There is something about this time of year that inspires us to get back on track. It’s like a second New Year. Summer is coming to a close, the weather and leaves are changing, people are doing their back-to-school shopping, and life takes on a more organized schedule again. This part of the year will always feel like “back-to-school” time for me, even though I graduated from college 14 years ago. I remember school always started for us the day after the MTV Video Music Awards – so the show was fun to watch but also inspired a mix of excitement and dread because a new classroom and schedule awaited the next day.
Most treatment centers and therapists have cyclical “busy” seasons where we see an increase in admissions. We tend to be busier at the beginning of the year and have another surge as summer winds down into winter. (I think most people want to postpone tending to their mental health and possible addiction concerns during the holidays and over the inviting, party-friendly summers.) But by late August, the carefree fun is winding down and getting serious about mental health and addiction starts to feel like more of a priority.
There are many ways to reflect and reorganize as this new season approaches. Here are a few things you can do to check-in with your emotional and physical health.
- Schedule the doctor’s appointments you’ve been putting off. Annual physical? Mole check? Cholesterol screening? Psychiatry visit? Now is a great time to stop procrastinating and just schedule those appointments. My track record isn’t perfect, but I try to tend to those pesky health ailments or ongoing issues I’ve been putting off around this time of year. Building and maintaining relationships with your doctors is a great way to receive the best care possible and catch problems early. You’ll never know what important things you might uncover or how much better you could be feeling until you go. If you’re worried about finding out a test result, such as your liver enzyme levels or testing for an STD, the stress of not knowing is almost always worse than finding out and coming up with a plan. If you’re worried about health consequences from drinking or using, it is especially important to see a trusted provider and talk to them about what is going on. If you’ve been putting it off, do it now! You can do it. (Go ahead, right now. Schedule it. This article will be here when you get back.)
- Check-in about your time management. It is hard to stay organized. Use this shifting of seasons to reorganize your priorities and make sure your schedule matches your long-term and short-term goals. Weekly schedules are available everywhere online. There’s even one at the bottom of this article from a random website. I recommend filling in one schedule for what your life actually looks like now, and one for what your ideal schedule would look like if you were living life exactly how you wish to be. If you’re struggling with substance use, you may notice you’re not going to bed and sleeping at healthy or consistent times or you may spend a lot of your day using, drinking, buying, recovering, and generally being less productive than you’d like. Treatment, such as inpatient residential treatment or outpatient treatment, can help you change that. (Call us if you need help.) If you’re struggling with other time management concerns, like how to fit in exercise and healthy meal planning when school or work (or both!) already keep you so busy, writing it all out and making clear on a schedule should help. You can bring your schedule in to your therapist’s office or just share it with a supportive friend. Don’t forget to leave time for relaxation and self-care, downtime, meditation, spiritual pursuits, exercise, food, and plenty of fun. You may realize you have to cut out 30 minutes of TV time in order to get to bed at the optimal hour and have a productive day. Don’t be afraid to try scheduling out various things, seeing how it all fits, and making necessary adjustments.
- Engage in a new hobby. Hobbies are just fun coping skills. What is something you’ve been wanting to do but keep putting off? Hobbies can be time-intensive or brief, cheap or expensive, difficult or mindless, and anything in between. There is so much to do on this planet, so use this time of changing seasons and schedules to engage in something new. Here is a list of just a few ideas:
- Learn a new language
- Learn to play a new instrument
- Learn how to sew, knit, or weave
- Read a new genre of books
- Take a class at an adult school or community college
- Learn a new sport and play in a recreational league
- Learn all you can about a subject that interests you
- Make your own soap or products
- Learn Woodworking
- Learn Ceramics
- Take on a home improvement project
- Make a scrapbook
- Try photography
- Set a fitness goal
- Learn to surf
- Plan a trip
- Get a certification in your field that interests you
- Take a calligraphy class
- Learn computer programming
- Collect coins
- Find and restore antiques
- Learn to dance
- Get more involved in your synagogue, church, mosque, temple etc.
- Take up bird-watching
- Tend to an aquarium
- Make jewelry
- Go to museums
- Learn how to meditate
- Fish, hunt, or forage
- Draw or color
- Do crossword puzzles
Hopefully one of those things interests you. If not, here is Wikipedia’s extensive list of hobbies.
With so much to get excited about, it makes sense to use Back to School season as a symbolic time to get healthy. If you’ve been using or drinking more than you want to be, this may include pursuing some form of help for your substance use. There are so many kinds of help available. Some options are: hotlines, supportive friends and family, counseling, psychiatry, sober coaching, community support meetings, intensive outpatient programs, sober housing environments, and residential treatment centers.
AToN Center is a residential treatment center where you live in a structured environment and get many hours of treatment, support, and holistic activities everyday. AToN Center is cool because you get the structure of residential treatment and the best therapy in a luxurious and peaceful setting. It is not punitive or overly restrictive, and you can have your electronics and tend to personal matters (within reason) while here. (We think every interaction is an opportunity to practice dealing with stressors effectively.) Sometimes people are hesitant to make the commitment to residential treatment because it seems drastic, but we have a few different options to accommodate your preferred length of stay and we encourage you to tour and make sure you feel comfortable. We welcome questions and aim to be as helpful and supportive as possible. We can also help you to determine what type of treatment may be the best fit for you, even if it is not our program. We work with a lot of programs in the area and never encourage people to come to us if it is not in their best interest.
So whatever it is you have been meaning to do, use this time to rejuvenate and move closer to a healthier, happier you. And don’t forget to buy shiny new school supplies to match your renewed excitement!