Steal These 8 Back-to-School Tips And Reboot Your Life This Fall

It’s time to carve out some “me time” this season.

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Back to School, mom and daughter
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Harness that back-to-school energy to reboot your life for fall

Remember the excitement of going back to school in September? The weeks leading up to the first day meant a trip to the mall for clothes and shoes, a new haircut, and likely a doctor visit where the past year’s growth was duly recorded.

As adults, September still feels like the start of the real new year. We’re more motivated to tackle projects, commit to a new class or even contemplate a career change. September also signals a return to regular lifestyle habits, whether that means renewing a gym membership (These are the best fitness studios in Canada.) or getting back on track with meal planning. Even though we’re busier than ever with family commitments and work deadlines, fall feels like a time when we really can do it all.

“September is like a fresh start. We’ve come off the high of the summer, we’re rejuvenated, we’re back to all these other routines — sleep routine, work routine,” says Suzanne Zilkowsky, wellness expert, health coach and founder of Vancouver Health Coach. “It’s a great time to set fitness goals and other resolutions.”

Carving out time for ourselves to stay fit, eat well, look good and nurture our friendships is even more important for our physical and mental health than it was when we were kids. So why not take some inspiration from our wonder years to harness the season’s energy? Here are eight easy “back-to-school” reboots that will reveal a new you in no time.

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Back to School, appointment
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Make a doctor’s appointment

As a kid: You went for an annual physical exam.

As a adult: Be proactive with your health by staying on top of screenings.

Dr. Maryam Zeineddin is so over the Band-Aid approach to health — e.g., only seeking treatment when there’s a concern — and you should be, too. The Vancouver-based general practitioner and founder of Zili Health is an advocate for proactive health, the idea that regular screenings, tests and appointments can flag little issues before they morph into big problems (for example, catch elevated blood sugar before it’s full-blown diabetes). Here are 10 things your doctor secretly wishes they could tell you.

“Nobody’s going to be taking ownership of your health except you,” says Dr. Zeineddin. “As much as we have healthcare providers caring for various parts of our bodies including our family doctor, our dentist, our optometrist, ultimately we have to stay on top of the health screenings we need. We shouldn’t just wait for a notification or wait for a phone call from the doctor’s office.”

For women, this means scheduling a pap test, mammogram, cardio risk assessment, eye exam and dental cleanings as required (check with your practitioner if you’re unsure about frequency). If you’re still menstruating you’ll want to have a regular blood screening for anemia, and if you’re 65 or older, a bone density scan to assess bone loss. And don’t forget a skin exam to check moles and lesions, especially if you’re fair-skinned or have a history of skin cancer.

“You have to voice your concerns,” says Dr. Zeineddin, who recommends reporting any unusual symptoms or health changes to your family doctor.

If September is just too busy to tackle every appointment, spread them out over several months — but set a deadline for getting them done so you’re accountable.

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Back to School, Running
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Get moving

As a kid: You started a fall sport.

As an adult: Set fitness goals or begin a new workout program. (Make sure you read up on these fitness tips to ensure you get the best results possible.)

Regular physical activity helps us manage stress and boosts our energy and overall health, says Zilkowsky. And September is a great time of year to get moving. The weather is still nice for outdoor activities and there’s the built-in momentum that comes with fall — the lazy days of summer are over and women are ready to tackle new classes and work toward new goals.

Zilkowsky says women are more likely to make fitness a habit if they set realistic goals. She counsels clients to choose classes or activities that are inexpensive, enjoyable, and easy to fit in to a daily or weekly routine, such as regular walks with a friend, hiking or weekly bicycle rides around the local trail system.

“When women start to move their bodies they start feeling good. They want to buy that outfit and take care of themselves in other ways,” says Zilkowsky. “It’s a kick-starter.”

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Back to School, haircut
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Hello, mini-makeover!

As a kid: You went back-to-school shopping and got a new haircut.

As an adult: You’re never too old for the joys of new boots and a stylish bob.

Getting a few new outfits and a trendy cut can feel like trying on a new identity. It’s also empowering — you feel hip, stylish and confident for whatever’s next.

“It just makes you feel better,” says Calgary-based fashion stylist Kim Flanagan, who adds that layering up needn’t break the bank. “I like going for that third piece for fall — get a great pair of sunglasses, a scarf, a handbag or a cool jacket.”

