Summer Break: Is there even such a thing anymore? When asking friends, colleagues, and clients, “How’s your summer been so far?” the resounding reply has been “BUSY!” With summer vacation winding down and the school year rapidly approaching, allow time for yourself and for your family to relax and recharge. Here are some helpful strategies for incorporating a little relaxation into the remainder of your summer break:
- Create Mellow Moments: Reserve time on your calendar to relax and recoup. No appointments or activities to rush off to—just good old fashioned, down time. How much down time you can plan will vary for each family, but don’t let this discourage you from trying. Whether this is just a few hours, a whole day, or an entire weekend, the goal is to protect time to allow your body and your mind recharge. For both adults and kids alike, our lives and families can be so consistently busy that the thought of free time can make us anxious. Don’t fret! Take the pressure off by incorporating a little structure. For example: Reading Hour. Allow yourself to dive into that book you’ve been longing to read for one hour, guilt free. Treating yourself to down time can be quite a gift.
- Take Belly Breathing Breaks: There is power in the breath. We know that breathing is essential for living. How we breathe can also influence our physical and mental health. According to Harvard Medical School “Deep abdominal breathing [belly breathing] encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.” Belly breathing also helps to relax the mind and reduce anxiety.
So how do you do it? It’s helpful to first observe how you breathe normally. After you do this for a few breaths, you can get started with belly breathing.
- First, place one hand on your stomach—you’ll know you’re belly breathing when your stomach expands (pokes out). This is good signal that your lungs are nice and full of air!
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose to the count of five (1-2-3-4-5). And then slowly let the breath out through your mouth to the count of five. It can be helpful to imagine that there is a balloon in your belly that you’re trying to blow up when you breathe in and shrink when you breathe out! Some children may need to start with a 3 count (1-2-3) and work up to a 5 count. Adults can start with a 5 count and work up to a 10 count.
- Try taking a 5-minute belly breathing break daily. Once you get the hang of it, try taking a 10-minute belly-breathing break each day!
- Preoccupy Your Mind with the Positive: Our minds are so busy! Sometimes the stresses of the day can cause us to feel tense, anxious, or worried. Shifting our minds to the positive in our lives can facilitate relaxation. Whenever you find yourself tempted with stressful thoughts about things that haven’t happened yet or things you may not have, try this Gratitude Exercise: Bring to mind at least 5 things in your life you are grateful for, big or seemingly small.
- I arrived at work or school on time today
- I had a productive meeting at work
- I have food in the refrigerator
- I have a safe place to stay
- I laughed really hard
- Keep the list going!
Get your kids involved with this exercise as well—maybe even try it a few nights a week as a family over a shared meal. Shifting your mind to the positive can bring a refreshing perspective that can both help you relax and recharge.
These helpful tips can help you and family members relax and engage in self-care this summer and all-year-long. Each family and individual will have unique challenges and strategies in reaching relaxation. If you or your family gets stuck in achieving this goal, a trusted therapist can provide extended support and additional techniques for achieving relaxation and maintaining self-care.