Summer Time Blues
School will soon be starting again – how do I keep the summer relaxation feel going and not have my whole family get stressed out?
Signed: Summer Blues
Dear Summer Blues,
The first days/weeks of the back-to-school season tend to represent a swing away from the more relaxed, laid-back feels of summer for most of us, whether we have kids in school or not. And this year will be even harder because of the COVID worries many people are also having. But there are some strategies that can help make the transition just a little smoother and easier for everyone in your home.
Anticipate. Be aware of the expected shift in mood and excitement (or nervousness) levels with everyone in your home. It is perfectly normal. Understand that everyone will be more tired, more distracted and likely a bit more on edge (stressed), especially compared to how they might have been feeling over the summer. So, plan for that. Build in extra recovery time and allow for pauses/downtime between tasks. Allow for a slow wind-down/up process before you go to sleep and after you first wake up. Keep the pace relaxed at home as much as possible, and make sure you don’t put pressure on yourself to “speed up” unnecessarily.
Fortify by firming up the foundations. Be sure that you have a solid routine in place for healthy meals and regular refueling (snacks, etc) – drink extra water (not juice, pop or coffee) to help keep your brain and body sharp – and make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep for the energy you plan to be exuding. If you are rushing and are too busy to do these things, you will overproduce stress hormones.
Talk about it. Normalize the extra stress/strain that people are experiencing even if they aren’t exactly sure why they are feeling that way. Be a sounding board for one another. Allow people to just vent. Validate their emotions instead of trying to problem solve for them. Don’t brush their feelings away by jumping to assurances (that it will pass or get easier in time) too quickly. Just allow the emotional release to happen in appropriate ways.
Focus on the positives too. After we have had the chance to vent and we feel more settled emotionally, we sometimes need help to get our thoughts unstuck from the stress/negativity. Ask prompting questions to help the brain refocus on what went well. If a family member can’t think of something that was “good” that day, that’s okay. Have them focus on what they are proud of in themselves instead (how they handled/survived that tough day).
And bridge. Connect to the next relaxation day or “fun” time that the family has planned. If there isn’t one scheduled, then make sure you remedy that. We all do better when we know that there is a light at the end of tunnel. We want to hold onto the knowledge that the challenge or change will not forever feel as rocky as it is currently. You might plan a “hooky” day from work/school – or a sleep in/movie day to unwind after a long week – or a nice night out/in with friends, to replenish the fun energy that has been missing with the return of more responsibilities.
Whatever you do, just be kind to yourself and to your loved ones. The summer always reminds us that slowing down a little is a good thing. Keep that balance going forward and don’t make it a summer-only kind of life.
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