Just about now you've hit your summer groove: maybe it includes less demanding work days, more relaxing social outings and longer nights spent nurturing your soul with "me" activities. Stress levels tend to drop in the summer months, and overall we have a sunnier outlook (pardon the pun).
But if you've stepped into a store lately, you know that fall is beating down summer's door. Back-to-school shopping is in full swing, Halloween displays are up in some stores and the gardeners amongst us are beginning to think about their autumn harvest. How can we put the brakes on and squeeze all we can out of the days to come?
Keep summer alive, September, October or any month, with these five tips.
1. Get Close to Nature
The summer habit you need all year long: Being Outdoors.
The sun beckons you outdoors during the summer months but that doesn't mean that it is the only season for outdoor activities. Getting up close and personal with nature has been proven to fight symptoms of depression, and to support overall well-being. The fall is a great time for hikes, to take up the sport of running, to play ball tag with your family, explore a beach or go for a bike ride.
2. Organize Your Life
The summer habit you need all year long: Organization for More Relaxing Routines.
Summer is often the time when we jump off of the treadmill of life (or at least slow it down); and this is why getting back on in the fall can feel like such a challenge. One of my best tips to patients struggling with high-levels of stress is to organize their family's routine as much as they can to avoid any element of anxiety-producing chaos.
You know how you feel when you can't find your keys and the kids are late for school? Have one place to store your keys. Have a set routine every morning, and delegate tasks. Prepare for the hours in your day that are busiest by setting things out the night before. Choose Sunday as your organization day -- prep meals and snacks, set out clothes for the week, complete chores.
When your treadmill operates more efficiently, it won't have to be operating at such a high speed.
3. Find Time to Unplug
The summer habit you need all year long: Unplugging.
One of the beautiful things about summer is that many people give themselves the opportunity to unplug. This New York Times poll found that 40 per cent of people studied checked their work email in off-hours. Is this you? What would happen if you didn't "check-in"?
And you don't have to be on a mobile device to be guilty of this hyper-connectivity. A study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that the average person checks their email 15 times a day. And by reducing this number to three times a day, stress levels dropped. Responding to emails (or texts) continuously throughout the day means you are always in "reactive" mode. You don't own your time; but are allowing others to set your priorities. This is where the stress comes in. Set aside time in your work day to check your email and use the other time to dig into projects. The world will not explode, I promise you.
4. Fresh Food from the Farm
The summer habit you need all year long: Eat in Season.
Because they are more abundant in the warmer summer months, most people consume more fresh foods in July and August. But it is possible to eat well all year long, choosing foods that are in-season. Learn to shop the season for a healthy waistline and glowing skin, as well as enjoying many other benefits. Take a look at various online resources that tell you which foods are grown when in your area. And make friends with a farmer; eating locally not only helps you access more nutritious food, it also helps the environment. Look for a CSA program in your area.
5. Getting Hydrated
The summer habit you need all year long: Stay Hydrated.
The warm weather encourages us to hydrate more often. While it is true that an increase in your body temperature, and the sweating that results, requires more hydration, your need to consume water should be a priority every month of the year. Most people don't drink enough making them chronically dehydrated. Often, our body signals the need for hydration and we mistake this cue for hunger (weight loss tip: have a glass of water before reaching for a snack so you aren't confusing the cues).
Try to aim for eight glasses of water a day and carry a glass or stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go. By the time you feel the need to drink, you are already dehydrated. Continually topping up with water (nope, soda doesn't count) impacts your overall health.
If you aren't sure you are drinking enough water, take the pee test. After you urinate, look at the colour of your pee -- is it bright yellow (you aren't getting enough) or closer to clear (bingo)?
While we may not be able to hang onto the sun all year long, or some of the other benefits of summer, we can adjust our life to keep the spirit of summer alive all year long.
Some people are impacted by the darkness of winter months; a noticeably altered mood during winter might be a signal that you should speak with your health professional about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Many people find that light therapy -- sitting next to a specific type of lamp during the day -- creates a significant benefit.
Follow these simple tips and carry your summer vacation mood through all year long!
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