This Labor Day is especially laborious. The fun of summer is over, the stress of presidential politics is curling my hair, and itís time to stow my kayak, sharpen my pencils and head back to school.

Who uses pencils? What school? I havenít been in a classroom since computers were the size of a tennis court, but thatís how Iím hardwired to feel when Labor Day comes and goes.

So lesson up, dear readers. Back to school isnít just for kids. If youíre keen on living a healthier, happier life, you now have a splendid opportunity to shift into your own back-to-school mode and learn new ways to enhance your well-being.

Memorize this: Positive change begins with personal effort. If youíre fed up with weighing too much and exercising not enough, weary of too many burps and too little sleep, you can alter your course.

But it requires continuing self-education. Your path of study will vary according to your personal goals, but if you decide to stay the course, your life report card can jump from Cís to Aís:

Here are five electives to consider:

STRESS 101. Stress happens. Itís part of life. We canít avoid it. A loved one dies. You lose your job, your money, your keys. Stuff piles up: bills, unanswered emails, the overwhelming feeling of too much to do in too little time.

Your assignment? Learn to deal with your stress in healthy ways. Make it a practice, like brushing your teeth. But instead of just saving your gums, youíll be bringing strength and vitality to your entire body.

Learn to meditate. Itís mainstream now, as is mindfulness training. Even 10 minutes a day can restore calm and make a difference. (More is better.)

Practice using your breath to center yourself, to bring a flow of energy to places in your body that are blocked, tight, calling attention to themselves. ďSensation is the language of the body,Ē a sensational yoga teacher said in class the other day. So welcome it.

Another stress-buster with high marks? Aerobic exercise! Walking, biking and swimming are proven ways to relieve anxiety and depression. It doesnít work for everyone ó thatís true ó but what does? Be curious and experiment.

COOKING 102: It takes some study, but learning to cook or just assemble simple, tasty, healthy meals is deliciously rewarding. For starters, youíll save money. Itís expensive to eat out, and fattening, since most restaurants serve XXL portions. ďA burrito as big as your headĒ is the delicate promise at my local Mexican place. That would be about 12 pounds of meat and cheese.

Home cooking (isnít that a TV channel waiting to happen?) is the smart alternative to eating toxic and processed food. At home, you can control the contents and dish out normal portions of real food.

And cooking with your kids is a great way to raise healthy eaters.

How you learn is up to you: books, online or live classes. Donít over-complicate it; rely on simple, fresh ingredients.

YOGA 103: Start now, and go beyond the postures to explore whatís really going on inside your body, the energetic body you can influence with your mind and your breath. Donít worry about your grade. Yoga is not a competitive sport. As always, proceed with caution and a gifted teacher. Create no injuries.

CHANGE YOUR GAME 104: If youíre bored with your current exercise routine, spend this semester discovering new ways to release the pleasure hormones. Running isnít for everyone. Neither is walking or biking. Study up on alternatives until you find an activity that lights your fire. Tango? Paddle boarding? Archery? Thereís a sport for everyone. When you connect with yours, youíll never be bored with exercise again.

ANATOMY 105. Donít laugh. Anatomy isnít just a course for doctors in training. Itís an insight we all need to develop. Why study anatomy? Because your well-being is enhanced when you know thyself, where your bones, muscles and organs live and how theyíre all connected and interdependent.

Studying anatomy teaches you to think in pictures, and thatís really helpful when you want to release tight hamstrings. Or create space around your pelvic floor, where all that belly fat layers on.

When you know your body ó inside and out ó a dialogue of healing and wholeness begins, and it only ends when you die.

ďEducation is not preparedness for life; education is life itself.Ē ó John Dewey

ó Marilynn Preston ó healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer ó is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website,, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at and To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at