For many American kids, September means back to school. The stress in years past was less intense. Will I make new friends, and what will my new teacher be like, were some of the common worries. These were balanced by the excitement of picking out a new lunchbox or backpack, shopping for school clothes, and maybe getting a fresh box of crayons.
Today, however, concerns over Covid and now monkeypox, school shootings, and catching up with studies after the pushback from the Pandemic weigh on students and parents. Acknowledging that these are real concerns, rather than trying to override or disregard them, is a healthy first step. Talking with a counselor, therapist, or others who offer healthy coping strategies may be necessary. We know that laughter is contagious, well so is stress. Trying to collectively cope and ease the stress in yourself, as well as your children, makes a healthier and more joyful environment for all.
A few simple tips that you may want to utilize this fall include:
1. Start shifting into a sleep routine now that meets the age-specific needs of your child.1,2
Summer is filled with care-free days and nights that last a lot longer than during the school year. To facilitate this transition, you may want to consider waking your child earlier and going for a walk outdoors within an hour of waking. Exposing our eyes to sunlight, without sunglasses first thing in the morning, ideally for at least twenty minutes helps regulate the sleep hormones in our body. Eliminate screen time at least one hour before bed and substite with a calming practice such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to a story, or coloring can help prepare us for a nice, deep sleep once we hit the pillow.
2. Reduce sugar intake. Sure, ice cream and snow cones are fun summer treats, but why not take advantage of the new season and substitute with apples spread with peanut butter or sprinkled with cinnamon? Consider shopping together to pick out healthy fruits and vegetables at the grocery or local farmer’s market on weekends. Prepare healthy home cooked meals for the week on Sunday if possible. Even if these only get you to Wednesday or Thursday, that is a few days of extra mind space for you, and healthy food for your whole family.
3. Create time to decompress. Partnering with Mother Nature is ideal for this. Numerous studies show that spending time outdoors engaging with nature reduces stress and improves our wellbeing. While it is ideal to spend time in green spaces such as parks, gardens or forests, or blue spaces such as lakes, pools, or beaches, but access to these may be limited for some. Going outside and gazing at the sky, noticing the cloud formations or the shades of blue in the sky is something we all can access.
4. Move. Most children will engage in some type of recreation at school. Encouraging playing or exercising after school, however, can help burn off the angst build up from the day as well as add to their overall holistic health. After school sports teams, family walks, playing with neighbors, or even doing “old-fashioned” hula hooping or jumping rope, can get their hearts pumping and stress reducing.
5. Set boundaries now. We hit the reset in our computer when we need it to clear things up and work smoothly, so why not do that for ourselves as the seasons in our lives change. The free-flowing days of summer may not lend themselves to focusing on the many things that come with a new school year. Maybe set limits on friends coming over, or texting. Is it time your child took on more responsibility such as doing their own laundry, emptying the dishwasher or taking out the trash? Parents will be supervising homework, getting kids to school, and all the other new tasks that come with the school year so they need to establish a household rhythm that works for all to achieve the goals they set.
However you decide to shift into the upcoming school year, we wish you the best. Our website is full of helpful tips and content to better connect with our natural world to enhance your holistic health. Feel free to tap into it as you need to. We invite you to subscribe to our seasonal email newsletter on the homepage and socialize with us on social @TheNatureNurse . Have some tips of your own to share? Please share them in the comments below.
Saturday, April 22, will mark the forty-seventh annual Earth Day celebrations. Initially started in the United States, events are now held in over 193 countries to support environmental protection.1,2 Not surprisingly, this year an unprecedented number of scientists and science supporters will be marching in Washington, D.C. in an effort to educate and remind our leadership of the current and predicted changes due to climate change. Organizations and individuals will be planting trees, teaching about recycling and other worthy initiatives to help protect and heal our planet.
The need to protect our planet is beyond what we can do in a day. Environmental education and restoration needs to be part of our daily life—growing more of our own local food, reducing our plastic use, removing the millions of pounds of trash from our oceans, moving more towards clean energy use, the list is long. It can seem daunting at times and yet as we near 7.5 billion people globally3, every little bit each one of us does makes a difference.
Perhaps of equal concern is something many of us never thought we would need to address—our disconnection with nature. Never before have we had so many people, especially youth, out of touch with our natural environment. The health ramifications of this are very significant. The greater issue long-term is how will today’s youth, many of whom are living almost twenty–four-seven in climate controlled environments and buried in technology for work, school and play know the environment around them is changing? Will they care?
Earth Day 2017 falls on a Saturday this year. This creates a perfect opportunity to invite a child to engage in nature. The longer you can keep them outside this Saturday, the better for most kids. Looking for ideas? It can be as simple as planting seeds in a clay pot while explaining the joy of delayed gratification, the wonder of watching something grow and how this is where are food really comes from. Maybe you would rather take a hike? The United States National Park Service offers free admission for Earth Week4. Richard Louv’s book, Vitamin N5 , has chapters of ideas of how to engage in nature for people of all ages. Go camping, swimming in the ocean, fishing at a lake, play flashlight tag, picnic in a park-there are a lot of fun things to do. Allowing a child the opportunity to discover the awesomeness in nature just might be the best gift you can give them and the earth.
Unplastic Halloween Tip #4
As promised, today’s tip is for those of us who may not have a pumpkin patch nearby, have no time to carve a pumpkin or may be saying, “I’ve carved enough pumpkins in my life!” Well, this post will share some other non-plastic, quick purchase ways to decorate for Halloween.
Make a ghost:
Simple-grab a sheet, draw a face, put some stuffing in the head, tie a string around the neck and hang it on your porch or a tree.
Feeling a little more motivated? Make a field of ghosts.
Take a piece of wood or cut it into a shape. Paint it in Halloween style and stick it in the ground or on top of a piece of hay.
Make your own out of clay or buy one made of clay. You can still add a light inside and reuse it for years to come without adding plastic to our environment.
Gourds make great Halloween decorations! Buy them plain or already decorated.
Share your ideas to unplastic Halloween below!
Unplastic This Halloween: Tip 2
The National Retail Federation estimated that in 2015, more than 157 million Americans planned to celebrate Halloween. Total spending in 2015 was estimated to be $6.9 billion, with the average American celebrating spending $74 on decorations, candy, costumes and more. Estimates for 2016 spending is 8.4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of stuff. If you go into any retail store, you will quickly see a lot of those sales items are made from plastic.
Helping to clean up our environment can seem overwhelming. However, when each of us pitches in, even a little it can add up to a BIG difference. Let’s take a look, for example, at what the trick-or-treaters will use to collect their goods.
I don’t know about you, but when we were kids we used pillowcases and so did most of our friends. What about a small basket?
If every child used a non-plastic collection device, just think how many plastic pumpkin buckets could be avoided. If we don’t buy them, guess what? Retailers won’t order them. Just think of the millions of plastic treat collection containers that could be eliminated! An added benefit-you can save a few dollars using something you already own. A win-win.
What tips do you have to unplastic Halloween? Please share in the comments below.