September reset: is overhauling our lives really the answer to avoiding burnout?
Life

September reset: is overhauling our lives really the answer to avoiding burnout?

Itching to overhaul your life this month? A “September reset” may not be as beneficial for tackling burnout as you think.

When I was younger, while other children hoped the summer would never end, I always felt excited to get back to school.

With brand new pencil cases and fresh exercise books, September provided a literal blank page to begin the school year and, after two months out of routine, it always felt like a much-needed opportunity to recalibrate.

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As I moved into adulthood, the back-to-school feeling matured into a yearly “September reset,” and was no longer marked by shiny new shoes and a WHSmith spending spree. Instead, it involved gutting my wardrobe, overhauling my health, changing my hair and reinventing myself in the hope that it would inch me closer to the put-together, go-getting person I wanted to be.

According to confidence coach Tarjinder Kaur, September brings with it a different pace, season and creates a good foundation for us to reassess our goals. As she tells Stylist, we tend to increase our workload throughout the colder, winter months which allows us to take our foot off the pedal when warmer weather comes around again – which also explains why we were so disappointed by a “nothing summer” this year. 

However, in many ways, the September reset feels like it has lost its charm. Excitement has made way for more insidious detox practices, extreme clear outs and splurging on wellness products to “heal” us after a summer of excess.

Is a September reset really the answer to burnout?

“Summer is usually a time where we can relax, break away from our routines and just be spontaneous,” anxiety coach and hypnotherapist Raquel Martos tells Stylist. “But doing this for a long period of time can make us bored and complacent, causing us to lose our sense of purpose and pick up bad habits.” 

But after one of the most difficult years in our collective history, with so many of us already experiencing burnout, should there really be so much pressure to streamline our existences?

Is this yearly overhaul that promotes increased productivity and organisation actually serving us, or is it just another arbitrary deadline for us to “win” at wellness?

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Overall, Martos considers September resets a useful practice. “It is an opportunity to get yourself ready for the last four months of the year, to ground and integrate new practices and habits, and to set new intentions that revive your motivation,” she says. “Taking this time to pause and reset before getting back to work or school allows you to set up structures that will support you and your wellbeing.”

She does stress the importance of easing back into routine after time off. “The last 18 months have held a lot of uncertainty, causing many of us to feel a loss of control, which has taken its toll. We are desperate to return to normal, so offices and schools reopening feels like a new beginning, bringing with it a sense that we need to make up for the time we’ve lost,” she explains.

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But we should fight the urge to reboot our lives completely. “Overhauling your entire existence all at once is not sustainable,” Martos advises. “Set yourself up for success by setting small goals one at a time so it takes minimal effort to apply them and doesn’t become an overwhelming task.”

Given this collective pressure to get back to normal amid the ongoing pandemic, it’s understandably stressful and a cause for anxiety for many of us.

“The constant chase of achievement can be exhausting, leaving us feeling not good enough if we don’t get what we want by a certain time. The truth is, “getting our lives together” is something that happens over time at each individual’s own pace and that it’s experienced in different ways,” continues Martos.

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How to have a healthier September reset

To manage a September reset healthily, Martos recommends acknowledging the context of this particular season, and allowing ourselves the space to ease back in. “Assess how you feel and implement new strategies to support your goals and wellbeing.”

Whether your motivation involves improving your time management, changing your career or taking on a fun new hobby, like calligraphy, the key is taking things slowly. As Martos suggests: “Think about the kind of person you want to be and what type of habits that person has, and start implementing them little by little.”

“It’s also important to consider your motivations for setting new goals and deadlines, as they can give you a false sense of control. Ask yourself why you’re doing it, and make sure it’s not a coping mechanism to mask how you really feel inside.”

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