After your wardrobe refresh, change into some of those new threads for the hairdresser. Flanagan says if you show up for your appointment rocking clothes you love, the stylist will know what to do with your crowning glory to complete your look. But first, read up on the secrets your hair stylist won’t tell you.

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Back to School, friends out for dinner
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Cultivate friendships

As a kid: You made new friends in class.

As an adult: Nurture your existing sisterhood.

It may seem counterintuitive to add even more tasks to the September to-do list, but research shows that “tending and befriending” helps women handle stress, says registered psychologist Kimberly Eckert, owner and executive director of Eckert Psychology & Education Centre in Calgary. What’s more, a Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard Medical School showed that the more friends women have, the less likely they are to develop physical ailments as they age.

“There’s so much research that says if you have friends, your mental and physical health is better,” says Eckert, adding that tending to those platonic relationships doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Grab a quick coffee or power walk with a gal pal, or call a buddy to chat if you have 15 free minutes. (These bad habits are what end friendships — even life-long ones.)

“Even that little bit of befriending is a massive shot of relaxation,” says Eckert. “Go small and repeat often.”

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Back to School, organize
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Get organized

As a kid: You organized your school supplies and locker.

As an adult: Tame the chaos inside your house.

We’re not talking about a total home overhaul, but organizing key areas like the front hall, closets and family hub (you know, that general dumping ground on the kitchen island or entryway table) will help calm the mind and make you feel on top of things during this busy time of year, says Natasha Solvason, a professional organizer and owner of Home Free Organizing Solutions in Saskatoon.

“There is a wellness benefit to getting organized. I often have clients say that they feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted,” says Solvason. “Stuff can become a burden on people when it becomes unmanageable.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are 37 ways to make managing stress that much easier.

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Back to School, meal plan
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Tweak your diet

As a kid: You got excited about brown-bag lunches filled with PB&Js and fruit roll-ups.

As an adult: Make healthier food choices by meal planning.

Maybe it’s been a summer of ice cream, potato chips and beer by the dock or swimming pool. You’re not alone.

“By September we’re craving getting back into an eating routine,” says Tristaca Curley, a Kelowna, B.C.-based dietitian and owner of Fuelling with Food. She says fall is a great time to resolve to eat more healthily. (Think you’re too busy to eat healthy? Here are 7 tips.)

“Perhaps we still have some fresh foods in our garden or we can access really good tasting produce or herbs that we can use to season our food. These are things that work in our favour,” says Curley.

The best way to maximize nature’s bounty and meet your nutritional needs is through meal planning. It begins with jotting down dinner ideas (consider soups or stews with seasonal root veggies — they make awesome lunch leftovers), then grocery shopping so the ingredients are on hand.

Curley says it also helps to define your healthy eating goal. If your aim is to “eat healthier,” what does that mean? Upping your intake of fruits and vegetables? Consuming fewer processed foods?

“Be specific about your goal so you can measure it,” she says.

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Back to School, shoe shopping
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If the shoe fits

As a kid: You got new shoes.

As an adult: Duh, still new shoes.

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world,” says a famous quote (that’s been attributed to both Marilyn Monroe and Bette Midler).

It’s a tall order for footwear, but a new pair of kicky leather boots, comfy flats or strappy heels can help you wake up on the right side of the bed, concurs Flanagan.

“Shoes give you your attitude for the day,” she says.

Here are 4 dresses that will make your feel empowered at work.

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Back to School, sleep
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Make sleep a priority

As a kid: You went off to dreamland earlier.

As an adult: “Fall back” before the actual time change.

It’s a myth that adults can function on five hours of sleep. Ditto when they brag about their work productivity based on emails sent from bed. The truth is, women need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, especially the deep, restorative slumber that happens between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

This “gold nugget” of sleep — when the body heals from illness or repairs muscles after a workout — is unattainable with a late bedtime or if blue light from screens messes with melatonin production and conspires to keep you awake long after lights out, says Zilkowsky. “Good quality sleep is the foundation for good health,” she says.

The good news? September is probably the easiest time of year to reset your sleep routine. The days are growing shorter and colder, and we’re getting less vitamin D, so we want to hibernate.

Zilkowsky recommends docking all devices at least 45 minutes before lights out, and removing all screens, including TVs, from the room. Ensure the bedroom is cool and dark, which promotes sleep, and engage in something calming before bed, such as journalling, reading, taking a bath or trying a meditation app.

Having trouble sleeping? These three simple yoga techniques are worth a shot.

Originally Published in Best Health Canada

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