Hang on! August may just be the cruelest month. It is the end of summer; the beginning of the school year. Many of us, even those without kids or a curriculum, entertain the notion that it’ might be time to abandon our sweet summer ways. But no! You do not need to transition out of your summer mindset. Put on a jacket and some shoes and socks when the time comes, but hang on to the sweet, sunny aspects of summer by bringing its best aspects into your daily routine.
Here are a couple ideas. Choose those that resonate with you and commit to a little bit of summer every day:
- Leave work at work – The best strategy for leaving your job at work is preparedness. Preparedness can reduce stress. At the end of your workday, make a plan for tomorrow. Whether you subscribe to a time-management software or Sticky Notes, write it down (or use a crayon and draw). Just get those thoughts out of your head, so you can have some room there for yourself.
- Try something new – Like outdoor play, which is our very favorite summertime activity, learning new things hijacks the creative infrastructure of the brain. Our brains need as much exercise as our bodies do. Brains love to work; they also love to play. Studies show that learning new things has physical benefits, can reduce stress, and wards off depression. When you learn something new you are creating new synapses between neurons which is associated with cognitive health. In other words, learning new things keeps your brain fit.
- Practice Yoga – Yoga reduces stress by teaching us that we have some control over our bodies and our thoughts. With practice, we can learn to send our minds to our Happy Place (for many of us, that place is summer).
- Unplug/Go Screen-free – Turn off your electronic devices (for the evening, for the weekend, for an hour). Going without your gadgets can improve your sleep, reduce stress, and help you relax. Unplugging gives you a chance to recover from the demands of your job or your social life. (Theodore Roosevelt is often quoted, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Social media is the breeding ground of comparison.)
- Go outside – Time spent in nature increases brain function. It amps your vitamin D intake (necessary for proper immune system function), reduces stress, and makes us happy.
- Read a book – There is no reason to ditch your summer reading list. Reading takes us places! Reading also improves mental function, builds your vocabulary (which can be great fun at parties), makes you a better analytical thinker, helps you relax, and, get this, reduces stress.
This list goes on and on, but one consistency is stress reduction. This a a part of why we love summer as we do. In summer we let go of some, or many, of our concerns and let our hair down. Stress is a learned response. It is also something we can unlearn. With just a little bit of determination and practice, you can reduce the stress in your life and make each day a little bit more like summer.