September Reset: Stylist’s guide to getting back on track after holiday season

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Lauren Geall
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September Reset: Woman meditating on the floor imagining the things she wants in life.

Set some goals, establish some new routines and get ready to take the rest of 2019 by storm: this is your guide to getting back on track as you head back to work after some well-deserved time off.

Moving from summer to autumn isn’t as easy as it may seem. Besides the fact that we need to change up our routines for colder weather and get ready for lower levels of sunlight, the more laid-back attitude we tend to adopt throughout the summer months must (sadly) come to an end. 

Whether you’ve found yourself afflicted with a case of August anxiety (the month-long ‘Sundayitis’ feeling you get as you mourn the end of summer) or you’re struggling with mid-year burnout, it can often feel like the last four months of the year are stretching into infinity – and 2020 seems eons away.

“As the days start to draw in, our natural hibernation response can kick in if the weather is overcast and we see little sun,” says Dr Sarah Brewer, Medical Director of Healthspan. “This can make us slow down, crave more stodgy foods and feel lethargic.”

“I think it’s easy in September to feel a little glum,” adds Nicki Louise James, a brand and business coach who works with female entrepreneurs. “The weather starts to change; out come those cute little boots rather than our sandals and now we have to work, work, work.”

But what do you do when you’re faced with four months of hard work, but summer has left you with a barely-established routine, a decimated bank account and complete inability to organise? How do you get back on track for the rest of the year, without throwing in the towel and hibernating until 2020?

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A September reset, of course. By taking it upon yourself to hit refresh on various aspects of your life (including fitness, skincare and diet) you’ll feel a lot more prepared and motivated to make the most of what’s left of 2019.

Whether it’s setting goals, implementing a new routine, establishing new habits or working on a more positive mindset, it’s important to reassess where you’re going and not let your lethargic, end-of-summer mentality make its way into the final four months of the year. It’s time to try and adopt a positive mindset: instead of mourning the end of summer, why not celebrate the beginning of autumn, and get ready to embrace everything which comes with it.

If you’re ready to get started but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. From how to set goals to the ideal morning routine, this is Stylist’s guide to the complete September reset to get you ready to take the rest of 2019 by storm.

1. Set yourself some (realistic) goals

Woman making goals
September reset: set yourself achievable, time-restricted goals.

If your life is feeling a little bit directionless after the summer break, setting yourself some realistic, achievable goals is a great way to focus your efforts and give you something to work towards over the next couple of months.

“Although holidays can be great at making us forget about the toils of day-to-day life, many of us find it hard to readjust when they’re over, and setting yourself some goals can help to generate a new sense of direction and focus,” explains Dr Brewer. “Setting yourself a goal gives you something positive to aim for.

“Work out what you really want to achieve and why, so you understand what motivates you. But make sure you set a realistic goal or you are setting yourself up for failure.”

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In order to keep your goals achievable – and ensure that you’re going to stay on track and make progress – be sure to set SMART goals. Setting SMART goals involves making sure your ambitions are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely – which helps focus your efforts and increases the chances of achieving the things you’re aiming for.

“I think knowing the goals you have reached, the ones that you can still reach, and the ones you have in your sights is really important in September. It means you can create a targeted, specific plan to get where you want to be by January,” says James. “My biggest tip is to set new goals, find new things that fire in your belly and strive to achieve them.”

When setting your goals, it’s important to remember to make the process as easy as possible – and that includes making more than one list. While it’s great to establish your biggest dreams and keep those in mind as you go about your day-to-day business, it’s also important to break down those dreams into achievable, bite-size pieces. 

“I’m a big believer in having big goals, and always striving to hit them – but also making sure I have smaller ones to help me get there,” James continues, “then when I tick something off – when I hit my target – I know that I’m moving forwards.”

Once you’ve made a list of your long-term goals, section off the other half of the page and make a more detailed plan for each one, identifying five or six steps you’ll need to make that dream a reality. And make sure to give your goals a deadline – giving yourself too much flexibility means you’re more likely to procrastinate and put things off. 

2. Get organised

September reset: pick up a new diary or planner and stay on-top of your life.

Organisation may be one of the best things you can do in September (and not just because it gives you an excuse to buy a shiny new mid-year diary).

There are many ways to go about it – using a diary, giving your life a Marie Kondo-esque overall, keeping strict to-do lists – it’s all about finding what system works for you.

If you’re someone who is always on the go, it might be a good idea to use an app to keep everything under control. There are a variety of different ones available on the app store to fit your needs, and it means that no matter how many appointments, ideas and notes you’ve got on the go, it’ll all be kept neatly inside the world of the internet. 

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“I’d always say that your plan needs to be actionable,” says James. “That way, you have jobs to do, things you can cross off when you’ve done them, and you still can stay productive. That feeling of crossing something off the list is great too.”

On the flip-side, it’s also a good idea to keep your living/working space in check. September is a great time to deal with all that loose paperwork and unorganised mess which has probably been piling up all year, so pick yourself up a couple of pen pots and file organisers and you’ll be setting yourself in good stead for the next four months.

3. Take control of your finances

Woman spending on card
“If this pandemic is teaching us anything, it’s to take each day as it comes and do what the hell you need to do to get through it.”

