Summer is here, but boy does it feel different. There were no county fireworks on July 4th, a trip to the beach is a little more stressful and traveling out of state may not be an option for many of you. All of our stress levels increased over the past few months because of the Coronavirus pandemic and many of us are torn between enjoying our summer and starting to worry about what the fall and winter will bring for us. The truth is, you can’t worry all of the time and allowing yourself to destress is essential for your mental health and wellness. So, I’ve put together five ways to destress this summer.
When you are on vacation, be on vacation
We all need a break from work, whether you go away or just relax in your back yard. When you are on a vacation from work, you need to put on an auto responder on your email and change your voicemail. This lets people know that you are inaccessible while you enjoy your time off and you don’t have to worry about getting back to anyone immediately. Taking time off is so essential and you can practice setting clear boundaries between your work life and home life while you disconnect. So many of the lines between work and home have been blurred over the past few months due to the pandemic and our careers and lifestyle have become one and the same for many of us. Whether you are doing a staycation or actual vacation, just be where you are. In order to be successful in your career, you need time off. Making space to relax and not think about your job actually helps you perform better when you return. It can prevent burn out and lead to creativity, motivation and new ideas. So whether you are channel surfing or riding real waves, be there mentally and physically while it lasts.
Take the slowdown of the Coronavirus pandemic with you
I’m not going to lie, I really liked living in a bubble with my family during New York’s shut down. Yes, it got old after some time, but I really enjoyed the freedom to just be present with my husband and son. Having no obligations, plans or commitments was really nice for our typically busy lifestyle and I know many families agree with this. We never had the opportunity to “just be” in the way that we were March through May and I found so many silver linings in that time. If you had a similar experience, now is your opportunity to take this peaceful slow down with you. Leave behind old habits that wore you out with overscheduling and doing things that really did not benefit you. Become pickier with how you chose to spend your time and who you chose to spend it with. Now you have the chance to reflect on what was working during that time for you and you can think about how to keep it going as you move forward. The slow down taught many of us that less is more and perhaps this is the way it always should have been.
We can’t stop talking about whether or not the kids are going back to school in September. From preschool age through college students, this is a stressor for many individuals and families. The more you ruminate about this situation and the uncertainty of it, the less you are enjoying the now. We have less than two months before September is here, so enjoy it. Make your summer fun and find ways to unwind and take breaks from the worry. Be mindful of your day to day moments that bring you joy and try to clear your anxious thoughts by truly involving yourself in the present. Stop trying to predict an outcome and learn how to live in the uncertainty of what this fall and winter is going to bring us. This decision of what September will look like is out of your control. What you can control is wearing your mask, following your state’s protocols, making smart decisions for yourself and your family and maintaining an overall positive outlook.
Stop doing things you don’t want to do
Saying “no” is not only important for your physical health right now, but also for your mental health. Saying “yes” to things that you no longer align with or feel good about creates feelings of resentment. Resentment then leads to feelings of stress and irritability, which can impact your relationships. You don’t have to do things that make you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to do things that cause you stress and you definitely do not need to do things to please people around you. Saying “yes” to something means saying “no” to something else. Sometimes you have to weigh the pros and cons of your decisions on how you spend your time and who you spend it with this summer. Remember, you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do.
Be proactive in talking to your family about how you are reintegrating into the community as your region re-opens
This topic has come up as a point of conflict with many families and couples I work with. Each family member or partner can have a different opinion on how they want to pursue social distancing as we enter each phase of re-opening. Having conversations about this on the fly as someone is walking out to a 50-person party can lead to a fight and create stress in the family. Re-integration is going to look very different for each family, but it needs to be discussed and boundaries need to be set in order to navigate how things will go this summer. Yes, you may need to make some compromises, but every family and relationship needs to practice that skill from time to time. Some of you may not chose to step foot inside a restaurant, but your teenager may be partying in the woods with 100 high school seniors and sharing much more than snacks. Trust me. Different ages and generations have very different perspectives on what appropriate social distancing looks like for them and this topic needs to be an ongoing conversation in your household. When trying to navigate what these boundaries should look like, always keep in mind that safety comes first and teach your kids the meaning of your values around physical and emotional health.
About Justine Carino
Justine Carino is a licensed mental health counselor with a private practice in White Plains, NY. She uses a modernized approach with her clients so therapy can feel more relatable. She specializes in working with teens, young adults, families and pre-marital couples. Justine provides individual, family and couples sessions as well as workshops for parents and teens. Website: www.carinocounseling.com Instagram @_thoughtsfromthecouch_
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