Back to school. Three dreaded words or three glorious words, depending on who you ask. Although my moms might feel some relief to have their kiddos back in school, lots of us may grieve the loss of summer and feel anxious or stressed about the upcoming year, particularly while we are still in a pandemic and things are still unpredictable. Even if you’re someone who is working and not in school, there’s something about the start of a new school year that can both reinvigorate and overwhelm lots of us.
If you’re like, please, Alyssa, I’m totally chillin’ with my fall scented candles and PSL, then get it girl, you can skip this one! But if you’re feeling a bit anxious, read on for some tips.
1) What can you take with you from the summer?
There is something about the summer time that feels really good to many of us and our nervous systems. The sunlight and the warmth we get with our limbs exposed, the longer, lazy days, the carefree attitude, the permission to just be. I want you to close your eyes and think about what you relish about the summer. Think about the small moments, the big moments, the rituals, and everything in between. What can you take with you into the fall? Maybe you go easier on yourself because life feels more relaxed. Maybe you linger over a cup of coffee instead of gulping it down while scrolling Insta or distractedly talking to your kids. Maybe you walked outside more, in your neighborhood or on the beach. Maybe you made weekly trips to the farmer’s market. Maybe you went on vacation and/or took more mental health or PTO days. I want you to consider taking at least one of these moments or rituals and incorporating them into your daily routine. You deserve to have the ease and happiness of summer in your daily life, no matter the season.
2) Keep catching those rays
Even when it’s chilly, even when it’s cloudy, get out and get some sun. Vitamin D not only helps us fight off diseases and have strong bones, but it also plays a role in regulating our mood. Not only is it important to get sunlight, but being out in nature can be very grounding for us and soothing to our nervous system, which ultimately reduces stress.
3) Let’s talk about revenge bedtime procrastination
We are so invigorated by the longer days and carefree attitude that we experience at home and at work when the weather gets warmer that we might end up staying up and waking up later, but this is a phenomenon we can experience all year long. As difficult as it is, you might want to start waking up 5-10 minutes earlier each day so that your body gets used to it again and you’re not hiding under the covers when it comes time to be back up for work or school. You may have heard of “revenge bedtime procrastination” where we delay our bedtime because we are so busy with work, family, and other responsibilities during the day that we use this time to do things for ourselves instead of going to sleep. We might stay up and binge watch shows or scroll on social media. This is totally normal and just tells us that we need to make more time during our days to decompress and do the things we enjoy. I can feel the eye rolls, like oh yeah, Alyssa, please tell me how I’m supposed to make time for myself between work and family. But since the key to eliminating revenge bedtime procrastination is to achieve a bit more balance during the day so you don’t feel like you can only have free time at night at the expense of quality sleep, let’s think about small spaces in the day where we naturally have breaks that we can utilize. Are you taking a full lunch break? Do you have time in the morning before your responsibilities start? You may need to carve out some time in your day just for you, and I know how difficult that is. But I promise you, you won’t believe the difference in how you feel when you start getting those high quality z’s and feeling like you are in charge of your day instead of feeling like your day is out of your control.
What can you be thankful for with regards to summer ending and the new school year and season beginning? Less humidity for our hair? Cozy sweaters? New school supplies? Crunchy, colorful leaves? See if you can incorporate a gratitude practice at the beginning of each new season to make the transition a bit less rocky. I’m certainly grateful for less humidity and I love Halloween!
5) Keep it movin’ (joyfully)
I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to work out when it’s so dark during our fall mornings and early evenings. And the last thing some of us want to do is put on workout clothes and sweat when we just want to be warm and cozy. But I promise you, you will never regret moving and getting those endorphins. It’s so important to find a workout that you like so that you stick with it. I want you to think about “joyful movement.”
What do you actually enjoy doing, not what you think you “should” do? Walking, yoga, group classes? Hula hoop, skipping? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy it and allow yourself to be playful.
6) Talk to someone!
This will always be one of my tips no matter what the topic. There is nothing pathological about feeling anxious about the upcoming school year, but anytime anxiety, overwhelm, or sadness begin to impact your daily functioning (work, school, relationships) then it’s time to think about talking to a trusted professional. If you’re a parent, one of the kindest and greatest gifts you can give to your kid(s) is taking the time to “work” on yourself so that you’re a happier and more present person and parent.