Most of us are familiar with the dreaded Sunday scaries. That complicated hybrid emotion of last-call freedom and paranoid anxiety for what’s to come for the week ahead (and how to properly prepare for it in the moment). While the idea and name reads trivial, this common feeling has the power to consume one’s mind and mental health on a weekly basis. So you can imagine the havoc it wreaks when it hits every day for an entire month. Essentially, that is what August anxiety is. It’s that time of year intended for carefree living that is often overrun by the pending stress and mania of autumn and a collective “back to reality.”
“This [type of] anxiety is directly related to the feelings about summer being over, which means no more vacations and activities shifting away from fun such as lounging by the pool, BBQs, et cetera,” explains Michele Goldman, psychologist and media adviser for Hope for Depression Research Foundation. “Some individuals also become anxious about the anticipation of cold weather and less daylight hours. Even though many of us are on a January to December calendar, there is something very familiar about September being a ‘new start’ and with new starts comes anxiety, the feeling of being overwhelmed or unsettled, et cetera.”
This time of year signals a pending back-to-reality, filled with overflowing email inboxes, jam-packed meetings, school drop-off, arranging child care, planning holiday travel for the fall and winter months, and everything else that can come with the final home stretch of the year. So perhaps it’s no wonder that August anxiety is indeed a thing.
To help you better navigate the pre-autumn doldrums and maximize the home stretch of summer sans anxiety, ahead, we compiled a good ol’ fashioned to-do list — and a not-to-do list — of things that can be put off until after Labor Day and things that you can certainly get a jump-start on in August.
Can Wait: Email
Keep that OOO reply active for a bit longer — at the very least, keep it active in spirit, and only engage with your highest-priority emails. (Seriously, that lunch with your needy co-worker that keeps being rescheduled can wait until September.) Take full advantage of this traditionally quieter month and prioritize personal time. It’s not like anyone else is eager to email you back in August, anyway. Even if you’re not technically on vacation, maybe allow people to assume you are. “I try to say no as a default answer, and I only say yes to events and meetings that are important,” says Myriam Belzile-Maguire, founder of Maguire Shoes. “When you own a business, a lot of people are trying to get in touch with you, and your schedule can fill up very quickly if you don’t learn to say no.”
Can’t Wait: Big Picture Planning & Travel
If the 1,000+ untouched emails in your inbox are sending your blood pressure to new heights, alleviate stress by chipping away at larger projects for fall. “I take a good look at my giant calendars and make sure I’m not missing any [important dates],” says Lauren Jin, founder of beauty brand CLE Cosmetics. “Then we organize an inventory check at our warehouse to ensure all our products are in stock in time for fall.” August is also a time to tackle tedious yet necessary administrative tasks like updating spreadsheets. You know, those boring things that require little effort but will make jumping back into the swing of things easier come September.
August is also a good time to book and/or plan any work travel or future vacation time. The latter in particular can help decrease any end-of-summer blues as it will give you something to look forward to in the coming months or, in designer Emma Mulholland’s case, the coming weeks: “I plan a little long weekend getaway for a few weeks back into work to enjoy some less busy travel time when the weather is still very lovely.”
Can Wait: Boot & Sweater Shopping
Yes, retailers like Nordstrom are doing their part in prematurely tossing us headfirst into fall (damn that anniversary sale!), but here’s where it might be worth practicing some restraint. Loading up on heavy knits and protective footwear may seem like a smart thing to do in the summer, but it can also add to your feelings of overwhelm and pull you out of your summer bliss before the cycle is complete. “As much as I love the cozy fall months, I like to make the most of my summer wardrobe,” says Patti Cazzato, CEO of Naked Cashmere. “Living in California is a treat, as we get to hang on to warmer weather a bit longer. I hold off on making any drastic seasonal changes to my closet in August to make sure that I enjoy the last stretch of the season.”
Go ahead and scoop up a fall item here and there if there’s a discount or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity involved, but considering the scorching temps are sure to endure well into the end of September for many, hold off on the big purchases until then.
