Why a September reset might be just what you need

If those back-to-school vibes are calling but your energy and confidence are low, don’t worry. You’re in good company, says Abi Jackson

Ready for a September reset? (Alamy/PA)
Ready for a September reset? (Alamy/PA)

The idea of a September reset is nothing new: tapping into that back-to-school mindset with a routine revamp and tidy up – whether that’s your desk, sleep, fitness regime or all three. But this year, things feel a little different.

That reboot button is in our sights. No matter how hard we press it though, the ongoing effects of the pandemic won’t disappear, and we know it. Our foundations are shaky and disappointment levels are high – especially as summer 2021 really hasn’t been the big back-to-normal party we were perhaps simultaneously terrified and longing for it to be.

So now what? If a September reset is calling, that’s great. If you’d rather skip anything that feels like unnecessary pressure, that’s great too. Either way, go gently.

There’s still a lot going on

“What I’m seeing most is that people are exhausted. There may be a desire to reset, without the energy to actually do it,” says coach, psychotherapist and Counselling Directory member Shelley Treacher (counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellors/shelley-treacher). “What people need most is to move forward steadily, and with self-care.”

That’s not to say we should ditch any intentions to have a bit of a reboot – making healthy adjustments when we feel the need IS self-care. It’s about being mindful that there’s still a lot going on. “So many people have been set back, it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to thrive right now,” adds Treacher. “What we really need is to continue to be compassionate with ourselves. This is still an unusual and challenging time.”

What’s working, what’s not?

Treacher suggests trying this exercise: “Conduct an inventory of your mindset, limiting beliefs and destructive habits. Many of us have fallen into expecting or fearing the worst, and feeling lonely and under confident, which makes us treat ourselves badly. So, it’s important to re-evaluate our mindset and patterns of behaviour.”

This might be especially handy if your reset goals centre around boundaries – like breaking that late-night email habit so you can free up the energy and time to take that Pilates class, or to create a healthier wind-down routine.

We’ve also been in survival mode for a hefty stretch now. In some ways, this might mean we’ve become more in tune with taking care of ourselves, like getting outdoors daily for that nature fix. But it might also mean we’ve fallen into habits that aren’t doing us a ton of good.

“Re-evaluate your routine and disrupt autopilot with anything that isn’t serving you. For example, if you’re concerned you’re stuck in the habit of having a drink and zoning out at the end of the day, do something different – but make sure it’s pleasurable,” says Treacher. “Do something rewarding and pleasurable at least once a day (preferably more) and do it just for the joy of it.”

Shove out the ‘shoulds’

However you approach your reset, make sure it really feels right for you, and isn’t just what you think you ‘should’ be doing. “By resetting, you can mean anything from changing career or launching your own business, to simply making time for you, exercise, or thinking about new plans. Resetting and the goals you attach to it are very personal, and it’s important not to get caught up in other people’s,” says writer and coach Jenny Stallard, founder of Freelance Feels, a wellbeing platform for the self-employed (freelancefeels.com).

“That might mean staying off social media while you go through your reset plans, or not sharing them with friends at first. Sit with your reset feelings, rather than broadcasting them, which can help you filter out how you want the rest of the year to look, with no pressure or expectations from anyone but yourself.”

If the back-to-school vibes feel daunting or you’re struggling to get going, Stallard suggests this reframing tip: “Try and banish feelings of ‘Urgh, back to work’ and instead think about why being back at the nine-to-five is good. What do you enjoy about autumn and embracing new things?

“You could plan some ‘reset days’ – diary one or two days where you won’t have meetings or work, and instead you’ll take a notepad to a cafe, or go out for the day somewhere you can really focus on your plans and goals. Thoughts about ‘what next’ on a beach or a campsite have turned to action, and it’s a good place to start.”

Consider your environment too

We’re not saying go and spend money for the sake of it, but there’s a lot to be said for rebooting our external environments, to bolster our internal efforts. For example, if sorting out your sleep routine is key – could you make your bedroom more calming and comfortable?

If it’s about work, Stallard says: “Make sure your working environment has a reset too. Take time to tidy up, throw things away or recycle, update software and equipment – does your desk space need better light, or even a new screen? If you’re in an office, can IT help with that? If working from home, what changes can you make? For example, I’ve invested in a new office chair (my old one broke!) and am updating my laptop. These are investments for sure, but it all helps work flow more smoothly.”

Block in some breaks

Remember, we’re not designed to be productive non-stop, so any September reset plan needs room for plenty of R&R. “Making time to exercise is also key. I always say do the exercise that works for you, and nobody else – don’t run if you’re not a runner! – but movement and fresh air are key, even if you just take a walk,” says Stallard. “Perhaps you want to commit to re-joining the gym or a yoga class; tap into the feelings you remember from that, and use it as part of your ongoing reset.”

And no reset plan is complete without some decent downtime factored in. “In normal circumstances, we all need time away from work, but now more than ever, we must get a total break from responsibility,” says Treacher. “Working from home, and with so much to process, consider, or worry about, many of us have not transitioned easily into relaxation and leisure mode. So make sure you break from productivity altogether, for at least a few days.”

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