by Rebecca Leppard, Registered Provisional Psychologist
 
Summer is almost over. School, activities and busy schedules are just around the corner. Stress often increases as the pressure to be productive mounts, but a more structured daily schedule doesn’t have to jeopardize our mental health. One reason summer is so enjoyable is because schedules are more relaxed and flexible. When the school year starts, people often become well-meaning eager beavers and overschedule themselves and their families. Just as routine and scheduled activities are important, so too is down time and relaxation. 
 
SET ASIDE TIME
 
As autumn approaches, pay attention to how you choose to spend your time. When schedules get busy, it’s easy to forget about doing things we enjoy. Make your family’s mental health and well-being a priority by scheduling in time for self-care activities – those that are fun and/or relaxing. Just as you would schedule a doctor or dentist appointment, do the same for self-care. Think of it as a very important appointment with yourself. 
 
Whether it’s going for a walk outside, scheduling a family games night, reading a book, calling a friend or working on a craft or project, make sure you are spending time during the week doing something you enjoy, rather than focusing only on the things you feel you have to do. 
 
It can be very easy to unconsciously fall into the fast-paced, rushed autumn routine, but if you're proactive and make a habit of purposely setting aside time during the week to attend to your needs, you will be on your way to increasing your happiness and well-being.
 
MINDFULNESS
 
For the days when there’s no choice but to be busy, practicing mindfulness is beneficial (see link below). Focus on the present moment and become attuned to your breathing and surroundings. This can help you feel more grounded and centered, which can help you cope better with a hectic schedule. 
 
For more reading about how to have an enjoyable transition from summer to autumn, read Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall: Coping with the Change of Season from Goodtherapy.org.
 
To helps kids deal with the uncertainty and stress of going back to school, check out this article: Helping your child cope back to school anxiety. (AnxietyBC.com)
 
To learn mindfulness and meditation see themindfulnesssummit.com.  
The Primary Care Networks Program Management Office
Alberta Government
Alberta Medical Association
Alberta Health Services