If there’s one area of your life that is looking particularly in need of some TLC right now, it’s probably your finances. Whether you spent your summer jetting off on holiday, going on day trips with friends or dancing the nights away at festivals, the months of June, July and August can be a particularly unhealthy period for our poor bank accounts.

Addressing your finances won’t just lead to a healthier bank account, either: it can boost your mental health, too. Money worries can lead us to feel particularly low and anxious, so addressing your finances and putting some habits in place can help you to feel better in the long run. 

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Put together a budget, start a weekly meal plan and keep track of your spending so you know exactly where your money is going: it’ll benefit you in the long run.

4. Reassess your career

September reset: use this point of the year to assess any career changes you want to make going forward.

If you’re feeling a bit unsure about where you’re heading when it comes to your career, September can be a good time to think about making a change, whether that’s pursuing a completely new career or choosing to prioritise your work-life balance.

Remember that it’s never too late to make a change – especially if you’ve got other talents and passions you haven’t yet been able to explore.

“We often end up in careers we think we ‘should’ have taken and when we get to our 30s, we realise we have other talents and passions,” says Karen Meager, a psychotherapist who set up careers consultancy Monkey Puzzle Training. “We’ve also had some experience, so we’re in an ideal position to assess what we want and don’t want in a career. It’s a time when we really begin to know ourselves.”

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So if you made a commitment to make a career change at the beginning of the year, but haven’t yet found the bravery to do it, September is your time.

“Just imagine how you will feel if there’s a goal you set yourself at the start of the year and you still haven’t quite got there, but right now you think, ‘you know what, I’m going to make that happen by the end of the year’ and you do it,” explains James. “What a way to end 2019!”

5. Establish a morning routine

September reset: morning exercise can set you up for the day ahead.

If you’re looking to get back into the swing of things, establishing a proper morning routine is essential. Besides it being good practise to keep yourself organised in the morning, an optimised morning routine can set you up for a successful day ahead.

Just 30 minutes of exercise in the morning can help to boost your productivity at work, so getting in an early morning workout should be an important part of your routine.

Dr Brewer agrees. “Walk or cycle at least some of the way to work, if practical, or get up earlier than usual and go for a walk or jog locally, fit in a swim, or visit the gym. Boost your energy levels with regular exercise – 30 to 60 minutes per day, preferably outdoors.

“It’s also important to eat a healthy breakfast,” she continues, “such as porridge or unsweetened muesli and fruit, a poached egg and spinach on wholegrain toast, or smashed avocado with rice cakes. Too much caffeine can mimic the stress response – so rather than starting your day with a strong coffee, have a cup of tea instead.”

6. Stop procrastinating

Addicted to mobile gaming in coronavirus lockdown
Addicted to mobile gaming in coronavirus lockdown

As summer comes to an end, it can be tempting to put all of those unanswered e-mails and unfinished projects to the side for a little bit longer – but if you want to reset your life, it’s time to get on top of everything.

“Usually people procrastinate because they feel overwhelmed or anxious,” says psychologist Sue Firth. “The task feels daunting or scary, so they get into the habit of putting it off until the last minute, at which point they’re forced to do it.

“Really, the remedy for procrastination is to do the opposite of what you most want to do,” Firth adds. “Make the first task as small as you absolutely have to in order to begin. For example, if you have five pieces of work to do, try doing the first section of each piece of work – then it will feel less huge.” 

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Another big hurdle you’re probably going to face in the fight against procrastination is your phone: so it’s time to reassess that relationship, too. Lucky for you, it’s scroll-free September – so there’s some ready-made methods out there to help you deal with your social media scrolling for good.

7. Change up your skin care routine

September reset: mix-up your skin care routine ready for the colder winter months.

Besides the fact that it’s great self-care to take the time to look after your skin, you’ll want to change up the products you’re using as the weather gets colder anyway.

“As soon as September rolls around, it’s like my skin starts protesting against the end of summer,” says Stylist’s junior beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher. “This year, my lips have instantly dried out, my face looks lacklustre first thing in the morning, and I’ve got tight and dry patches already – plus the up-and-down weather is making my hay fever go wild. Switching oil-controlling summer products for more nurturing, sensitive formulas is an absolute must, otherwise my skin won’t be properly armed as we descend deeper into winter.

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Establishing a skincare routine (and sticking to it) is important for ensuring your skin’s being cleansed regularly, and any concerns like acne or pigmentation are being addressed,” she adds. “The most essential step is removing make-up and dirt with the right cleanser for your skin; everything else in addition to that is down to you and your skin’s needs.”

8. Make time for you

Sleep deprivation: this is how many women get only 6.5 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep deprivation: this is how many women get only 6.5 hours of sleep per night.

It’s always a good time to sit down and think about where your head’s at, so take some time this September to reassess your needs and work out how to manage your mental health going forward.

“Relaxing, winding down and unplugging from a busy life is important for mental and physical health,” explains Dr Brewer. “Find time to relax – use whatever works for you but build regular ‘me time’ into your daily activities. Many apps are available to help monitor sleep, stress levels or guide exercise routines or meditation sessions.

“Getting into a regular sleep routine is important,” she adds, “as lack of refreshing sleep is one of the biggest drivers of struggling to re-adjust to everyday life after a holiday.”

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

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