Let’s face it, September is the real start of the “New Year”…kids head back to school, business picks up after summer vacations and long weekends, and the impending cooler weather will make its presence known in the coming months. September is a significant time of transition for most of us, and whether we are conscious of it or not, it can take a toll on us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Physically, the changing weather adds a layer of stress to our bodies as we adjust to cooler temperatures, while lack of optimal sleep can compound the physical stress we endure.
Mentally and emotionally, increased life and work demands pile up quickly and can increase stress through feelings of worry and frustration.
Through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is important to meet the changing season with behaviours and habits that will allow us to thrive and maintain optimal vitality. This may mean choosing foods that offer balance to the external elements (choosing warming foods as the weather gets cooler), prioritizing sleep (knowing that your immune system will be taxed as it adjusts to the new season), and taking time to relax or practice meditation (to strengthen the mind and heart so they can better manage the increased life- and work-related stressors).
Here are three tips to help keep you on track:
Listen to your body
- Are you tired, thirsty, hungry, full, irritated, happy? Your body is always communicating with you, and by tapping into these messages, you position yourself to make choices that are truly in your best interest and in favour of optimal well-being. There is a lot of clutter and chatter in our lives, so it can become difficult to “tune in”. However, through regular mindfulness practice, you can build the habit so that your default setting keeps you tuned-in to your body.
- Activity: set reminders on your phone once every hour to check-in with your body. When it’s time to do this activity, simply close your eyes, take a deep breath (feeling the air fill your lungs), and ask yourself, “what does my body need in this moment”. Pause and see what answer comes to you. It could be that you need to take a sip of water, or maybe you need to use the washroom but have been suppressing the urge given how busy you were. Whatever the message, take a moment to honour it by taking the necessary action. Over time, you will no longer need to set reminders, and you will find that when the body has a message and knocks at the door, you have no problem hearing it and responding.
- As we transition to cooler weather in the next few months, the tendency is to pull back on regular physical activity. After dinner walks become less enticing…the desire to take your dog to the park wavers as you convince yourself that he has enough room to run around in the backyard on his own…the gym seems farther than you remembered when it’s a cold rainy day.
- Activity: continue to prioritize movement on a day to day basis. Make a point to get up from your desk once every hour and stretch and/or take a quick walk to the water fountain or bathroom. Although it may become challenging to dedicate large blocks of time to physical activity, these small bouts of movement have a cumulative effect and can deliver tons of health benefits from supporting optimal weight to preventing imbalances of blood sugar levels (implicated in type 2 diabetes).
Start to incorporate warming foods and spices
- We often don’t think about it, but our diet changes as we enter new seasons. Fall and winter platters are rich with roasted root vegetables and hearty soups and stews. Cold and raw salads don’t have the same appeal as they did in the middle of summer, and this is because our bodies don’t do as well with cold raw foods in cooler seasons.
- Activity: begin to introduce warming foods and spices, such as root vegetables (carrots, squash, turnip, parsnip, sweet potato), cinnamon, cloves, garlic, onions, cardamom, and ginger, into your daily diet. Soups and stews provide an easy way to load up on lots of hearty vegetables and lean protein.