With just three words – “back to school” – life goes into overdrive overnight, sweeping both grown-ups and kids in a tsunami of activities and ever-lengthening to-do lists. How to put on the brakes and slow down this season? How to ease more gently back into your post-summer routine? Start by thinking ahead (of course) and putting a few strategies in place to help make this year’s transition a smoother one. Here are a few we swear by:
Re-connect the whole family with a consistent sleep schedule.
When my daughter was very young, I remember her being perplexed towards the end of the summer at having to go to bed when it was still light out. What my daughter didn’t understand back then was that it was our way of gently easing her back into a more normal sleep cycle before school began in earnest. Though she’s well past school age these days, the basic idea still holds true for both kids and grown-ups: to recalibrate and re-set from the anything-goes bed-times of summer, start moving up bedtime at least a week or two before the first day of school. The same goes for times for dinner, pre-bedtime rituals and electronic sundown — get started a few minutes earlier each night to make those earlier morning wake-up calls less of a shock to the system.
Embrace the ‘night-before’ ethos.
You’ll have a better, less stressful morning if you do much of the heavy lifting at night: Select and lay out clothes, right down to the underwear and shoes. Pre-prep breakfast and lunches. Collect all the items you’ll need for the day ahead and pack up briefcases, purses and backpacks before bed so there’s considerably less to do in the morning. Whether you’ve got kids or not, a shorter morning to-do list will help curb morning stress and give you a little more mental bandwidth to help you take on the rest of your day.
Another trick to ease the morning rush? Use an old-school alarm clock and set the time 5 – 10 minutes ahead to help you get out of bed and out the door on time. If you must leave the IPhone on, use it as a backup and keep it far away from your bed to limit EMF exposure. Better yet, power it off altogether!
Take healthy meal-time shortcuts.
When that first wave of back-to-school chaos hits, it’s easy to let healthy eating slide into frequent restaurant visits or worse, a crappy carb-bomb bowl of cereal for dinner. Keep it up and you’ll undermine immunity and likely find yourself catching every cold that blows through the office and school. If cooking, shopping and/or prep time is especially tight, try taking a few healthy short-cuts that will help keep immunity strong and your belly full. Among our favorite pressed-for-time, in-a-pinch go-to’s:
- ThriveMarket.com for well-priced organic pantry staples like bone broth, nut butters, jarred veggies, and more.
- Pre-washed organic salad greens and wild canned sardines , mackerel or salmon (instant dinner!)
- Enjoy leftovers from the weekend (or from the night before)! Cook a little extra and store in portion-size containers as an easy lunch or dinner option during the week.
- Stock your fridge with ready-made staples from your local health food store or favorite healthy restaurant. Things like roasted brussel sprouts, grass fed burgers, organic turkey meatballs, steamed broccoli, lamb stew, etc. can all be kept in the fridge and warmed up for a quick dinner.
- ‘Meal Kit’ services that deliver all that’s needed to make healthy, home-cooked meals, whether you’re Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, all organic, or all of the above. Among the names to know: SunBasket.com and GreenChef.com.
- Order ingredients needed for the week from services like InstaCart, Fresh Direct, Post Mates, Farm to People, Butcher box, or US Wellness meats.
- If cooking isn’t for you, utilize meal delivery services that use good quality ingredients so you can have healthy meals throughout the week.
Compress your clean-up.
One of my patients recently shared with me her tried-and-true back-to-school time-saving tip: For the first week or two of the school year, while parents and kids are settling back into the routine, try using biodegradable, compostable plates and utensils (look for non-toxic, plastic and coatings-free) to make mealtime cleanup quicker. Another bonus: doing so will make mealtime feel more relaxed, like a late summer picnic, regardless of whether you dine indoors or out.
Do schedule fun – and get out of town.
Beach time doesn’t necessarily have to end at Labor Day, so consider taking the family for a beach day or weekend in late September when the weather is still warm, beaches are deserted and accommodations are more plentiful and affordably priced. Not only will time by the sea lengthen your beach season, but you’ll also be treating your brain to the de-stressing effects of the ocean’s meditative sounds (cresting waves, seagulls, etc.) and easy-to-process, calming visuals of beige sand, blue sky and sea.
Find your escape hatch.
Though it’s hard to hang onto the chill-out vibes of summer, you can connect with them periodically by making time for some daily R & R, with the help of a few minutes of morning meditation, before the rest of the family rises, and some restorative yoga at night before bed. Need to take the edge off in the middle of the day? Try Be Well Stress Support , our favorite chill pill made from a combination of calming herbs and healthy nutrients – and a healthy alternative to dangerous and addictive prescription drugs.
May your back-to-school season be a relaxed and wonderful one!