As the collective back-to-school bustle fades, taking the light and warmth of September with it, lovely autumn turns to plain old fall. Soon you’re trudging to work in the dark, coming home in the dark, and eating enough to hibernate in a cave. Add the sudden shock of daylight savings time and you’re disoriented, tired, and perhaps a touch grumpy, too.
But fall needn’t be so exhausting. By paying attention to a few crucial details and switching up a familiar habit or two, you can sustain your well-being even in the dark days. Here are some tips to energize the season:
Eat protein and drink water.
Your diet is important for overall health year round, of course. It just needs a tweak come fall. First, concentrate on getting in a high-protein breakfast each day, like this Avocado Toast with Bacon from the food blog These Peas Are Hollow. Morning protein helps regulate your energy over the course of the day, smoothing out the hunger peaks and valleys. (Find nine more ingenious takes on the high-protein breakfast at blisstree.com.)
And stay hydrated! Cooler temps usually mean drier air, which is a drain on our water-loving bodies. Drink plenty of water—but remember that herbal teas, soups, fruits, and veggies contribute to your total water intake as well.
Keep an energy journal.
Because both light and temperature are changing now, your daily routine might need to shift. Lifehacker.com suggests tracking energy levels from breakfast through bedtime for a few days can help give you a sense of what habits are (or aren’t) working for you. Be sure to include meals, so you’ll know for sure whether that bagel and cream cheese holds you steady or leads to an afternoon crash.
Get plenty of light.
Natural sunlight sends signals to your brain that it’s time to perk up and helps regulate your circadian rhythms. Make it a point to get out into the light as early in the day as you can and take a break outside at least one other time in your day and soak up what you can.
Boost your immune system with food and friends.
Your immune system isn’t a single entity, but a complex, sophisticated system—one that scientists are still only just beginning to understand (see this Special Report from Harvard Health). What we do know is that chronic stress, including social isolation, can weaken the immune system—which is why we emphasize connection and surroundings as key to maintaining your health and your happiness. We’ve found that those with strong social networks bear up under stress far better than those without. Spending time with family and friends, or getting involved in your community, is proven to keep stress and the illness that comes from it at bay.
So share a meal—and incorporate immunity-boosting foods to build your reserves, especially as cold and flu season gets into full swing. Whole Living highlights seven yummy foods that do the work for you, such as sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and sunflower seeds.
Listen to some Mozart.
Don’t underestimate the effect of fine art on your stress-addled brain. Listening to the layered harmonies and hook-free melodies of Bach or Mozart lets the brain relax and rejuvenate, writes Kevin Purdy on lifehacker.com.
Similarly, if you’re always reading blogs or reports, treat yourself to a poem at The Writer’s Almanac during lunch. Giving your brain a chance to rest and play will free up mental energy to carry you through dim afternoon hours.
Sometimes these transitional months can be a gift in tired, vulnerable wrapping. When you make some simple, consistent lifestyle changes, you can improve your energy and boost your resilience to a difficult seasonal shift.
Becky Karush is a writer living in southwestern New Hampshire. Visit her at beckykarush.com.