Autumn has fallen upon us once again! This is my favorite time of year. The air is crisp and cool, hearty squashes are in season, and everything’s coming up pumpkins! This is the time of year that most mammals start to slow down and prepare for the cold months, some even hibernate during the winter, but we humans tend to speed up. Preparing kids to go back to school runs into getting ready for Halloween, which is followed by Thanksgiving, then Christmas and Hanukkah. Next comes New Year’s, and after all of the festivities have died down, we start running around, trying to accomplish the resolutions we’ve made. It’s really not until February that we start to slow down and relax. While it’s impossible to follow the lead of the squirrels and bears and take the season off, it is important to make sure we take care of ourselves by eating healthy food, exercising, properly managing stress and getting plenty of rest.
Here are 5 tips to keep you healthy this season:
Get Enough Sleep Even though there’s less daylight, many people tend to sleep less during the autumn and winter months. Sleep is essential for health and wellbeing. While we sleep, our bodies are hard at work, detoxifying, repairing and rebuilding. When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re denying our bodies the time it needs for these functions and we’re compromising our immune systems. Studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to weight gain, and we tend to eat more to fuel our bodies through our waking hours. Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation causes increased levels in cortisol in the body, which means we’re all walking around feeling stressed out.
Plan Meals Ahead of Time When we’re busy, we tend to grab whatever food is available, which is unusually unhealthy fast food or boxed processed meals. Spending a little time preparing for the week’s meals pays off big time. Pick easy recipes, shop for the ingredients and then chop vegetables and as soon as you get home from the store. Plan on making extra food so you will have leftovers for lunch, or prepare several salads at once and store them in containers in the fridge. Planning ahead takes the guesswork out of meal time, and preparing ingredients ensures that you will be spending minimal time in the kitchen on weeknights, when you’re busy. If you have one, break out the slow cooker, which cooks while you’re at work and welcomes you home with a nice, hot meal!
Eat Seasonal Foods Nature provides what we need, when we need it. Fall foods help cleanse the body and prepare it for the cold months ahead. Autumnal foods such as apples, Brussels sprouts, onions, winter squash and sweet potatoes are all packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients as well as compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of developing cancer. And luckily, they’re all delicious!
Use Full Spectrum Light Bulbs Shorter daylight hours can lead to Season Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a mild depression that tends to affect people during the winter months. Getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy meals can help combat SAD, as can using full spectrum bulbs, which mimic the sun’s rays.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No It’s common to take on too much at once, especially at this time of year. A lot of people, especially women, have a fear of letting others down, and end up juggling far too many projects and activities, and self care tends to get pushed to the back burner. Saying no isn’t always easy, but it gets more natural with practice. Self care is just as important as eating healthily, as we need to nourish our souls just as much as we nourish our bodies. Make sure you make time for yourself and the things you love.
What is your favorite way to stay healthy in the cooler months?