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  • Writer's pictureCara Gruhala

August slips away...

Don't worry, it doesn't have to. It's just that most people I work with talk about some level of anxiety surrounding the season change this time of year. For many who are students, educators, or parents, there is a BIG transition coming up with the start of the new school year. Even for those who have no direct connection to this, there are likely many people in our lives who do, and at times our bodies and brains remember the heightened emotions of this time of year, if we were ever part of that system. For almost all of us, August can feel like the slide toward a schedule shift that gets busier and busier during the holiday season.

What can we do to remain more mindful and get the most out of the summer days we have left? Plenty!

First, what is being mindful? My working definition is to stay in the present moment, rather than thinking into the future, or getting wrapped up in the past. Practicing being mindful can have a host of benefits including stress reduction, anxiety reduction, benefits to sleep quality, and overall feeling happier or more satisfied.

If we have access, in-season produce is still plentiful. In the Kansas City area berries, melons, leafy

greens, root veggies, apples, herbs, squash, and many more are available at local farms, Community Supported Agrigulture (CSA) subscriptions, farmer's markets, and even some of our chain grocers during this time of year. Many of our farmer's markets accept SNAP benefits as well. Enjoying the freshest seasonal food at peak flavor can be both a nutritious and enjoyable way to celebrate the season.

Enjoying nature is another great, seasonal way to practice mindfulness. Take a walk on a local nature trail, or even through the neighborhood, and notice what the plants are doing, what the temperature feels like on your skin, how it feels to breathe the air at this time of the year. I love listening to the various frogs and bugs that are often heard outdoors right now. When they are so constant, our mind tends to block them out, so try tuning back in and think about what words you would use to describe them. If you're someone who enjoys activities involving water and the outdoors such as a visit to the pool, a lake, fishing, or a sprinkler in the front yard, they are still plentiful this time of year in this area!

If you have a family member headed back to school you or they may be feeling some uncomfortable emotions about starting school. It is much more helpful to validate a feeling ("You're feeling anxious about meeting your new teacher") rather than trying to convince them out of it ("You have so much time left, you shouldn't worry yet"). Of course we have to plan a bit for the upcoming need for clothes, supplies, and more. For kids and teens, having any control over decision making can help foster their sense of agency. They can't choose what time they have to show up to school on the first day, but you may be able to offer them the choice of folder color from their supply list, the image on their lunch box or water bottle, or for older kids, provide a budget and some guidelines and give them agency to pick out some clothing pieces. Take advantage of back to school, meet the teacher, or scheduled walk through events. Being able to picture the setting they will be in and the people they will be around can do a lot to minimize anxious feelings.

One of the biggest struggles I see for many kids and teens is the change in sleep routines. They may be used to staying up later during the summer, and trying to make one big change on the night before school starts can lead to sleep deprived, cranky kids. Try to start moving toward the school sleep/wake schedule now, moving the bedtime 10-15 minutes earlier every few days, and also moving little by little toward what their normal wake time will be. It can make the transition much less abrupt and comfortable for all.

Most of all, enjoy these late summer days for what they are. The longer days, warm weather, and growing season will give way to cooler, darker, and less colorful days soon enough. Plan for what you absolutely have to, and take some time to be present with the last days of this fleeting season.

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