Back to school doesn’t have to be all about your kids. Let the start of a new school year inspire you. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has a grown-up perspective on back to school that can help improve your emotional health. I recently did an interview for Natural Health Magazine’s article “Back to School for Grown Ups” about channeling school day memories and fall’s energy to improve our lives as adults. Here’s a quote from the article:
The weather, certain smells, certain tastes-all of these things can trigger memories of earlier experiences,” says Julie Hanks LCSW, a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City. “Come fall, some women feel the same type of anticipation they did as kids and might even unconsciously find ways to relive or improve upon the experience.”
I thought it would be fun to take inspiration from school days gone by and put my own emotional health twist to it, to help inspire you to take care of your emotional selves. Let’s reclaim some of the joy associated with the beginning of a new school year!
1) If you loved recess…
Why we loved it – games, freedom, break from school work, fun, social interaction.
TIP: Bring back playfulness & joy to physical activity
Instead of exercising to lose weight or burn calories, focus on activities that are fun, provide social interaction, and feel nurturing. Check out fun activities at community recreation centers or adult recreational activities and sports leagues. My friend and neighbor Andrya Lewis, recently brought up her decision to exercise for fun and when she feels like it. “At this point in my life, I deserve to do what I want to do.” Here’s Andrya at a Jazzercise class that combines her love of dance, music, and socializing.
2) If you loved school lunch…
Why we loved – As a child we ate without guilt or concern for nutrition. My elementary school favorite was pizza day with an ice cream sandwich for dessert.
TIP: Eat for pleasure
Take a break from counting calories, fat grams, etc. Splurge on your favorites once in a while. Earlier this week I went to lunch with some girlfriends and we ordered turkey sandwiches with cheese (instead of without), dressing on the salad (instead of on the side), and we ordered dessert.
3) If you loved making new friends…
Why we loved it – different students in class each year introduced us to a variety of people and potential for new friends.
TIP: Shake up your social scene
Take the advice you tell your kids and extend yourself to someone outside of your usual circle. Reach out to someone who may need a friend, who’s new at work, or who recently moved into the neighborhood.
Build in activities that get you out of your comfort zone socially like joining a mom’s club, hiking club, book club.
I recently helped a psychotherapy client with this very topic. She struggles with depress and was feeling socially isolated. We came up with a list of her interests, a list of clubs, church groups she could participate in. I encouraged her to build new social interactions into her weekly schedule. She joined a community theater production and attended a weekly church group to expand her social network.
4) If you loved new subjects
Why we loved learning – variety of subjects, interactive learning, projects, activities, adventure, willing to take risks and try something new.
TIP: Learn what you wished you’d learned in youth
“I wish I’d learned how to _______________________.” It’s never too late to learn something new. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and to look foolish, at times. Local school district community education programs for adults are an excellent resource for low cost classes that range from cake decorating, to home buying, to parenting, to salsa dancing, to guitar lessons, and so on. For years I’ve been inspired by my friend and colleague psychologist Dr. Kathryn Kair who started taking dance lessons in her 30’s and turned a room in her home into a dance studio. She also started taking piano and singing lessons at age 34. She didn’t have the opportunities to take lessons in childhood so she decided to learn them as an adult. Her step-daughter Nicole decided to join her and learn how to belly dance.
5) If you loved riding the school bus –
Why we loved it — Down-time, relax, visit with friends, trusted someone else to get you where you needed to go, take the long way home.
TIP: Try public transportation
Let someone else be in charge of navigation so you can read, rest, or play games on your phone. Try taking UTA Trax or bus to your next business meeting, lunch date with friends, fun activities with the kids or for weekend date night. I asked my Facebook friends about their past school bus riding experiences. While riding the bus was not a highlight for everyone, Lauren said, “I loved it. I would meet my friends at the bus stop. We would play cats cradle till the bus came, sit up front and talk to the bus driver and sing.”
On the topic of using public transportation as an adult, Bruce said that he enjoys the “chill-out time on the bus and train so that when I get home I’ve shook off most of the garbage from work and am ready to be human as I walk through the door at home.” Other friends listed these benefits of public transportation: getting work done, meditating or reading scripture, journal writing, and sleep.
Back to school isn’t just for kids. Let this time of year inspire you to reclaim the best parts of your youth.
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