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9 Ways to Beat the Post-Labor Day Blues
As summer recedes into the distance, many Americans are dreading the months that lie ahead. Here, are nine tactics to help you beat the grumpiness as you return to your routine.

Remember that you control your mood and you can choose to be happy.

When you verbally exaggerate how bad something is or comment that your life sucks, that perception becomes your reality.”
The first Monday in September (otherwise known as Labor Day) has come and goneóand if youíre like many American workers, you arenít happy about it. Summer, with its relaxed schedule, swimming pools, and family trips, is officially over, and to make matters worse, thereís no vacation in sight until Thanksgiving. That double whammy is enough to make anyone feel even grumpier than usual on the morning commute into work. And unfortunately, that attitude tends to only grow worse throughout a hectic day and a frustrating fight through traffic on the way home, where chores, bills, and other drudgeries await you.

The next few months donít have to be as dull and disheartening as youíre envisioning.

Instead of impatiently waiting for the holidays to get here already, you can choose to make the most of September, October, and Novemberóand maybe even enjoy them. You donít have to allowóyes, I said allowóa lack of three-day weekends and warm temperatures to ratchet up your stress and tip your mood into grumpy territory. You have more control over your happiness than you may think.

Many couples live their lives reactively, letting outside events and circumstances capture their attention and determine their moods. When you live your life that way, youíre completely at the mercy of so many negative influences: everything from traffic jams to workdays that seem to drag on forever to the Debbie Downer in the next cubicle who wonít stop complainingÖ and so much more.

Itís not surprising that happiness rarely has a fighting chance, especially during times of the year that have more "routine" in them than "rest and relaxation!" However, when you stop living reactively and begin to approach your life in a more conscious manner, youíll notice a measurable difference in your attitude.

Here, are nine choices you can make that will dissipate the post-Labor Day blues and help make the most of the time between now and the holidaysóand throughout the rest of the year!

1. Get enough sleep. Itís easy to ignore the value of sleep when youíre busy. After all, itís worth going to bed a few hours later if you can cross a few more things off of your to-do list, right? Wrong. If you skimp on sleep, youíre virtually guaranteeing that the next day wonít be your best. Itís difficult to muster up a positive attitude about anythingóyour job or otherwiseówhen youíre yawning, your eyes are grainy, and youíre relying on the coffeepot to make you feel halfway human.

Listen to what your body is telling you and go to bed at a reasonable hour unless thereís a true emergency you need to deal with. And realize that the quality, as well as the quantity of sleep you get is important. Exercise can be a huge help here. Not only does it help to relieve and manage the stress that may be keeping you awake; it will also help you to fall asleep faster and get a better quality of rest.

2. Start the day off on the right foot. Have you ever noticed that the quality of your morning tends to set the tone for the whole day? If youíre rushing around the house like a chicken with its head cut off as you try to get dressed, find the car keys, make sure your children eat breakfast, and argue with your spouse about who should swing by the grocery store, youíre going to carry your irritated mood into the office whether you mean to or not.

Do what you can to minimize the morning hassle. Little things will make a big difference. Lay out clothes and pre-pack briefcases and book bags the night before. Plan out what youíre going to eat for breakfast each day. Resist the temptation to push the snooze button five times before finally crawling out from under the covers 20 minutes later than you meant to. Most importantly, try to put your mind in a positive place instead of ruminating on all of the things youíre dreading in the next 24 hours. Even if it means getting up 10 or 15 minutes earlier, I find that taking a little time to meditate and/or read something motivational before I go out to face each day really helps.

3. Stop expecting perfection. No, the day-in, day-out routine of going to work and making sure your house doesnít fall apart may never be terribly exciting and glamorous; but we often make our own perceptions of our lives so much worse by having unrealistic expectations of what we should be able to accomplish.

If you expect your life to look like what you see on TV, Pinterest or Facebook, youíre setting yourself up to feel unhappiness every time you look at your less-than-tidy living room or think about the humdrum plans you have for the weekend. The truth is, real life is often messy, mundane, and unpredictable. Youíll never be able to make it perfect, but that doesnít mean it canít be enjoyable or fulfilling. One of the most valuable things you can learn to do is to forgive yourself for your own mistakes and give yourself permission to break free of the cycle of self-blame and negativity that causes you to be stuck demanding perfection from yourself in every situation. Trust me, the relaxation and contentment youíll feel as a result will make this the best post-Labor Day season youíve had in a long time.

4. Take time to celebrate your successes. Itís easy to get caught up in lifeís momentum and immediately switch mental gears to focus on the next project (or problem, or full-blown crisis) after you check something off of your to-do list. Problem is, thatís a recipe for exhaustion and burnout.

