Last week, I took my spring finals.
I celebrated finishing my last exam with ice cream and a 2 hour nap and it was honestly a great afternoon. After finals, I was staying in town to watch my roommate graduate and I was excited about all of this new free time. However, a few days into my break I was really tired and confused about why. I was sleeping in. AND taking naps. My time was spent mostly with friends. Compared to my past weeks of intense school commitments, my first week of summer was a breeze. I felt like I should be bursting with energy.
However, once I considered my dramatic routine change my exhaustion made a lot of sense.
Throughout the course of the semester I woke up around the same time. I ate my meals around the same time. I had pretty set routine of when I exercised, relaxed, and studied. Then summer started and with that came the physical and mental effects of changing up a schedule. Your body will most likely “notice” when your routine shifts. I was doing pretty much everything on a different schedule than what I was used to and my energy ended up a little wacky. I listened to what my body was trying to tell me and practiced a little self-care to help reestablish my energy.
I specifically wanted to write about the fatigue that can accompany routine change because Summer tends to come with schedule shifts for many people.
School lets out. Kids may be home for the summer. Family comes into town. People may take off from work or go on vacations. While sometimes there’s not much you can do as it takes a little while to adjust to something new, I do have a few suggestions to make sure you’re maintaining self-care during times of routine change.
1. Pay attention to keeping your body nourished for energy
Something that I love about graduation week is graduation cookouts. Most nights I went to something where a friend’s family provided lots of food and I loaded up on some of my favorites like grilled corn and potato salad. I woke up feeling pretty full most mornings. I would have a brunch meal later in the day instead of eating an early breakfast.
Listening to your body’s cues about fullness and hunger is great. It’s actually a form of self-care. But part of the relationship between self-care and nourishment is making sure you have the tools to listen to what your body is telling you.
Acknowledge when you’re feeling sensations such a hunger or fullness. But an important point I want to add is that it is absolutely okay to eat past experiencing fullness- for example when it’s been a few hours since eating and you know you need a meal or snack or if you just want some extra servings of a meal or dessert.
My schedule change shifted the amount I was eating at meals and the number of meals I was eating throughout the day. I had much better energy on the days where I snacked between my meals as I started to get hungry. The days where I would just “wait for dinner because it was happening soon enough” I felt very low energy. I definitely wasn’t respecting what my body needed. My take away advice is that schedule changes might affect when or how you eat. Be prepared and carry snacks, so you can recognize your hunger and honor it (even if it’s not “ time” to eat). This is one of the most simple and most important ways to maintain energy as your routine changes.
2. Get some alone time – Rest and Recharge
I honestly can’t emphasize this part of self-care enough. Routine change can be a hectic time and it’s so important to be aware of that. Personally, summer comes with a bit more free time and the option of warm weather plans. I wanted to include this point because I’ve noticed the drive to go out and do as much as possible as the weather gets nicer and the days gets longer is a pretty common feeling. Halfway into my first week of summer I realized I hadn’t had any real alone time. I absolutely love spending time with people. But going several days without taking time for myself left me mentally frazzled. I spent the next afternoon watching a movie in my room and taking time to enjoy a little bit of solitude.
Yes, absolutely enjoy all of the added plans that tend to come with summer. But be aware of what you need and if you would benefit from a break.
Sometimes self-care is going out to dinner with friends and sometimes self-care is canceling those dinner plans to watch Netflix by yourself. When you start to feel overwhelmed or worn out, take a breath and think about what you truly need. Take a walk by yourself. Watch an episode of something on your own. Treat your moments alone as a little mental break.
3. Journal your Thoughts
This is pretty similar to my previous point of making sure you have a few moments of alone time. But, I’m such a strong supporter of journaling, so I wanted to have it as a separate point. Times of routine change can be mentally stressful. For one reason or another, you are changing up the way you do things and this can can be accompanied by expected or unexpected stress. Take a few minutes whenever works best for you to write your thoughts down. I personally prefer writing a little with my morning coffee. Or before I go to bed. Even a couple moments of reflection can be calming. Journaling can help you gather your thoughts and give you a better perspective on how to approach change.
4. Rest When You Need Rest
This may seem like one of my more obvious self-care tips, but changing up a sleep routine can be surprisingly draining, at least for me. I’ve definitely noticed how you can be getting similar amounts of sleep, but changing “sleep hours” can cause fatigue regardless. My personal example is once I finished school I started staying up a little later and sleeping in later and it definitely messed with my energy levels a bit. Yes, I know common advice is not to nap and “mess up your sleep schedule”. But, if you need sleep, absolutely give your body the rest that it needs. No plans are that fun when you’re that tired anyway. Your energy levels will eventually adjust to your new routine. But as your body gets used to new schedule be aware you might need more sleep than you think you need.
To wrap it all up, most people will experience schedule changes throughout their lives and throughout their year.
I wanted to share my thoughts as summer started because schedules often shift with season change and I recently had some personal experience with this one. My biggest take away is that change can be exhausting or overwhelming and listening to your body’s cues and honoring them is so, so important to helping you have the most energy possible for activities you love and enjoy.
If you want any input on maintaining self-care or learning new self-care habits please meet with one of our wonderful dietitians.Contact our office at 240- 670-4675 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org