Taking care of your physical and mental health can help make life more enjoyable. Now is the time to get prepared and make necessary changes as the season changes to get the most out of fall.
Fitness is an important part of maintaining physical health. But there's more you can do to stay in good physical health, like preventing disease and making necessary adjustments for seasonal changes.
Germs spread easily. It's a good idea to take precautions, like washing your hands and getting a flu shot.
“Prepare for flu season. According to the CDC, flu season can start as early as October and end as late as May. This means that for more than half of the year, you are at risk. It is recommended that you receive a flu shot sometime in September or October before flu season gets underway.
Other measures you can take to protect yourself include washing your hands frequently, eating a healthy diet to boost your immune system, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying away from others who are sick,” says Jack Burke, Community Outreach Coordinator forhims.com.
It’s also important to get enough rest and listen to your body.
“One main thing to be cautious about during the fall months is to take care of yourself. If you feel an illness coming on, listen to your body and rest as you need to,” cautions Melissa Morris, ACSM certified exercise physiologist and ISSN certified sports nutritionist and writer for Exercise.com.
Giving your body what it needs will help keep it in good health and make it easier to recover from illnesses.
Seasonal changes and adjustments
The transition from fall to summer makes adjustments for cooler and drier weather necessary.
“Autumn may not bring the frigid temperatures and harsh weather of winter, but temperatures still dip enough to have an effect on your health. Cold, dry air can cause dry, cracked skin, as well as cold sores,” says Burke.
Many people associate the heat of summer with sunscreen, sunburns, and aloe vera. However, it’s not the heat that causes sunburns, it’s the sun.
“Even though there is less sun in the fall, you are still at risk from UV rays, so any products should contain SPF,” adds Burke.
Seasonal changes can also affect your hair. Alisha Lawson, Product Development Expert for Shiny Leaf, has some tips for keeping your hair and skin healthy.
“Protect your hair and skin by using nourishing hair and skin care products. The best products are infused with natural oils like argan oil and castor oil. These oils come from seeds that are rich in essential fatty acids, necessary for maintaining moisture and glow,” she suggests.
You should also be prepared to make minor adjustments for your sleeping schedule.
“As the seasons change and daylight gets shorter, you may find yourself feeling sleepier than before. This is because your circadian rhythm changes based on your exposure to light, affecting your internal clock. Try giving yourself a little extra sleep, and solidify the habit by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day,” advises Nina LaRosa, Moxie Media Marketing Director.
Consistent, regular sleep will help you function better during the day. Just be careful if you’re starting to sleep excessively.
“If you find yourself oversleeping, consider talking to a doctor and investing in artificial light sources. You may be one of the many individuals whose moods and energy levels are impacted by the changing seasons,” says LaRosa.
Being mindful of how cooler weather can affect you will help your body transition smoothly between the seasons.
Reema Beri, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist at Great Lakes Psychology Group, identifies three challenges that the transition from summer to fall presents for mental health.
The end of summer means shorter days and less sunlight. Fall is prime-time for people to begin to feel "down" or "low" due to our decreased exposure to sunlight.
Summer allows us all, no matter where we live, to access the outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight are a great stress relief, and the incoming colder weather begins to limit our outdoor access.
Fall represents "back-to-school" time, and back to the routines of school, sports and extracurriculars. It can be a jarring change from the lazy, relaxed, sun-soaked days of summer. For all of these reasons, you may find yourself susceptible to the "fall letdown" which is experienced by many and also completely normal.
Being aware of these specific challenges can help you plan ways to meet them and have a smoother transition between summer and fall. Below are three things you can do to boost your mental health during the fall.
- Spend time outside
- Reduce stress
- Practice self-care
Spend time outside
Luckily, fall weather is still great for being outdoors in many places. As a bonus, it’s not nearly as hot as the summer months.
“Whether it’s going for a walk at lunch or a hike on the weekends, it’s important to go outside and get a daily dose of natural light. Furthermore, you can still exercise outside if you dress to protect against the elements,” advises Burke.
Once fall weather begins moving towards winter weather, it can be harder to spend time outside.
“If you're missing the sun, try using a sun lamp. These lamps have a light that is comparable to sun rays and even has multiple settings to vary light intensity and color. Sun lamps also emit vitamin D so you can feel like you're sitting outside soaking up some vitamin D from the actual sun.” suggests Renata Trebing, Founder and Recipe developer for Nourish With Renata.
Purposefully taking time to connect with nature or just to be outdoors is an important way to take care of your mental health. If you start having bad fall weather or if it’s too cold, a sun lamp can help give you some of the benefits of being outside.
Your stress levels affect your mental health. Whatever is causing the stress, you can take action to reduce your stress by slowing down and making a plan.
Even if you’re in a fast-paced environment, you can plan time to take a break and slow down.
“De-stress yourself to keep your hormones flowing naturally, supporting your natural rhythms. Try meditating, writing in a gratitude journal, or deep breathing. If you’re traveling, spend some time reconnecting with nature and turn off your electronics,” suggests Anna Cabeca, MD, author of The Hormone Fix.
Practicing gratitude and meditation can help you develop a positive outlook on life, which will also support your mental health.
“By incorporating meditation into your daily routine and simply sitting in a quiet place, without interruption, and becoming aware, you open yourself to the feeling of love and reflection. Reflect on your day with gratitude and look optimistically toward tomorrow,” says Cabeca.
When you have a lot on your plate, it can be overwhelming. Identifying urgent tasks and determining a plan to get them done can help you reduce stress.
“At work and at home, if you’re feeling stressed, make sure your space and tasks are organized. Many businesses experience an uptick in work following the summer slowdown, and fewer hours of sunlight at home may make it harder to finish certain chores or projects. Once you have a list of everything you need to do, prioritize what needs to come first to help reduce stress and boost productivity,” LaRosa confirms.
Slowing down and taking time for yourself is an important part of self-care, but it’s not the only thing you can do. You should also be mindful about how you treat yourself.
“Be good and kind to yourself, and do not beat yourself up when you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Treat yourself the way you would your best friend — speak loving truths to yourself and do some positive coaching,” says Cabeca.
Treating yourself kindly will help you feel better. It’s also important to make sure that you’re treating your body well.
“Self-care includes developing or maintaining good sleep habits, exercising regularly, and eating wholesome and nutritious foods,” says Beri.
And don't underestimate the power of connecting with people and having fun.
“Doing things you enjoy, such as seeing and spending time with friends, and taking time out for yourself on a weekly basis, is also essential. Doing all of these things may have felt effortless during the summer months, but moving into fall means actively taking steps to engage in regular self-care. It will take intentional work, but it is doable!” Beri suggests.
Being intentional about self-care and taking time to enjoy life will help you have good mental health.
Physical and mental health hacks
Taking steps to reduce your exposure to germs and getting enough sleep will help keep you well physically.
Being intentional about self-care, spending time with people, reducing stress, and going outside will help you maintain good mental health.
Looking for more fall health hacks? Check out Fall Health Hacks for Your Nutrition and Fitness.