Even if itís as simple as taking a bubble bath or savoring your favorite latte concoction on the way home from work, do something nice for yourself to celebrate whenever you experience a win. Bask in compliments when you receive them. Share the praise you received from your boss with your family. When you allow yourself to savor the thrill of victory, whether itís a large or small one, your outlook will immediately improveóand youíll be more motivated and self-confident as you move into the future.

5. Censor what you sayÖ Sure, if you chose to, you could spend hours griping about everything youíre dissatisfied with: an overloaded schedule, a demanding boss, rebellious kids, the cost of repairing your caróand the list goes on. But in the end, complaining drains your energy and accomplishes nothing. Thatís why I advise you to put your crappy commute behind you instead of describing it to your officemates, for example, and to refrain from elaborating on the fact that you wish it was Friday already.

Itís very important to get negativity out of your mind and avoid the victim mentality. When you verbally exaggerate how bad something is or comment that your life sucks, that perception becomes your reality. Keeping negativity out of your conversation will take some practice, but stick with itóand give yourself a mental pat on the back whenever you catch yourself choosing not to broadcast a complaint or put a positive spin on a situation that could be interpreted negatively.

6.Öand what you listen to. Just as what you talk about can affect your attitude and outlook, so can what you listen to. (In other words, no more using water cooler gripefests as your morning entertainment!) In all areas of your life, try to back away from people who constantly complain, nag, and criticize. Theyíll drain the energy and optimism from everyone around themóand no matter how positive your attitude may be to start, you arenít immune from their powers.

Negative people crave pity and sympathy. So if you have to interact with them, be understanding, but donít overdo itóand exit the conversation as soon as you can without being rude. Also, make an effort to hang out more with positive people. Their outlooks will rub off on you and you will be able to build more mutually beneficial relationships. Remember, your attitude will be the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so please put some thought into who these people are! Do you want to be someone who makes the most of each day or someone who wishes life away?

7. Go on the offensive against stress. One reason why we tend to have the post-Labor Day blues is that the following months create the perfect storm of stressful conditions: Kids are back in school and schedules quickly become hectic. The end-of-year work crunch is approaching and even the approaching holidays can be a big source of anxiety. But you donít have to take all of that stress lying down. In the next few months, make it your goal to neutralize a few of the situations that are causing you frustration and worry.

Go through your life and figure out what you have control over and can change. Is there an obligation you can cut? Would splitting up the household chores in a new way give you more time to handle other responsibilities? On Sundays, could you preassemble and freeze meals to thaw and eat throughout the week so you arenít as rushed in the evenings? Is it possible to talk to your boss about working from home one or two days a week? Basically, look for ways to change the status quo in your favor so that you feel less dread when you look ahead.

8. Think about the b-word. Thatís balance, in case you were wondering. Itís one of those words that are overused to the point of being meaningless, and many of us wouldnít know what a healthy work-life balance looked like if it hit us in the face. Because our computers and phones make it so easy to take work home with us (and home to work), lines are more blurred than ever.

Itís not always easy, but try to make a conscious effort to keep home and work as separate as possible. Checking e-mail on your smartphone all evening means that you can never really "turn off," which leads to burnout and exhaustion. Likewise, texting with your spouse about your in-lawsí upcoming visit will distract you at work and lower your productivity, making it more likely youíll have to take work home.

And what about those occasions when you just canít wrap everything up by quitting time? Even if it means staying at work a little later, it might be better to finish up that proposal at your desk instead of bringing it home. That way, when you do finally walk through the front door, you can spend the remainder of the evening engaging with your family. When youíre home, itís important to really be thereómentally as well as physically.

9. Sprinkle your calendar with fun. The fact that there are no set-aside vacation days between now and Thanksgiving doesnít have to mean that youíre looking at several months devoid of enjoyment. Now, and throughout the year, itís smart to inject regular doses of fun into your life.

Avoid packing your schedule so full of obligations that you donít have time to pursue your woodworking hobby, or to go on a date night with your spouse, or to take your family hiking on the weekends. Planning enjoyable activities gives you things to look forward to and rejuvenates you. Along with your family, try to find and take advantage of upcoming seasonal activities in your area: fall arts and crafts fairs, pumpkin picking, hayrides, etc.

You may never be able to create a holiday conveniently scheduled in the middle of October, but you can determine whether you merely live through the next few months or enjoy them. Remember, happiness never just happens, whether youíre vacationing in a tropical paradise or in the midst of a thoroughly typical day at home. The choices you make regarding your actions and attitude have a huge impact on how grumpy you areóor arenít. So donít wait around for the post-Labor Day blues to bring you down. Proactively banish them!

Todd Patkin, author of "Finding Happiness: One Manís Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety andóFinallyóLet the Sunshine In" and "Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People," grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. His new book, "The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness," is coming in 2014. After graduating from Tufts University, Todd joined the family business and spent the next 19 years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter. You can also follow him on Google+ here.

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