Sunshine, beach days, an endless number of festivals, social BBQs, refreshing drinks by the pool, campfires, more daylight hours—’tis the season for relaxation and fun. Isn’t it?
Social media tells us that we should be soaking up every relaxing minute in July and August. Make memories. Enjoy it. Don’t waste a single second.
It is important to remember that the idyllic picture painted on Social Media is only a small part of the whole picture. That level of perfection is not realistic or attainable, so be yourself, set your own realistic goals and try not to “keep up with the Jones’” idealized summer.
But summer can be a stressful time.
For our military families, summer can mean that families are separated when deployments, exercises, and trainings take loved ones off-Island. It can be an incredibly hard time for these families. Children miss a parent (and perhaps act out because of those emotions), and there can be a lot of anxiety and worry about the military member who is away. In addition, seeing friends spending time with family when their own isn’t all under one roof can bring out some negative emotions.
For non-military families, summers can also be tough. If you have children and you work outside of the home, it means finding childcare for two months and the financial stress that comes with that. There’s the added stress of maintaining your home—taking care of all the outdoor tasks that are impossible in the winter.
Financially, you may be struggling to fund a much-desired vacation, creating summer memories for your family, and even little things that add up like the extra ice cream cones, extra food in the fridge for children who stay up later, and more gas in your car for trips to the beach. And of course, there’s all those back-to-school supplies to take care of.
Did you spend enough time with the relatives? What about that annual trip to Shining Waters—when will you fit that in? Has anyone walked the dog this week? It’s sunny today, so we better get ourselves to the beach! When did the children last bathe?
In my role as a social worker, I see clients who experience increased stress at various times of the year, regardless of weather, holidays, or whatever is going on. It’s important to recognize these emotions and put coping mechanisms in place—either on your own or, when needed, with professional help.
I read a fantastic article this week published by PBS parents that I thought I would share: Five Tips to Lower Summertime Stress and Keep the Joy in Summer.
Since it is an article for PBS parents, the focus here is on families and children. I’ll let you read the article for the details, but here are the five tips in a nutshell:
1. Mornings Matter
2. Help kids with self-directed goals
3. Plan activities
4. Let them play
5. Maintain bedtime
I have added a few tips of my own that can be applied to anyone:
Don’t try too hard. Feeling overwhelmed with all the festivals and events you should attend while the grass on your front lawn grows up to your waist? Pick and choose so you can truly enjoy what you attend. It’s okay to say no, stay home, relax, put your feet up and read a book on your deck (or tackle that lawn if you wish). Schedule the big activities you really want to attend, and focus on those. This will allow you to have some fun while also recharging your batteries.
Schedule time for exercise. As mentioned, weekends and weeknights in the summer can be extra busy with all the things. Take out your calendar at the beginning of each week and mark in when you’re going to go for that run or walk or get that yoga class in. Exercise is directly linked to improved physical and mental health, so don’t neglect it!
Stay hydrated. Here, I’m taking a literal stance to the expression “keep your cool,” but it’s so important to up your water intake during the summer. Dehydration leads to all kinds of unpleasant side effects, which can also affect your mood.
Remember you are not a tour guide. This one comes in handy in a place like PEI, where so many people visit us. It can be tempting to offer to accompany the endless parade of visitors to numerous beaches, attractions, restaurants, etc., but be careful because before you know it, it’ll be September and all you’ve done is what is on other people’s summer list, not your own. I’m not saying ignore your visiting friends and relatives here, but be practical in what you offer and make sure that it’s something you wish to do as well.
Put up boundaries where needed. It can be hard if you are surrounded by people who have the summer off or who are on vacation when you still work. Stick to your normal schedule, as closely as possible. Be kind to yourself, maintain a healthy diet, and get as much sleep as you normally would. Doing so will ensure you don’t feel overstretched, underproductive, and burnt out.
Take care of yourself, no matter what the season, folks. And if you find yourself chronically anxious, blue, angry, frustrated, sad, depressed, or any combination of these, check in with your doctor.
Have a summer survival tip to share? We’d love you to leave it in a comment below!
This post was written by our Registered Social Worker, Ed MacAulay.