By Ashley Reichel, Holistic Health Coach
Summer is practically here and with it comes the anticipation of warm sunny days and a carefree state of mind. I can remember as a child the building excitement as the end of the school year approached. Summer vacation meant beach days, lazy mornings, and playing outside barefoot until well after dark. Summer felt like freedom, like a celebration, and a true break from the grind.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I am questioning what happened to that carefree spirit of summer. As the temperatures rise and summer months approach, it seems as though that lighthearted childhood feeling has evolved into a frantic frenzy of go-go-go. Parents are scrambling to find entertainment and childcare in the form of camps, playdates, and extravagant vacations. It feels as though the pressure is on to say, “yes” to every social engagement and to pack our schedules so full we are questioning where our free time even went. We are stressed and tired because beyond feeling the pull to “do all the things,” we also must prepare meals, tend to the growing dirty clothes pile, and be prepared to be back to work on Monday mornings.
I fully recognize that my parents probably felt the same way and that, as parents and adults, we feel the need to create magical moments for our families to fully enjoy the all too fleeting enjoyments that come from summertime. What if we did take a step back though, and consciously decided to slow down this summer? Let us take time for ourselves to enjoy this summer in a more simple and mindful way……
Protect Your Personal Time. Though it can be hard to say no to another activity, another playdate or BBQ think about your personal time as your time to recharge and enjoy what makes summer special for you. Take each invitation and really think about what it will bring you. Does attending this event stress you out, or are you excited about going? Does it mean more work, as in packing bags and bringing a dish to pass, or are you excited to share your newest summer side dish and see friends and family you have been dying to catch up with? Put the feeling of guilt aside, and if staying home and enjoying family time in the backyard is more appealing than packing up the car and heading out, then feel no remorse in politely declining the invites that are not going to bring you joy!
Be Flexible. This one may be hard for those of us who always need a plan, but some of the most fun moments come from being able to go with the flow and be spontaneous. Maybe a bit of a contradiction to #1 on our list, but leave room in your schedule for those unexpected invites to the neighbor’s pool or evenings that get away from you, and it's dark before anyone even thinks about being hungry for dinner. Having small children myself, I 100% rely on having a schedule and plan for most days but being too rigid also results in me feeling anxious and frustrated when things do not go as planned. Sometimes nap times do not happen, dinner plans get derailed, or the overlooked housework gets ignored again, but returning home a little worn out from too much-unanticipated fun trumps a to-do list when summer fun is calling!
Simplify Mealtime: As we make room for as much or as little as we want to fill our summer schedules, simplifying may be the easiest way for us to get the most out of our days. One such way is with our food. No one wants to spend hours in the kitchen when summer days are upon us, so being prepared with simple meals and snacks can be beneficial to anyone looking to spend more time in the sun. Take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables available at this time of year and take time at the beginning of the week or the weekend to have some cut, washed, and ready to eat. Grilling is another simple option and a way to bring mealtime outdoors. Have fresh meats or fishes and veggies available to season and throw on the grill last minute. Prepare more than one meal by grilling (or cooking) more than you can eat and saving leftovers to add to salads or over rice or pasta for another meal. Get the whole family involved in mealtimes so it is not just one person’s job to prepare, cook, and serve the meal. Swap your oven for the grill and have do-it-yourself nights where everyone tops their own grilled pizza, and you dine outdoors!
Log Off and Tune In: Summertime may be one of the best times to ease up on our electronics. We spend a good portion of our time in front of screens and what better time to take a break than when the weather is nice, and we can get outdoors. Dedicate a time of day that you or everyone in the family goes device-free. Use this time to relax and tune in to the things you enjoy most about summer take a walk, visit a park, read a good book, cool off in a pool, or treat yourself to ice cream, smoothie, or popsicle. Allow yourself to be a little bored; sometimes taking a break from the constant engagement is just what your body and brain need!
Summer is the perfect time to slow down and tune into yourself. Let go of the mentality that keeps us in the cycle of overcommitment, stress, and that burnt-out feeling. Embrace a slower simpler time, and have your most mindful summer yet!