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Autumnal Adjustments

Reboot your wellness routine

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For many, September represents a fresh start—in school, work, and a new season. This makes it the perfect time of year to revamp our wellness routines to better align with the needs of our bodies and minds.

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A new season

This coming fall season—like many of the seasons we pass through in our lives, including marriage, divorce, or becoming a caregiver of children or parents—demands different wellness supports, says Dr. Ashley Margeson, a Halifax-based naturopathic doctor, and host of The Superwoman Code, a podcast designed to help busy humans make their health work for them, not against them.

We encounter two significant shifts in the fall, says Margeson: the drop in UV exposure, which can lead to plunging energy levels, and an increased pace of life.

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Adjusting your wellness routine for the needs of your season

Margeson suggests looking at the foundations of what’s currently working in your life. She counsels her patients on approaching these cornerstones in the following four key areas.

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Sleep

The ideal amount of sleep you need can be determined by (if you’re getting high quality sleep) whether you wake up rested at roughly the same time of day without an alarm. Keeping this consistent across the seasons means your circadian rhythm is consistent, which indicates your hormones are consistent as well.

Creating a bedtime routine is one of the best things we can do in this area, says Margeson. That could involve drinking a cup of tea with a book, performing yoga, or stretching sessions, keeping your yoga mat tucked close to the bed to ensure you’ll stick to the habit.

“Nighttime routines are critical,” says Margeson. “It’s so easy to get overstimulated and get a second wind.”

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Movement

In this area, it’s important to think about how sustainable your movement routine is. For instance, a yoga class that involves a two-hour total commitment might not be as sustainable as 20 minutes a few times a week in your kitchen.

“One of the best things you can do in the winter months is to get enough UV exposure. So at lunch time, when the sun is the highest in the day, take a 10-minute walk outside,” says Margeson.

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Fuelling

This wellness cornerstone involves thinking about how much you need to eat for recovery and how you can make this work within your budget. Protein is critical here. Margeson says that fuelling can be as simple as ensuring you ingest protein, greens, healthy fat, and fibre at most meals.

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Self-awareness

It’s important to know your capacity as a human being, and whether what you’re doing matches your season.

“These wellness strategies are key,” says Margeson. “They can feel harder to sustain because you don’t get that immediate ‘win.’” However, by doing these small things consistently, you’ll notice the difference: instead of dragging, you’ll feel content.

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Routine your way to good health

Not only are routines a route to greater productivity, but they can also benefit you mentally and physically. For instance, they can result in improved stress management, better sleep, healthier eating patterns, and greater ability to build exercise into your routine.

Make a plan for your routine and list out your goals to help keep yourself accountable. You may also want to take baby steps and add one or two items to your routine at one time.

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Seasonal eating

Eating seasonally promotes variety in your diet, and in-season produce is more nutritious and flavourful than out-of-season fruits and veggies.

You’ll also want to prioritize eating foods with nutrients that will be particularly helpful at this time of year. For instance, zinc, an essential mineral for the immune system, can be found in red meat, crab, and cashews, while vitamin D-rich foods include fish, eggs, and fortified milk.

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Assessing your current wellness routine

When assessing a wellness strategy, says Margeson, you should look at areas that aren’t working and where you have capacity to adjust. The best thing to do is to determine which of the four wellness cornerstones is the one that makes the most impact, is the most sustainable, and is most suited to your current season.

You’ll also want to build flexibility into your wellness plan. For instance, instead of planning each and every meal, try focusing on protein prep instead. And when you add something into your routine, something else should go, says Margeson. For instance, if you’re making protein prep your focus, then your veggie intake doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead, opt for a veggie tray, bag of salad, or bag from the freezer section.

 

Key supplements for seasonal support

  • vitamin D: as daylight hours dwindle, supplementation may help provide support for mood, bones, and reducing inflammation
  • probiotics: can help improve the immune system
  • elderberry: has been heralded for antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and antidepressant properties
  • vitamin C: supplementation might help shorten the duration and decrease the severity of the common cold
  • oil of oregano: has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and potential cancer-preventive properties; carvacrol, an active ingredient in the oil, is a strong antioxidant

Sync with the season

Fall doesn’t have to signal the beginning of the doldrums. Mindfully staying in tune with the season can reduce stress, help you focus, and assist with adapting to change. Try the following, for starters.

  • Meditate on what you can be grateful for about the weather.
  • Journal about some of your favourite images of fall and winter.
  • Spend a moment experiencing the weather, as it comes into contact with your skin. Pay attention to what arises in your mind and body in these moments.
  • Take a walk and collect a piece from nature—perhaps a leaf. Choose the piece that speaks to you and meditate on its beauty.

Cortisol—the energizer hormone

Commonly thought of as our stress hormone, cortisol often gets a bad rap, says Dr. Ashley Margeson, ND. Cortisol is an energy-producing hormone, she explains. One of the ways our body produces cortisol is by way of light exposure on awakening.

“Ideally, the amount of cortisol we produce is enough to help us accomplish our tasks on any given day, but when [under], we can deplete cortisol levels and start to use adrenalin as an energy source,” says Margeson. This is an unsustainable energy source and can eventually lead to burnout.

As part of your fall wellness strategy, Margeson suggests thinking about how you can reduce your reliance on adrenalin by, for example, putting your phone on silent an hour before bedtime, or creating a bedtime routine that staves off a second wind before sleeping.

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