Did you see where summer went? I feel like I’m sitting in a movie theater, the previews just ended and now the credits are rolling. Is seasonal whiplash a thing? We were finally settling into a routine that started to feel “normal” (whatever that means anymore) and then it was over.
Now it feels like we’re fumbling face first into Fall. The new way of “doing school” and mastering schedules has created a little chaos in our house. While everything about this year seems out of our control, I know I can take responsibility for my mental health. I require a routine and tangible actions I can take to make changes.
At the start of a new season, there are always four key items on my mental health routine to-do list:
1. Check in on my mental health.
As someone who suffers from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), I can feel how the change in seasons affects me mentally and emotionally. I have trouble sleeping, my mood shifts and my productivity suffers. A new season is the perfect time to take inventory when it comes to my mental health and look for new ways to help myself feel better.
- Try light therapy (like this lamp) to help counteract the depression that can accompany the days getting shorter and darker.
- Pat yourself on the back. Literally. Before you go to bed, make note of one thing you accomplished that day and give yourself praise. Acknowledge the milestones, big or small. I’ve literally started patting myself on the back at the end of the day. “You kept small humans alive during a pandemic! Good job!” I will reach around and pat my own shoulder.
- Connect with a professional if you need someone outside of your family to talk to. There’s never a wrong time to reach out. I have talked openly about therapy to my kids. We need to normalize getting this type of help.
2. Recommit to realistic fitness goals.
If we’ve learned one thing these past six months, it’s that goals quickly become moving targets when we’re faced with stressful, unforeseen circumstances. But I know daily exercise is something I can’t go without. So instead of aiming for a specific number of pounds to lose or miles to run, etc., I make the commitment to consistent daily movement
- Move for 30 minutes every single day. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get away from your desk or up off the couch and shut everything else out for a while.
- Switch up your workouts to avoid getting bored. You don’t have to commit to a strict, singular program. Experiment to find a form of movement you actually like.
- Everybody needs a cheerleader. Bring along your partner or your kids, or a friend for positive reinforcement and so everyone keeps moving.
3. Adjust my diet to keep all my bases covered.
Cold and flu season is here and it’s made only more complicated with Covid-19 still very much present. As the seasons change, I want to make sure my immune system is firing on all cylinders and proper nutrition is the best place to start. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You know I favor balance over extremes — because some days you just need cake. Or a glass of wine. Or both.
- Shop for whole, unprocessed foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Aim to eat one fruit or vegetable from each color of the rainbow daily. If you can work all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) into each meal, even better.
- I take a quality daily multivitamin and probiotic to complement a healthy, balanced diet. The added nutrients make up for any gaps on those days you indulge (#noregrets) and keep my digestive and immune systems functioning at their best.
4. Re-evaluate how I’m spending my downtime.
Mindlessly scrolling in the morning? Incessantly checking the news during the day? Going down a current events rabbit hole right before bed? [Slowly raises hand.] Besides baked goods, we’re all consuming a lot of media right now as a way to fill the hours not spent working or handling things around the house (looking at you, pile of dishes). Not only is it giving me FOMO, it also makes my anxiety worse. Time for a screen-time reckoning.
- Unfollow anyone on social media who isn’t adding anything positive to your consumption. Or worse, adding something negative.
- Try one of these apps to restrict your use of time-sucking apps and get your fix without getting “smartphone thumb.”
- Set a “power down” alarm for all electronics so you can really log off. Choose a nightly cutoff time to switch to another activity. Maybe do a workout, take a bath or grab a long-neglected book.
A new season doesn’t have to mean new stresses. Let fall be a fresh start. How are you getting ready? Let me know in the comments.