By: Bunny Young, MA, QMHP
September brings children back to school, signifies the end of summer vacation, and a return to routine and the daily grind for many adults. This time of transition can be stressful for everyone involved. The week following Labor Day reminds people that the seasons are changing, the year is coming to a close and the holidays are coming. All of these factors have the capacity to produce anxiety and stress for a variety of reasons.
Getting children up and out of bed, dressed, fed, to the bus on time, preparing lunch, taking part in school activities and daily homework all add to a family’s stress level both in and out of the home environment. Approaching deadlines, year-end goals, and the stress of the impending holiday season can weigh heavily on a person. When one is not aware of the hidden stress, unknowing tension and fear can increase until the problems are addressed.
For those with children and without, the following tips will help lead you to a stress free and productive end of your year.
Seems simple enough right? Simple does not always constitute easy. But if you can develop daily habits, your body and mind will follow (habits are great in that way). These actions will lead to more clarity and energy, so that YOU can begin to focus on other pressing things and manage little obstacles that pop up during your day (new client, medical appointment, surprise conference call with your boss). Little things such as a consistent bedtime will train your body to fall asleep more easily and have more restful sleep. The same is true of waking up at the same time each day – even on weekends! Laying out your clothes the night before while you’re more alert means it will take you less time to choose your “power suit”. Why not have the same items for lunch on the same day of each week? This way you don’t have to think about your menu and your grocery bill will be expected and planned.
Dogs can also help with routine. I have to get up each morning and let my dog, Goose, outside for her self-care. She expects to be fed at or around the same time every day and let’s me know if I am running behind. She has her own routine she keeps even if I am not at home. She knows the approximate time I am coming home and will often get up and stand by the door even when I am still down the street. We could learn a thing or two from this dedication to routine.
Having a schedule and habits for your body can lead to an overall decrease in stress hormones. Your body will actually begin to secrete the feel-good and rest hormones at the appropriate times of day and this will help you transition to sleep, rest, wakefulness, and aid in your focus.
Isn’t this more of a New Year’s resolution for most people? It can be, but it’s also a great thing to consider while creating or updating your daily routine. When you don’t plan to fuel your body, or you load it with the wrong kinds of foods, it can add to your stress, promote binge eating, and create a cycle that induces more stress and bad feelings in the body.
The act of preparing food, smelling it cook, and feeling the sensation of the vegetables as you wash them releases feel-good hormones. Cooking your own food also stimulates the digestive process because when you smell the food that you’re cooking your body prepares itself for digestion and the delivery of nutrients. Thinking from a purely evolutionary standpoint, we used to have to gather, hunt, and prepare our food every day. This routine allowed our bodies to anticipate the smell of the food cooking prior to consumption and this helped the body prepare for digestion. The body did not expect someone to wander past us and give us a deliciously prepared meal with no work on our part. Having the proper nutrition in our bodies and taking ownership of the process decreases our overall stress and increases our sense of control and empowerment in our lives.
3. Time for “Me”
When creating your everyday routine, you should schedule regular breaks for yourself frequently. Set aside larger amounts of time, or even whole days, to reconnect and reinvest in this engine that drives your successful life when time allows. This could be as little as taking a ten-minute walk after lunch or in the afternoon (which will actually get you more revved up than that third cup of coffee), or scheduling time to attend your favorite yoga class or spending time snuggling with a loved one at night.
Whatever this may be, “me” time should be on your calendar, a part of your routine, and guarded against any and all attacks from invading needs, to-dos, and work. This is the single most critical tip in order to obtain that stress-free environment that is going to carry you into a successful end of your year. The good news is that most of us are already doing something small for ourselves on a weekly basis. We just need to find time to do more of that, and other things that invest back into ourselves. This quality time and self-care will release feelings of well-being, sense of self, happiness, and fill up those “happiness wells” to be able to combat unexpected and often stressful situations without allowing it to derail our days, our mood, and our success.
Now you are armed with 3 tools for a stress-free fall, winter, and life. Go out and enjoy this week and the rest of the year! Let us know how it is going on our Facebook page or via a variety of our social media outlets! Don’t for get to sign up for our Fall Stress-Busting Party. We would love to hear from you!