Ah, summer… It came and went in the blink of an eye! Why does it always seem to do that? Now that fall is upon us, most of us have returned from our holidays and are once again back in the busy life of school and work.
It can be a challenge getting back into the swing of things after the restful and relaxing days of summer vacation. When I was in school, I often felt as though September hit me like a ton of bricks. It can be overwhelming to suddenly go from zero to sixty; and the sharp change in weather does not help. This is likely why many of us tend to get sick in the first few weeks of September.
So, how can we make this a smoother transition? How can we help the body and the mind better adapt to the high demands of school and work? How can we optimize health with our work/study hours spilling late into the night?
Well, I have compiled a list of a few simple strategies to maintain physical and mental health during the busiest first weeks of September… read on!
1. Build activity into each day
With new school assignments and work-related responsibilities, it can be very difficult maintaining a balanced regimen of physical activity. Sometimes it’s impossible to attend that 60 minute yoga class or run that 12 km at the end of the day; and so we let our exercise habits slide. In this case, I often recommend building activity into each day using any combination of the following strategies:
- Walk or bike to school or work
- Go for a stroll at lunch
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Perform simple upper body stretches at your desk
- Plan to study or work in different areas of your house and/or office as this encourages mobility
- Set a timer that reminds you to stand up and move around every 30 minutes
- Speak with your boss about having exercise equipment and/or classes available in the workplace
2. Be mindful of sitting posture
When sitting at a desk, we tend to sink into less favourable postures and then hold these positions for long periods of time. For example, we tend to slouch forward, lean back in our chairs, or crank our necks awkwardly. If your job or study schedule requires a lot of desk work, I recommend the following tweaks to posture:
- Ensure you are sitting all the way back in your seat with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle
- Ensure your feet touch the floor and the back of your knees do not get pinched by the seat
- Ensure you are upright in your chair with your keyboard/desk raised to approximately elbow height
- Ensure your screen is directly within eye line, so you are not looking up or down
- Always face your work; don’t hold positions where your back or neck is twisted
- When able, use a sit-to-stand desk to allow for alternating postures
- Every so often, stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and release tension from your neck and shoulders
- And of course, get up and move around every 30 minutes!
3. Pay attention to diet
When it comes to diet, there is a ton of information available from a variety of difference sources. Without going into too much detail, I recommend that you maintain a balanced diet – Food can be our greatest fuel if taken properly! Ensure you are eating enough protein, vegetables, and healthy food options to meet your dietary needs. Avoid eating only unhealthy carbs, as they can encourage a nasty mid-afternoon crash.
Also make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Always have water available and sip it regularly every 30 minutes or so. Try to limit the excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, and soda beverages as they are less hydrating than other fluids and can have negative health consequences. When in doubt about your specific dietary needs, speak with your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist for more information.
4. Learn to manage stress
Although one of the most important factors in maintaining our health, managing stress is not something many of us practice on a regular basis. Studies have found that stress hormones are related to many of the illnesses we face and there are a plethora of different options for controlling them. It is extremely important to ensure that we have the tools to manage stress, in order to maintain a healthy immunity and work productivity. Here are a few of my favourite stress management techniques:
- Daily Meditation
- If you don’t have time to meditate once a day, you need to meditate twice a day… that’s how important meditation is!
- Keeping a Gratitude Journal
- Logging all the things for which you are grateful can help shift your perspective and attitude towards stressful work situations
- Positive Self-Talk
- Speak highly of yourself to yourself. Focus on the things you love about yourself and the things you typically critique will become obsolete
- Exercise Forgiveness
- If you’ve been wronged by another, no matter how small the infraction, forgiveness is the most effective way of releasing anger and clearing the mind
- Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning what was done, it is for you to improve your own sense of happiness and well-being
- Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!
- For goodness sake, take the time to laugh! Now, I’m not talking about a little chuckle here and there; I’m talking about a real belly-aching, tear-provoking, I-don’t-think-I’m-going-to-recover kind of a laugh!
- Here is one of my favourite rib-ticklers… (I dare you not to laugh):
So there you have it, a few simple strategies for making the back-to-school or back-to-work transition a little easier. Let me know if you have any questions about your specific needs… I’m happy to help in any way I can!
Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care professional. Information provided on this site is neither meant to create or substitute a patient-practitioner relationship; nor diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Always speak with your qualified physician or other health care professional before using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.