Fall is almost upon us. I know it doesn’t feel that way, with the sweltering heat and all, but it really is. And for many people, that means it’s back-to-school season. I have always loved this time of year. As a confirmed nerd, I was usually pretty excited to head back to school. There was always something magical about picking out new school supplies and back to school clothes. As an adult, however, I recognize that this can actually be a pretty stressful time for a lot of people. Plus, for military families, the new school year often coincides with a new duty station, making the transition extra overwhelming for children and adults alike. Schedules get busier, everyone has more demands on their time, and for many, healthy habits and taking care of themselves go out the window.
I don’t have a school age child, but I’ve always felt that back-to-school time brought a promise of change and new beginnings with it. So if back-to-school or the demands of military life have you feeling overwhelmed, here are a few simple ideas help keep you healthy and sane(ish) this fall.
Please don’t start laughing or rolling your eyes. We all know, many of us don’t get enough sleep. While I have no ideas for adding more hours to the day, back-to-school is a good time to adjust your sleeping schedule and practice healthier sleep habits.
When it comes to sleep, both children and adults thrive on routine. That means consistent bedtimes and wake up times, even for the grownups. Even on the weekends.Try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day. Consistency will make falling asleep and waking up that much easier. I promise I’m telling you this because it’s true, not because my toddler wakes me up early regardless of what day it is and I want everyone else to suffer too. That’s definitely not it.
You may have heard the term sleep hygiene. This basically translates to habits that help you sleep better. Even though everyone is pressed for time and you may not be able to get as much sleep as you would like (especially if your spouse wakes up at the crack of dawn for PT and you can never seem to quite get back to sleep), practicing good sleep hygiene can help make the sleep you do get more restful. Here are some basic sleep hygiene tips:
Avoid stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime. You know your body best, but I like to limit most of my copious caffeine intake to the morning. If I have coffee after about 3 pm, it disrupts my sleep.
Limit your alcohol intake before bed. While alcohol can make you fall asleep, the process of metabolizing it disrupts your sleep cycle and makes you more tired.
Exercise. Working out regularly helps promote restful sleep, among all its other lovely benefits.
Don’t bring technology to bed with you. The light from all your late night Netflix watching, Facebook stalking, compulsive email checking, and last-minute online shopping is confusing your brain. Light equals daytime, which doesn’t equal sleeping. Put your various devices away and keep your bedroom dark. Which brings me to my next point.
Create a restful sleep environment. Your bed and/or bedroom should be a restful and calm place that helps you relax. I know for me this is easier said than done. The baby monitor crackles, cell phones beep, my cat jumps on my face in the dead of night for no reason. Just do the best you can. Try to limit noises, lights, and distractions in your sleep area.
Now that you’ve had a beautiful, restful night of sleep, it’s time to think about breakfast. Again, easier said than done. But a healthy breakfast can keep you from overeating later in the day, and kids who eat breakfast are able to concentrate better at school. It doesn’t have to be a big production though. My favorite is oatmeal, because there are about 200 different ways to make it, and a lot of them are fast. Here are some of my favorites:
This is pretty foolproof. You can adjust ingredients and liquid ratios depending on the flavors and textures you like. Plus, you can add toppings. Using the slow cooker means you can have super healthy steel cut oats without lots of work on a busy morning.
Bake these on the weekend and just grab them in the mornings!
Guys, I really love oats. Join me.
Making homework less of an ordeal
My daughter is far too little for homework, but as a lifelong procrastinator, I know the homework struggle well. Sometimes, having a space set aside and a routine set up can make a big difference in getting things done. It could be as simple as the kitchen table or as elaborate as a home office, but this year experiment with a homework space. Adults who have their own school work, or never-ending emails to check, or a novel to finish might find this helpful as well.
Keeping germs at bay
Anyone with any experience with children knows that daycares and schools are basically a hotbed of disease. Did they have kindergarten in medieval Europe? Because I’m pretty sure that’s where plagues originated. So keep reminding your kids to wash their hands and cover their sneezes and coughs. A little extra vitamin C probably won’t hurt you either.
Remember to fit in downtime
Back-to-school means busier schedules for everyone. Don’t forget to fit in some relaxation time for you and your little ones. When you’re out picking up school supplies, maybe grab yourself one of those cool grownup coloring books that are supposed to be great for stress relief. And don’t forget to hit up your military spouse network for other back to school tips. Some of them may even have non-oatmeal breakfast ideas.
What are your favorite ways to stay healthy as the school year starts?