September is an exciting time for many, as students prepare to enter a new school year, and parents and adults get back into a work routine after time off and the lull of the summer months.
This time of year is a great moment to regroup, find your focus, and adopt some new healthy habits for body and mind. Emphasizing proper nutrition and sustainable stress management can help you make the most of the autumn months.
Here are our top 5 tips for a healthy return to routine.
1. Dust off that planner
You’re much better equipped to stick to a routine when you know what that routine is! Using a day planner is a great way to keep track of your responsibilities and workload. It can also be very helpful for knowing when your plate is full and you need to say “no.”
Speaking of plates, planning isn’t just for managing activities. Meal planning is another great way to stay on track this fall. Whether you use a white board on your fridge, a notebook, or an app, planning your meals for the week and tracking the ingredients you’ll need to buy can save you time and energy – as well as enabling healthier eating. You’re less likely to resort to fast food when you have a plan for dinner.
Meal planning can also help to reduce food waste. Keep your pantry stocked with non-perishable staples like canned beans and lentils, oats, brown rice, and protein bars to round out your weekly meals.
2. Make the most of mornings
It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing. Taking time to eat a protein and fibre-rich breakfast each morning helps you start the day energized, and curb afternoon cravings. No time to cook? There are plenty of quick and easy options. For example:
Whole wheat toast with a banana and peanut butter
Greek yogurt with granola and berries
A batch of overnight oats
Mornings can also benefit your mental health – sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and getting up at the same time each day (yes, even on weekends) helps to regulate sleep, which can in turn help with cognition and mental resilience.
3. Practice mindfulness
When we’re getting back into school, work, and other scheduled activities, it’s easy to take on too much at once, and find yourself stressed and overwhelmed. If you struggle to find time to unwind and relax your mind, scheduling small moments of mindfulness throughout the day can help. Even just 1 to 3 minutes of deep breathing can help ground you in the present and reduce anxiety.
Mindfulness can also apply to food and nutrition. When we’re busy at work, it can be all too easy to scarf down a sandwich in front of the computer, but it’s best to set aside time to take a real lunch break. Eating your meals without distractions and enjoying each bite can help with digestion and gut health, while making you less likely to overeat.
4. Get back into veggies
When summer is in full swing, there are a lot of tempting treats around. Between travel, backyard barbeques and family get-togethers, your vegetable consumption can take a hit during the summer months. September is a great time to start bringing more fresh (or frozen) produce back into your diet.
Add chopped cucumber and leafy greens to sandwiches and wraps at lunchtime, or throw some mushrooms and bell peppers into an omelette. Fruits like blueberries, nectarines, and apples are in season right now and make delicious snacks or healthy additions to packed lunches.
5. Be proactive about burnout
As we get back into the swing of things, it’s important to work on healthy strategies for managing and coping with stress. Modelling healthy stress management behaviours can help to reduce anxiety. If you have children in your life, practicing these behaviors can also help them learn how to face life’s challenges and set themselves up for success.
Autumn, and the beginning of the school year, is a great time to work toward setting healthy boundaries. Take stock of your workload and responsibilities, and see if there is anything that you can set aside in favour of a better work-life balance. Look for ways to work smarter, not harder. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
For personalized advice and help with incorporating these tips into your own life, TELUS Health MyCare counsellors and registered dietitians are here for you. Book a video appointment in the TELUS Health MyCare app to speak with a healthcare professional conveniently from your home.