10 ways to keep summer calm through back to school chaos

The school year is looming. Make no mistake — I’m doing my happy dance, but I’m also mourning the loss unscheduled time. Wondering how to have the productivity of the school year schedule without giving up the stress free feeling of summer? Prioritize what you love and streamline the tedious stuff.  Try these simple tips for keeping your sleep, stress, eating, and workouts in check.


When the demands of the day increase, sleep is often the first thing to go as we stay up a little later or get up a little earlier in an attempt to get it all done. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of  heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and obesity, among other things. Despite these facts, however, many of us struggle to get the CDC recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Whether you can’t get to sleep, can’t stay asleep, or have to get up way too early, try these night time hacks to make bedtime more efficient.


Stress relief and sleep quality go hand in hand. When the hamster wheel gets out of control, how do you bring it all back into perspective?  In my life, stress feeds stress. When I start to feel overwhelmed, taking a break is the last thing I can justify but probably what I need most! When there don’t seem to be enough hours in a day, how do we squeeze in stress relief?  If you find yourself reaching for your cell phone first thing in the morning, set the timer instead of checking your messages (or Facebook) and try breathing, walking, or meditating.  Start with 5 minutes.  When that feels easy, add a minute, and keep adding. Can’t spare a minute in the morning? This works awesome before bed too (or any other time of day).

  • Breathe — seriously, consciously breathe! You don’t even have to get out of bed for this one. Most of us chest breathe (especially when we’re stressed) or we’ve learned to belly breathe, but we only use the abdomen. Start deep in your pelvis, expand your belly (not just out front but also to the sides and into your back), and spread your ribs until the air reaches your collarbones. Pause for a second, then slowly let the air out, bringing the ribs back together, pulling the belly button back towards the spine and lifting the pelvic floor. Pause again here and repeat.  This time breathe through your nose and let your tongue rest on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. Repeat.
  • Walk the dog, your cat (good luck with this one), your spouse, your kid, or just enjoy a few minutes of solitude! You can take your favorite music, podcast, or audiobook but try not to.  Take this time to just be, noticing all the wonder that surrounds you or enjoying company of your walking partner(s).
  • Pray, journal, or meditate. Not sure where to start?  Invest in a gratitude journal (pretty paper, a sweet pen, and thoughtful prompts motivate me), download a meditation app, such as Headspace, or listen to a podcast. I’m trying Meditation Minis and This I Believe.  Find something that speaks to you — spirituality, humor, or whatever your guilty pleasure might be.

As night time activities kick up, family dinners or even sitting down to eat feel difficult and the fast food drive thru becomes an easy go-to. Planning ahead goes a long ways here. Just 30 minutes on the weekend to loosely map out meals for the week ahead and make a grocery list can save a ton of weeknight time, money, and stress! Try these tips to keep your nutrition (and wallet) healthy.

  • Use your crockpot. There’s no shortage of pinterest ideas for the crockpot, but a family favorite at my house is Balsamic Chicken. My family eats it over angel hair pasta, and I love it on spaghetti squash.
  • Hop on the Instapot bandwagon (I have one on my birthday wishlist!). Check out this site for a wide variety of crockpot/instapot chicken recipes or follow these directions for hardboiled eggs (a perfect snack) in 6 minutes (Thanks Melissa!).
    • Fill the Instapot base with 1 c of water and place the trivet down in it.  Stack as many eggs as you’d like.
    • Select “steam” and dial the time to 6 minutes. When done, quick release the steam and you’re left with perfectly hard boiled eggs.
  • Check out Eating Well. Their email subscription delivers simple, healthy, FREE recipes right to your inbox.
  • Take an afternoon or evening to prepare freezer meals.  Better yet, plan a night of fun, and do it with a group of friends.  No time for this?  Check out a take and bake service. I like Naomi’s in North Liberty. They’ll even deliver if you don’t have time for pick up!

It’s either at the top of the must-do list or the first thing we nix when time gets tight. Whether you need an hour long sweat session to feel complete or you hate to break sweat, your body needs to move daily. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week and strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week.

Even as little as 10 minutes a day offers benefits too great to give it up.  Exercise improves our mood, boosts energy, prevents disease, controls weight, increases sex drive, promotes better sleep, and at Catalyst, we’d even venture to say it’s fun! Try these strategies for keeping exercise in your day:

  • Of course the best option here is to simply join us for class!
  • Can’t make the time or location? We’ll deliver the workouts we do at Catalyst to your inbox for you to conveniently do at home. Or you can get a plan customized to your unique fitness level, movement needs and available time.  Contact us here for more information about these services!
  • Looking for something to do anywhere, anytime? Try this:
    Set a timer for :30 each line and do 3-5 rounds
    Pistol (one-leg) squat to bench, chair, curb R/L
    Rocking push up (grip the floor as you pull your elbows to your ribs)
    Skaters (side to side leap…think Apolo Anton Ohno)
    Crawl (any style, all directions)
    Walking SLDL (step forward and slide hips and opposite foot back as you reach hands toward floor)
    T-rollout (plank to side plank to plank to side plank under control)

A  new school year offers us the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. Here’s to a school year full of more sleep, less stress, food that fuels us, and bodies that feel good! Got a favorite hack for keeping life sane during the school year? Share it below!


author: Steph Hoeper


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