Easy Ways To Healthy Habits After Summer Break (2023)

For most of us, summer vacation is just a memory that is fading away. However, what will not go away that quickly is one of too many “gelato” you enjoyed on that warm summer evening.  Indeed, while summer is a great time to unwind, spend time with friends and family, travel, and enjoy life, we often find ourselves overindulging with food and drinks and skipping workouts during summer, which is quite understandable and normal. In this article, we shall look at easy ways back to healthy habits after the summer break.

It’s common to deviate from your healthier routines over summer break, says Clifton Berwise, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, and member of the clinical content team at Modern Health. This may include changes to sleep schedules, abandoning your regular exercise routine, or spending more money than usual.

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However, Dr. Berwise emphasizes that although these habits aren’t the healthiest, you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much about adopting them.1 “Let’s be real: We could all use a break sometimes,” says Dr. Berswise. “However, when we start to sleep late absentmindedly or keep pushing things off till later, these behaviors can lead to increased distress.”

People Get Less Sleep During the Summer Months

Sleep, in particular, is one area where people start to seriously slack, says Jake Sparks, LMFT, a licensed therapist and treatment director for Embark Behavioral Health, and it’s one that can impact both your physical and mental health.2 During summer break, it’s typical not to get enough sleep or not to get the best quality sleep. Sparks says people often stay up late in summer, staring at screens, which can impact natural circadian rhythms and cause you to go to sleep too late.

Specifically, you may not get enough restorative sleep, according to Sparks. “We know that the most restorative sleep happens within the first four hours of sleep, usually [between] 11:00 p.m. [and] 3:00 a.m.,” Sparks explains. “So even if someone is getting the same overall amount of sleep, but not falling asleep till after 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 a.m., they are awake during the body’s naturally pre-programmed time for the most restorative sleep.”

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Give Your Mindset a Makeover

The first step in reviving healthy habits after a break is to update your mindset. This should be done with gratitude and positivity when possible. But positivity doesn’t mean you aren’t realistic or strive for something unattainable. This also means that when adopting a “can do” mindset, you try to lead with self-compassion.

When we are working on long-term habits or changes, we should strive for something we can do 70%-80% of the time so that there is less guilt during those times when we don’t meet the goal.

— CLIFTON BERWISE, PHD

“A way to offer ourselves self-compassion stems from the belief and recognition that we are all ‘works in progress’ and no one is perfect,” says Dr. Berwise. “Additionally, when we are working on long-term habits or changes, we should strive for something we can do 70%-80% of the time so that there is less guilt during those times when we don’t meet the goal.”

Aim to Nurture Your Mental and Physical Well-Being

It may be counterintuitive but nurturing your mental and emotional health starts by nurturing your body, says Sparks. “Mental health is tied to physical health,” he says. “So, start with some of the basics.” This includes getting enough sleep, eating a variety of nutritious foods, refraining from eating foods that make you feel worse, and getting in some movement every day, Sparks says.

Adding in some journaling5 and mindfulness meditation6 can be very helpful as well, Sparks suggests. Both of these activities have been shown to improve mental health, and they both have an important purpose—making you more aware of your feelings and emotions.

It’s Good to Feel Your Feelings

“You don’t always have to talk about your feelings, but you do have to feel your feelings,” Sparks explains. “These practices can help you connect with and feel your emotions, ideally labeling the emotion, making it more tangible and easier to tolerate.”

When it comes to reestablishing your physical health, Sparks’ biggest advice is to start small.

It can be super overwhelming to change everything all at once, and it’s unlikely that you will stick to your goals if you go from 0% to 100%. “Small behavior done consistently over a period of time will always be better than big changes that flare out,” Sparks says.

Here are some of Sparks’ tips for making these changes:

  • Come up with small goals that you can complete within a matter of seconds, like drinking one more glass of water per day or adding one extra vegetable to dinner.
  • Don’t necessarily cut out evening screentime, but set a realistic goal, like turning the TV off at 10 p.m., or leaving your phone on the kitchen counter at bedtime.
  • Set your shoes out by the front door so you remember to go on an after-dinner walk.

