Rest and Recharge: A Guide to Preparing for the Upcoming School Year

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Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh……the sweet, sweet sound of Summer.  For many in education, summer is a time to breathe a little deeper.  We get to enjoy moving at a much slower pace and greet the days away from the classroom and constant demands of the work day.  However, how can we make this same sense of peace and tranquility last throughout the school year?  How can we truly recharge over the summer months and live our best lives every single day?  Hopefully, at least one of the ideas below will be helpful for you and maybe even change your life a little.   Because even though the focus is on summer break, these same suggestions hold during any season of our lives.  Stress is unavoidable; however, the way we prepare for and manage stress on a daily basis can truly make all the difference.

Tie up Loose Ends

The last thing you want is to return from a much-needed break and walk into a mess or chaos.  Just like many of our students, I am sure we have the urge to rush out the door the second we know we are “free”.  However, be diligent about leaving your work life in an organized manner.  Spend some time managing your email inbox.  Address any to-do list items that still need to be taken care of.   Set greetings on your phone and in your email to let others know you will be away for an extended time.  Declutter your office and shred any papers that are not essential to keep.  Give your office a good dusting and cleaning. 

Stick to a Schedule and Get Adequate Sleep

Do your best to stick to a schedule or routine even when on breaks and during the summer months.  Staying up all night and sleeping in might seem like a good idea, but the truth is our bodies and minds need a schedule of sorts.  Certainly, feel the grace to binge watch a new series and turn off your usual morning alarm clock, but consider the optimal number of hours you need to feel your best.  Many adults still need at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night.  Also, our bodies work best when in sync with the natural rhythms of the earth.  If you are staying up a little later during the summer because we have more sunlight, try to have a consistent routine that includes less screen time and more time watching the sun set and the sun rise.

Eat Good Food

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Summer in the Midwest is a great time to take advantage of fresh foods and nature’s bounty is certainly at its prime.  Plus, access to fresh foods has gotten even easier thanks to local farmer’s markets and the cooperative distribution of foods grown locally.   Do your best to fill your plate every day with fresh foods that are grown locally.  Cook and meal plan as a family and/or with your neighbors.  Eat meals outside to get extra sun light and fresh air.   I think you will find that eating (good) food rich in nutrients is not only delicious but also affordable.  Plus, once you start to feel better eating fresh foods will likely be something you enjoy and want to seek out on a regular basis.

Move your Body Every Day

Do you have a dog or a cat?  If so, you may notice one of the first things they do upon waking is stretch.  We ALL need to move a little more and sit a little less.  One of my favorite ideas to suggest is that our bodies are like machines and machines are meant to move.  Start your day with gentle movement.  Consider simple ways to stay active and do load bearing movement daily.  If we all made movement a regular priority, the need to count steps and spend time in the gym would decrease greatly.  Have fun moving.  Plan a walking meeting instead of sitting in a conference room.  Meet your friends at the park instead of at a local restaurant.  Freshen up the landscaping around your house or volunteer to help someone who can no longer do their own yardwork.  Summer might also be the perfect time for you to learn to do a new activity or sport!

Try Not to Do It All

It is okay to be still and stay close to home.  If you like to travel then you may already have your entire summer vacation planned.  If so, I wholeheartedly hope you have fun, enjoy the change of scenery, and get to explore new places. One thing I have learned is that you will still benefit from the time off if you choose to have a “stay-cation”.   It might be exactly what you need AND you really don’t need to accomplish every single task on your “to-do” list.  Actually, this might be a nice time to do a little less vs. trying to do it all!  A few simple things to consider:  Conquer one or two items on your “to-do” list and stay within your budget.  Declutter a space in your home.  Spend an hour or two within your community visiting a local shop or restaurant.  Seek out and visit a historical site close to your home.  Take a day trip and visit somewhere new.

Check in From Time to Time

I still remember the awful feeling I had returning after one summer break.  I had spent a minimal amount of time prepping for the upcoming school year.  I began feeling overwhelmed when I sat down at my desk and started to plan.   I knew there was no way I was going to be completely prepared, and I decided from that moment forward I would always do some work over my breaks.  I still have to remind myself regularly that work-life balance is essential and time off means stepping away from work and email.  However, there are certain things that help me balance and one is keeping my email inbox organized and manageable.  Also, as I previously mentioned we need to move.  Doing all the semester prep in one (or two) weeks often equates to long hours sitting in front of the computer.  Plus, I normally have more energy during those first few hectic weeks when the semester starts because I did a few things over summer break. 

I hope these tips help you think of ways to stay active and recharge over the summer months so that you can return to the office (or your work life) feeling ready to take on the new academic year.

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