Summertime and the living is easy?
The feeling of summer often brings a sigh of relief along with the promise of sunshine, vacations and much needed relaxation. Summertime brings self-care into the spotlight as it is constantly evolving for individuals balancing work, family and commitments. This time is integral to our mental health, especially after the past 2+ years of experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Workplace consultant Lindsay Pollak writes in Forbes Magazine (December, 2021) that she's "hearing from employees and leaders at all levels across all industries about how they're experiencing higher burnout, anxiety and depression, as well as how employers are receiving more and more requests from employees for mental health breaks." Since taking time to take care of ourselves is an imperative aspect of managing our mental health, you would think that summertime would be the perfect reset! Then why doesn’t it feel that simple? If you’re one of the many people who feel like they can never just relax, you are not alone.
It’s natural to stack up plans for fun in the sun and re-connecting with family and friends but it can also be a time of packed calendars which inherently opposes the idea of relaxation. This calls to mind the lyrics of the well known classic song, “Summertime, And the livin’ is easy”. It can instead feel like the livin’ is busy! Whether it's packing the kids for summer camp, planning and hosting social gatherings, attending family reunions, bbq’s, celebrations or working through the long, hot July and August days, it can be a challenge managing our expectations of self-care. Engaging in a routine of self-care has been clinically proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, no matter the season. National surveys cited by the National Council for Wellbeing (March, 2022) indicate that self-care activities increase self–confidence, productivity and overall mood. So, how can we use our summertime to take care of our self-care?
Start small with attainable goals. Prioritize a healthy balanced diet, consistent sleep and hydration. This can feel hard in the summer months especially with the constant invitations to social events and less daily structure. Try to make a list of what makes you feel mentally and physically good and strive to do at least one of those things every day.
Identify your non-negotiables. Maybe you enjoy mindful movement and the release of hormones like endorphins to improve your mood. Maybe you are re-energized by time spent with close friends or family. Whatever you choose, you will benefit from scheduling time to make this happen on a regular basis. This may look like a specific time spent on these items each day or week. Think of it as your most important “to-do” list.
Focus on what is within your control. World and environmental factors will always be present. It is easy to let that be a deterrent from maintaining your self-care. This may sound like, “I don’t have time”. By re-orienting yourself to focus on the things you can do instead of what you feel you can not do, you will better control your limits and make sure to use chosen self-care strategies.
Using the much-needed summer “R&R” to your advantage can pave the way for healthy habits all year. Choose activities that fill your metaphorical cup, set boundaries, and commit to them. These tips will help to maintain your strategies when other obligations inevitably come up. Call us to engage with one of our experienced therapists and learn more about setting yourself up for successful self-care.
Written by Amanda Cioffi, LCSW