How to Set Goals and Establish Routines That You Can Actually Stick To

A big part of nurturing your emotional and mental health after a break is connecting with others, Sparks says. This is particularly true when we are overwhelmed by difficult feelings, like shame, insecurity, or self-doubt. These emotions can also cause us to isolate ourselves from others.

“The irony is, the best way to move through those emotions is with others,” Sparks says. As such, reconnecting with friends and other supportive people is an important part of reprioritizing your well-being.

Get an Accountability Partner

You may have heard that having an “accountability partner” is a great way to achieve healthy lifestyle goals. Interestingly, there is research to back this up.

A 2018 study found that people who were trying to become healthier through a weight management program were more likely to achieve their goals if they had an accountability partner. Having a gym partner, a friend who goes walking with you, or a friend who’s also trying to stop smoking or break another unhealthy habit can go a long way toward better health.

Reconnecting with friends and other supportive people is an important part of reprioritizing your well-being.

If you are looking to make changes in your routines, Dr. Berwise emphasizes that you should make these changes gradually and that you should strive for setting realistic goals. “One of the best ways to set realistic goals is to make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound),” he explains. “They need to be something that you can track over time and are flexible enough to be adjusted as needed.”

How to Set Realistic Goals

Here are Dr. Berwise’s practical tips for establishing routines, managing time effectively, and incorporating healthy habits into daily life:

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene. One simple thing you can do is try to start waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day, including on weekends. “This will help reset your body’s circadian rhythm and help you recognize at what times of the day you are most productive,” he says.
  2. Make use of technology. Setting timers and reminders can help with time boundaries. Give yourself at least a 10-minute break for every hour of focused activities. This can lead to greater productivity because your brain resets during these breaks. “I personally have a timer that goes off every day at 11:50 a.m. to remind me to get up and go for a walk,” Dr. Berwise shares. “It does wonders for my early afternoon productivity.”
  3. Get some alone time. Try to set aside an hour each day of time just for you. This might be a walk, reading a book, playing a game, or listening to a meditation—just make it something that you genuinely enjoy and want to do.
  4. Have a to-do list and prioritize it. Work on the highest prioritized things first. Break any big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones.

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Overcoming Challenges and Staying Motivated

Setting out to lead a healthier lifestyle after a break is a wonderful goal, but it won’t come without challenges and obstacles. Moreover, staying healthy for the long haul can be really hard.

So many people start healthy routines and then slip back to less healthy ones. So the question is: How do you create long-term healthy habits?

Dr. Berwise offered his best advice for maintaining your goals over a long period:

  • Take time to map out what living a healthier lifestyle means to you personally; this may include exercising more, improving spending habits, staying organized, improving sleep, etc.
  • Develop a plan that is measurable and realistic for you.
  • Consider journaling to honestly record your progress, understand what the barriers are to your success, and create a roadmap for success that works for your life.
  • As you follow your plan, be open to change, and make tweaks to it that fit any changes that come up in your life or obstacles you encounter.
  • Practice self-compassion as much as possible, recognizing that no one is perfect all of the time, that life happens, and that you are only human.

What This Means For You

Making the transition from the low-key days of summer to the fuller, more intense days of fall can be jarring. The change can be especially hard if you have adopted some less-healthy habits over the summer and you are aiming to change them once autumn rolls around.

Remember to take a deep breath, start small, take things gradually, set realistic goals, and be gentle with yourself along the way.

Keep in mind that attaining your goals doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. It also doesn’t mean you have to do this alone. Connecting with like-minded friends or a mental health specialist can make this transition easier.

Most importantly, remember that simply deciding you want to better yourself—and looking for information about how to do so—is a great first step!

Finally, if you are finding that reaching your healthy living goals is feeling extra challenging, or you are experiencing feelings of burnout, extreme stress, or mental health difficulties, it may be time to seek professional mental health help. Even just a few sessions with a therapist can help you get back on track.

I hope you find this article helpful.

About the Author

A Public Speaker and Freelancer who is Interested in Writing articles relating to Personal Development, Love and Marriage.

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