Can’t Wait: Double Down On The Bikinis
Now is the time to fully indulge in that teeny weeny bikini, cut-off shorts, and naked dress you haven’t had the courage to don just yet. It’s long been observed that one’s wardrobe can have a profound impact on mental health, so keep the summer vibes going strong by dressing the part. “I don’t transition my wardrobe to fall staples until later in the season,” says Jamie Haller, founder and designer of Jamie Haller Shoes. “My boots stay shelved while sandals stay forward for easy pairing. I organize my closet so the things I am grabbing daily stay front and center and get the most out of my summer pieces.”
Can Wait: Thick, Winter Moisturizers
First of all, good for you for even planning to transition your skin care routine for the fall and winter seasons. That said, hold that thought until at least the end of September, when cooler temps really kick in. Until then, keeping your beauty routine lightweight and sweat-proof is crucial to avoid breakouts and slippery skin. However, Jin says her exception to this rule involves the décolleté. “Towards the final month of summer, I try to use Essence Moonlighter Cushion on my body (collarbone and arm area) as many times as my outfit will allow me,” she says. “I think it’s just a nice way to sneak in as many glowy, radiant moments as possible, before I return to my cardigans and turtlenecks.”
Can’t Wait: A Fresh Cut & Color
It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since your good ol’ academia days, September always carries a “back-to-school” vibe that makes us want to present our freshest, most presentable selves, right? And nothing delivers a shot of dopamine like a fresh haircut or color (hello, we’ve all heard about the wonders of a good “breakup cut,” right?), so feel free to jump on the upcoming fall hair trends a bit early for a quick and easy mood boost. Now’s the time to experiment and play with all those edgy looks you’ve bookmarked over the past few months. Birkin bangs? Check. Shaggy lob? Why not?
Can Wait: Meal Prep
Just like those well-balanced school lunches you (or your parent) packed every day as a kid, fall throws us back into the regimented work week, complete with meal prep and healthy (ish) eating habits. For those of us who’ve been gorging on margaritas, ice cream, and french fries by the pool all summer, September is typically a time to press the reset button. That said, slow your roll. If you’re already thinking about jumpstarting that clean food plan, pump the breaks. There’s plenty of time to meal prep and be more mindful come fall. So put the Tupperware away and dig into that key lime pie.
Can’t Wait: Tomatoes & Aperol Spritzes
Speaking of digging in, there’s no moment like the present to gorge on the summer-specific foods and drinks before they are replaced with all things pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon flavorings. So, head to the farmer’s market and stock up on all the tomatoes, mangos, and strawberries and feel free to consume to your heart’s content while they’re at their ripest and most delicious. The same goes for seasonal sips like Aperol (or Hugo Spritz, for you TikTokers) spritzes, rosé, and blended margaritas. It’s happy hour somewhere, so bottoms up.
Can Wait: Overscheduling Yourself
While many like to pack in as many summer-adjacent activities into these final few weeks, it’s also an ideal time to truly slow down, reflect, and move at your own pace. “For me, summer is about taking things a little bit slower, enjoying moments a little bit longer, and adding a sense of relaxation in all that I’m doing,” says Oleema Miller, co-founder and creative director of Mikoh. “While I still have lots of work, places to go, people to see, it’s the mindset of ‘joie de vivre’ that I try to always carry with me.”
When you are making plans, perhaps prioritize more casual and social outings that won’t instantly put you in work mode. “Studies have shown that socialization increases feelings of well-being, safety, and happiness,” says Meha Agrawal, founder and CEO of Silk + Sonder. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember that prioritizing things that aren’t exactly ‘results-driven’ (aka attending a BBQ with your family) are extremely important for your mental health, and attending these events should be taken just as seriously as setting goals for your business.”
Can’t Wait: Child Care
While this may seem obvious for many, those with children who have to return to a structured (or semi-structured) office environment in September know the hell that is arranging child care — it can be like playing a complicated game of Tetris. And the day of reckoning (aka first day back from vacation) can come out of nowhere. So it is ideal to have things like day care, nanny schedules, and school drop-off figured out well in advance. Like, now, for example.
Now if your to-do and not-to-do list for August looks very different from the one above, we respect and celebrate you. At the end of the day, your summer and time off is yours to enjoy in the best way you know how. All we ask is that you keep a nice firm grip on that frosé until pumpkin spice lattes hit the coffee shops. You deserve it.