For many, September represents a fresh start—in school, work, and a new season. This makes it the perfect time of year to revamp our wellness routines to better align with the needs of our bodies and minds.
A new season
This coming fall season—like many of the seasons we pass through in our lives including marriage, divorce, or becoming a caregiver of children or parents—demands different wellness supports, says Dr. Ashley Margeson, naturopathic doctor, and host of The Superwoman Code, a podcast designed to help busy humans make their health work for them, not against them.
We encounter two significant shifts in the fall, says Margeson: the drop in UV exposure, which can lead to plunging energy levels, and an increased pace of life.
Adjusting your wellness routine for the needs of your season
Margeson suggests looking at the foundations of what’s currently working in your life. She counsels her patients on approaching these cornerstones in the following four key areas.
The ideal amount of sleep you need can be determined by whether you wake up rested at roughly the same time of day without an alarm. Keeping this consistent across the seasons means your circadian rhythm is consistent, which indicates your hormones are regular as well.
Creating a bedtime routine is one of the best things we can do in this area, says Margeson. That could involve drinking a cup of tea with a book or performing yoga and stretching sessions, with your yoga mat kept close to the bed to ensure you’ll stick to the habit.
“Nighttime routines are critical,” says Margeson. “It’s so easy to get overstimulated and get a second wind.”
In this area, it’s important to think about how sustainable your movement routine is. For instance, a yoga class that involves a 2-hour total commute might not be as sustainable as 20 minutes a few times a week in your kitchen.
“One of the best things you can do in the winter months is to get enough UV exposure; so at lunch time, when the sun is the highest in the day, take a 10-minute walk outside,” says Margeson.
This wellness cornerstone involves thinking about how much you need to eat for recovery and how you can make this work within your budget. Protein is critical here. Margeson says fueling can be as simple as ensuring you ingest protein, greens, healthy fat, and fiber at most meals.
It’s important to know your capacity as a human being, and whether what you’re doing matches your season.
“These wellness strategies are key,” says Dr. Margeson. “They can feel harder to sustain because you don’t get that immediate ‘win.’” However, by doing these small things consistently, you’ll notice the difference: instead of dragging, you’ll feel content.
Sync with the season
Fall doesn’t have to signal the beginning of the doldrums. Mindfully staying in tune with the season can reduce stress, help you focus, and assist with adapting to change. Try the following, for starters.
- Meditate on what you can be grateful for about the weather.
- Journal about some of your favorite images of fall.
- Spend a moment experiencing the weather, as it comes into contact with your skin. Pay attention to what arises in your mind and body in these moments.
- Take a walk and collect a piece from nature—perhaps a leaf. Choose the piece that speaks to you and meditate on its beauty.
Routine your way to good health
Routines are not only a route to greater productivity: they can also benefit you mentally and physically. For instance, they can result in improved stress management, better sleep, healthier eating patterns, and greater ability to build exercise into your routine.
Plan your routine and list out your goals to help keep yourself accountable. You may also want to take baby steps by adding one or two items to your routine at a time.
Cortisol—the energizer hormone
Commonly thought of as our stress hormone, cortisol often gets a bad rap, says Margeson. Cortisol is an energy producing hormone, she explains. One of the ways our body produces cortisol is by way of light exposure on awakening.
“Ideally, the amount of cortisol we produce is enough to help us accomplish our tasks on any given day, but when [under stress], we can deplete cortisol levels and start to use adrenaline as an energy source,” says Margeson. This is an unsustainable energy source and can eventually lead to burnout.
As part of your fall wellness strategy, Margeson suggests thinking about how you can reduce your reliance on adrenaline by, for example, putting your phone on silent an hour before bedtime, or creating a bedtime routine that staves off a second wind before sleeping.
Eating seasonally not only promotes variety in your diet, but in-season produce is more nutritious and flavorful than out-of-season fruits and veggies.
You’ll also want to prioritize eating foods with nutrients that will be beneficial at this time of year. For instance, zinc, an essential mineral for the immune system, can be found in poultry, crab, and cashews, while vitamin D-rich foods include fish, eggs, and fortified milk.
Assessing your current wellness routine
When assessing a wellness strategy, says Margeson, you should look at areas that aren’t working and where you have capacity to adjust. The best thing to do is to determine which one of the four wellness cornerstones makes the most impact, is the most sustainable, and is the one most suited to your current season.
You’ll also want to build flexibility into your wellness plan. For instance, instead of planning every meal, try focusing on protein prep instead. And when you add something into your routine, something else should go, says Margeson. For instance, if you’re making protein prep your focus, then your veggie intake doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead, opt for a veggie tray or salad.
Key supplements for seasonal support
Helpful supplement Why it works vitamin D supplements may help provide support for mood, bones, and reducing inflammation probiotics can help improve the immune system elderberry has antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and antidepressant properties vitamin C supplementation might help shorten the duration and decrease the severity of the common cold oil of oregano has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and potential cancer-preventive properties; carvacrol, an active ingredient in the oil, is a strong antioxidant