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Fall Mental Health Tips: Slow down. Take a Step Back. Breathe.

With the end of all that summer sun — and fun — often comes a little something called the end-of-summer blues. Perhaps it’s because cooler temperatures seem to lull us into hibernation mode. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, taking a step back from your very full social life (or very full workload) is very good for your mental health.

No matter how social a butterfly you happen to be, or how much pride you take in your workaholic status, allowing yourself a break to decompress is just what our minds and bodies need now and then.

So what does it mean to decompress? Most of us are aware of its informal meaning: to relax. But the official definition (to release from pressure) makes sense here too.

When you think about the constant, never-ending pressures of everyday life, it seems we need some decompression techniques now more than ever!

Because let’s face it, all those deadlines? They aren’t going anywhere. Plus, it’s only a matter of weeks before Halloween parties, then holiday parties, followed by the biggest bash of the year — yup, we’re talking New Year’s Eve. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

Starting to feel a little overwhelmed? No worries! Use fall as the perfect excuse to take a step back from it all. Try these 7 ways to decompress after a long day’s work or an overscheduled summer:

1. Meditate. This is a great way to clear your mind after a stressful day or a hectic summer. Meditation helps us focus — a skill modern society is losing, thanks to technology and multitasking. Never meditated before? League’s free Guided Meditation video will help you get started. And the good news is that just 5 minutes a day will do the trick. Or try a walking meditation to save on time and take advantage of the benefits of being outdoors.

2. Move your body. Whether a walk, jog or bike ride, exercise is an effective way to clear your mind and boost your mood. And while the gym is certainly one way to get a work out in, we don’t recommend it if you’re trying to decompress. Why? Two reasons: (1) Gyms typically have the music pumping and are overflowing with people, and (2) Having a gym membership may result in more overscheduling — you know, all those classes you want to sign up for?! We say stick to the outdoors or opt for solitary ways to get moving. League’s Walk to Run program is just what you need to get moving. Plus, you get rewards (a.k.a., free money you can use towards purchasing health products in the League Marketplace) simply for participating!

3. Bake. This may seem like a silly example — especially if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to spend time in the kitchen — but baking has been shown to improve mental well-being. Not only does it force you to be present in the moment (that’s mindfulness!), but you get a pretty sweet reward afterwards! That said, we do recommend making healthier choices, so that you aren’t sabotaging your efforts with all that sugar. Ready to get baking? Try League’s healthy and delicious Black Bean Brownie recipe. (We promise, it will not disappoint!)

4. Turn your phone off and disconnect (for a few hours, at least). The relationship we have with our phones is a funny (or not-so-funny) one. It’s like an unhealthy partnership, where your phone has all the control. Not only that, but the small bursts of pleasure you get from, say, those likes you get on Facebook is nothing compared to the negative impact technology can have on our mental health. We all know that mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed is a far cry from being present, and countless studies have shown that the envy we feel when viewing “idealized representations” of real life is leading to mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. Time to switch off… literally and figuratively!

5. Read a book. Whether you enjoy reading self-help books or escaping into some fabulously written fiction, reading a good old-fashioned book is a great way to decompress. Reading has actually been shown to be a more effective stress reliever than listening to music, having a cuppa, or taking a walk. But whatever you do, make sure to pick up a physical book (or newspaper!) as it has the added element of helping you unwind — remember that the blue light of your device’s screen does the exact opposite. Plus, one study demonstrated that when we “read” online, we aren’t actually reading, but skimming (which, to our knowledge, doesn’t really come with mental health benefits).

6. Say no if you need to. Sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do for your mental health. If you’re feeling drained after a stressful work day (or month!), it’s okay to back out of a social engagement or RSVP “no” to the hottest party of the season. And if your workload is such that you’re using your evenings and weekends to catch up, it’s time to speak with your manager — the truth is, they aren’t doing the company any favors by making you work excessive amounts of overtime (see #7).

7. Leave your work… at work! No matter how much you love your job, having work-life balance is critical to good mental health. And how do you ever expect to clear your head if you’re still — well —thinking about work 24/7? While it can be tempting to log on after hours to catch up on deadlines, you are more likely to be more productive if you give your brain that much-needed break. Turn your home into a work-free sanctuary, so that the moment you step inside, the decompressing begins.

An excuse to slow down? We say: embrace it! Taking this sort of conscious break from your whirlwind of a social life is good for your mental health — no matter how extroverted you are! And even workaholics need some level of work-life balance. You can do it — or should we say — not do it!

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