skip the length of half a block. All of these actions use action and the body to instill sustainable change and shift in the body from alarm to calm.
5. Throw a party and celebrate the fall like it’s a new year. The end of summer can be a happy time if you treat it as such. Celebrate the beginning of this new chapter by throwing a party, dinner, get-together or barbeque. This way, your children won't dread school and you’ll have a better-shifted perception from “having” to work or “having to” get up earlier, to “getting to” go to work, and “getting to” cultivate a greater sense of gratitude instead of dread.
6. Manage your caffeine intake. Caffeine must be metabolized by the body and it is done with the help of cortisol, a stress hormone. If you want to feel less anxious and frenetic during times of change and when your brain has to be at its sharpest, the best is to watch your caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, and tea) consumption. One to two cups a day is plenty. Switch to fruit-infused water or ones with essential minerals, instead.
Knowing that feeling stress is perfectly normal as a human, and oftentimes goes along with new situations, a change in routine, season or new environment. The key to optimizing immune, physical, mental, and emotional health, however, is to learn how to regulate the mind that is feeling alarmed, so it doesn’t go into overdrive and burn out (because that doesn’t look or feel good on anyone). Taking a few of these tools and implementing them will help you down-regulate an overwhelmed mind, immensely. Change is inevitable but getting sick is not. Resistance to change, over time, will most likely lead you to feel chronically helpless in the situations in and around your home/school/work life. Chronic stress doesn’t make your mind feel at ease or any more lucid. Trust that there are better ways to handle stress and change, but you’ll most likely be going to “go” through it (though avoidance is a much more attractive option sometimes).
Put a few of these tips into play to better ensure your preparedness for the changing seasons. Even if you have to move slowly to implement some of these changes, as long as you are not moving backward, trust that your physical body, mindset, brain state, and mood will mirror the work you put into enhancing your overall lifestyle.