Summer is finally here after what for many people was a long and difficult winter. Temperatures are warm at last, the sun is shining bright, and air conditioners are running full speed. The time is now to enjoy the summer and strike the right balance between relaxation and rejuvenation.
Many times I've heard from clients in September, "The summer flew by and I feel like I didn't do anything," or, "The summer was great, but I'm so exhausted." Your summer doesn't have to be like that.
Here's how to make the most of your summer without stressing yourself in the process.
1. Examine your expectations.
Are they realistic or unrealistic? Thinking, "I want to take three international vacations, find the love of my life, and start a new career", though ambitious, might cause more stress than anyone should handle in a three month period. Adjust expectations and make sure they are realistic and doable, and that your goals are internally motivated rather than created by external forces such as friends, family, or societal pressure.
2. Seek self-improvement.
Typically people wait until New Year's or the start of the school year to make improvements to themselves like getting into shape, finding a job, or learning a new skill. Now is a good time to do these types of things because schedules are usually lighter and one doesn't need to worry about complications from weather events. So, spend some time reflecting on things you'd like to change about yourself and improve and plot a strategy to get there.
3. Learn something new.
The antidote to boredom is to learn a new activity. Keep your brain active by learning a new language, taking a cooking class, or challenging yourself to any new activity. You'll learn something new and possibly make new friends, too.
4. Maximize your Fridays.
Many companies offer early dismissal on Fridays in the summer or even the entire day off. Take advantage of it. Perhaps you can plan a three day weekend trip or do something during the day that you ordinarily wouldn't be able to because of work.
Volunteering can help stimulate the reward center in the brain and release neurotransmitters such as dopamine, making us feel good. My parents have been volunteering for several years at their local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and a friend of mine talks fondly about the many years he read to the blind. Both have said that volunteering helps them to feel connected to the community and good about helping those in need. It also helps to put our own issues into perspective and not seem so significant.
6. Create a new tradition.
Think back to your childhood. Likely you have fond memories unique to summer. For me it's family trips to Rhode Island beaches and watching fireworks. Enjoy an activity that can be repeated the following year and become a ritual. Traditions are behaviors and actions that provide a sense of identity, tell a story, strengthen family bonds, and of course, create memories that can be passed from one generation to the next. Make this the summer you start one that will live on.
7. Unplug, disconnect, and enjoy nature.
That's right-for a few hours, forget about modern advances in technology and get lost in yourself and nature. You may find it surprisingly refreshing and re-energizing. In this day and age of 24/7 connections and news, the brain could benefit from communing with nature sans technology. Discover a new park, hiking trail, or green space and relax for a moment or two-or as many as you can spare.