William Carlos Williams
US poet (1883 – 1963)
Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.
British (US -born) author (1843 – 1916)
Can you believe it? Summer is almost over! This time, don’t let the benefits of these short sweet months be over for you. Here are six of my favorite ideas to best prolong that sense of relaxation, less stress, and greater pleasure and fun we experience over the summer well into the coming fall:
Savor the Last Drops of Summer and Reduce Stress for Months
Have you again felt that familiar sinking feeling when you come back from vacation or see those first back-to-school sale ads? Are you thinking, (like I am), “Oh no! It can’t be over yet”? Most of us look forward to the longer days and slower pace of summer all year long only to find it flies by all too fast leaving us feeling wistful and longing for the ease that we feel during those short sweet months. Here are some of my favorite ideas to prolong the sense of relaxation, less stress, and greater pleasure and fun that we experience during the summer months:
1. Plan another vacation! As soon as you come back from your last vacation of the summer, sit down with you spouse, partner, or family and plan another vacation, even if it’s only a short weekend getaway in September or October. There’s nothing like having something else planned to erase that “all the fun is over feeling” and often, fall is an even better time to go on vacation than the summer months. Beautiful and relaxing locations can be even more beautiful and relaxing, when the crowds are gone and serenity and greater privacy are yours.
2. Keep up that summer activity level. Most of us are much more active during the summer months and often this leads to being (literally) lighter, having more energy, and sleeping better. All of these equal less stress. Consider ways to make small modifications in your day which will allow you to continue at this level of physical activity. For instance, if you were swimming almost every day on vacation, research locations where you can swim regularly, and figure out how to build this into your week. Or, if you were walking on the beach every morning, or at sunset every evening, keep walking daily in your neighborhood, and, (very important), plan an alternate activity for days when it is too cold, too wet, etc. to do this. This substitute activity could be time on an elliptical machine in your basement, a stationary bike in your bedroom, or dancing to your favorite dance video in your living room. Be creative, think about any option that is physical, vigorous and fun and is not dependent on the weather, otherwise as the weather changes your good habit will be likely to fade away.
3. Revel in Summer Produce. Produce is wonderful and abundant at the end of summer. Revel in the colors, textures, and tastes of a large variety of fruits and vegetables, preferably locally grown and as close to fresh- picked as possible. Current experts in nutrition and disease prevention now recommend that the ideal level of consumption of fruits and vegetables is 5-9 servings a day, even more than was previously thought. If there was ever a time to try out new recipes for fruits and vegetables, it would be now. With produce more available, fresher, and more delicious than at any other time of year, even non-vegetable lovers may be pleasantly surprised at how good they are, and how good they make them feel. And, preventing cancer is a nice bonus!
4. Get Outside During Daylight Hours. Many people, even those who do not meet criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), find their mood is negatively affected by lack of natural light. As the days get shorter, and you are back to spending most of your day at the office, make sure you build in time during the day to get that natural light that we usually get in abundance in the summer, when there is more light, and we’re outside more to enjoy it. Eat your lunch outside, or take a twenty or thirty minute walk outside at lunch in order to make sure you get your daily dose of light. (It doesn’t have to be sunny for you to benefit). Keep comfortable walking shoes and socks if you need them, handy under your desk. Consider inviting people who want to talk to you to do a “walking meeting” during daylight hours and get a little work accomplished and your daylight at the same time!
5. Return to the Moment. Bring back a small object, the more tactile the better, such as a smooth stone, a small shell from the beach, or a found feather that reminds you of your vacation.( In coaching we call this a “structure”.) Keep this object readily available and in plain sight on your desk or another spot where you will see it frequently throughout your day.
Several times a day pick up the object, hold it in you hands,(this is where the tactile part comes in), close your eyes and visualize yourself in the most relaxed and peaceful place of your vacation. With your eyes still closed, breathe deeply, visualize all the details: the colors, the textures, the quality of the light sparkling on the water, or creating dark silhouettes against rich pastels at sunset.. “Hear” the sounds of the birds or the water, the laughter of the children chasing the lightning bugs. “Smell” the scents, whether the distinctive ocean tang of the wharf, the deep green woodsy scents of the forest, or the aroma of the fresh local foods from the grill. Give yourself a full 2-3 minutes to take yourself back to this place, and to allow yourself to feel the same sense of peace, abundance, and deep relaxation of the best part of your vacation. Finally, acknowledge your gratitude for being here, having had such a wonderful experience, and being able to take it with you wherever you go.
Take a couple more slow breaths and open your eyes, return to your current location, but not without carrying the feeling of this moment back with you to access as needed as you go about your day. Retrieve this “micro-vacation” as-needed as a part of each day, particularly those days when you may be feeling especially stressed or frazzled.
6. Play every day. According to Chris Peterson, Ph.D. a professor at the University of Michigan School of Psychology and one of the foremost experts on positive psychology, “There is a direct relationship between how happy people are, and how much “play” is in their lives:” Think about what is “play” for you, whether time for reading for pleasure, riding a horse, listening to music, singing, or playing your instrument, poking around in your garden, or playing with your child or grandchild, and figure out how to increase the amount of play in your life. Just like when you are on vacation, make it a habit to have more fun and “play” in your life every day.
Try incorporating as many of these strategies as possible into your life now, in order to savor the last sweet drops of the summer long into the coming year. With practice, they will make you happier, and help you to carry forward the beauty and benefits of those wonderful summer months. Remember, you deserve it, and, it’s good for your health!
Copyright Lisa Pasbjerg and Focused Coaching 2007-2012 .This article may be reprinted, only with the approval of the author, and if it is reprinted in its entirety with full attribution. Please contact us for details.
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Lisa Pasbjerg, DCSW, PCC is a professionally credentialed coach and leadership development expert in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is founder and principal at FOCUSED COACHING, LLC at http://www.focusedcoaching.net , which provides executive coaching, leadership and management training, and Strategic Career Re-Design™ services to high-achieving physician, healthcare, and other organizational leaders and their teams throughout the U.S. and Canada.
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