A man jogging in cool weather

The so-called ‘Hot Vax Summer‘ has drawn to an end and fall is drawing in.

The decrease in sunlight needn’t be a time to feel down. Make the most of the season by adopting a few changes in your routine, including your HIV testing regimen, to help take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.

It’s been a turbulent year, so goodness knows you deserve it!

1. Start a new gym routine and mix up your workout

A man does one-arm push-ups

You may not be chasing a “beach body” in time for the summer months, but exercise is known to boost endorphins: something we could all benefit from as we enter the darker months.

“Working out doesn’t just boost our mood, it also boosts our immune system and confidence,” says personal trainer Dominik Scherl. He cautions against giving up on the gym in the run-up to the holiday season. “You don’t want to get out of a routine, no matter the season of the year. That’s just like taking several steps back.”

Have you fallen into the trap of finding a gym routine and sticking to it, month after month? Consult a trainer about mixing up your routine or incorporating new workouts, to work muscles you may have overlooked or challenge ones that have atrophied during the pandemic or while hunched over a computer. Take up an outdoor routine to make the most of those daylight hours.

2. Give your home a Halloween makeover

There’s a good reason why Halloween has been dubbed the “Gay Christmas.” It’s because so many of us love the excuse to dress up, decorate and celebrate the spookiest of seasons. Check out the Instagram feed of @CraftyLumberjacks for ideas.

Dennis Setteducati and Andrew Boza, an NYC-based gay couple, have been posting videos of Halloween decorations that most people can make at home for the past few weeks. They also offer a range of online zoom classes.

“Decorating for holidays really sets the tone for the last few months of the year,” they tell Queerty. “We love to fill our space with items from our childhood, things we’ve made, and things that just make us smile.”

3. Invest in some extra lighting to counteract the darker evenings

If you ever visit Scandinavia, you’ll likely be struck by how seriously they take their lighting design. It’s got something to do with the fact they have very short days during the winter months.

Similarly, whether it’s buying one or two daylight bulbs to bring some extra light to your room, or an eye-catching new lamp, there’s no excuse not to bring some more warmth and illumination to your home as the nights get longer.

“When looking for decor we often look for items that light up and try to incorporate strands of lights wherever we can,” says the @thecraftylumberjacks. “Around windows, doorways, along bookshelves…. Nothing is better than coming home, turning off all our lamps, and having that holiday glow, it really makes the sudden dark nights feel special.”

It’s known that the darker months can prompt Seasonal Affective Disorder in some people. If this includes you, you might want to experiment with forms of light therapy to see if it has any benefits – but it’s always a good idea to chat with your physician first.

4. Try cooking a new recipe each week

Alex Hall, 'Chief Eating Officer' of The Bottom's Digest
Alex Hall, ‘Chief Eating Officer’ of The Bottom’s Digest

Taking care of your body means feeding it the right fuel. Summer salad season is behind us, and cooking comforting, warming dishes can take a little more effort, but it’s worth it. Why not aim for a new dish every week? Set aside a regular evening for your cooking experiments. You can cook up big batches of hotpots and casseroles, so you can stock up your freezer for the coming weeks.

One social media channel that made a splash when it launched in the summer is @thebottomsdigest. Food-lover Alex Hall launched it to showcase recipes that are especially bottom-friendly: for those worried about staying clean during sex.

“I really wanted to create something that destigmatizes talking about poop in the bedroom,” Hall told Queerty in July.

“Shit happens. Don’t get in the pool if you don’t want to get wet! No one deserves the shame that sometimes comes with that conversation, and everyone should get to reconnect with food that makes them feel good.”

Hall’s top tips? Avoid dairy and meat and load up on recipes with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Check out his vegetarian beef stroganoff for a perfect fall hotpot.

5. Don’t forget to pamper yourself

A man applies a facemask treatment

If decorating your home or going to the gym sounds a little too energetic, mark the new season by indulging in some pampering. Looking good helps you feel good, whether it’s a rejuvenating facial, manicure/pedicure, or massage.

If money is too tight for a salon visit, just make time to pamper yourself at home with a hydrating face mask because the cooler months can take their toll on your skin. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy long, hot soaks in the bathtub. Add a bath bomb or a few drops of essential oil: Lavender, bergamot, and sandalwood are all believed to aid with a good night’s sleep.

6. Test yourself from the comfort of home with the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test

HIV has been pushed to the back of many people’s minds because of the Covid pandemic, but it’s not gone away. Recent CDC figures estimate there are 1,189,700 million people with HIV in the United States. This includes an estimated 158,500 (13%) whose infections had not been diagnosed and who are unaware of their status. If you are HIV positive, getting on to treatment ensures the best chance of living a long, illness-free life.

Everyone should know their status. It’s a way to take care not just of yourself but your sex partners as well. Finding out you’re negative is always a relief. Finding out your positive means you can take the necessary steps to become HIV undetectable and can’t pass the virus on.

Taking care of your sexual health is an essential part of any gay man’s self-care routine. What you might not know is how easy and hassle-free it is to test yourself for HIV from the comfort of your own home using OraQuick. Test yourself anonymously and privately, anytime and anywhere, using this over-the-counter kit which can easily be ordered online. It delivers a result within 20-40 minutes.

7. Book a fall or winter vacation for some post-summer sunshine

Worldwide travel is still not what it was, but more travel routes are opening up with each passing week. Canada has now reopened its border to visiting tourists from the US, along with most of Europe. Within the US, hotspots such as Palm Springs, Key West, and Miami offer year-round sunshine and make ideal vacation spots during the colder months. If you want to head further afield for sunshine, there’s always Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, or how about the 2022 Sydney Mardi Gras? Australia is on track to reopen its borders “by Christmas at the latest,” according to its tourism minister last month.

The end of summer can feel like a downer, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Embrace the season and all it has to offer while taking simple steps to take charge of your wellbeing.

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