How I Finally Learned to Chill Out and Relax This Summer
...and why I'm taking this attitude into fall.
After graduating from college, I always struggled with the idea that summer was supposed to be this “carefree” time where all your worries and struggles totally disappeared. OK, maybe no one is actually saying that about summer, but that’s the impression I always got from the arrival of warmer weather. Sure, people are more apt to take vacations, and in some industries the day-to-day hustle slows down, but work doesn’t come to a complete halt. Work is still work and things need to get done. Deadlines don’t just disappear. Bosses just don’t stop caring about projects and articles and, ya know, business.
But all the Instagram pics of my friends sitting on swan floats with rosé in their hands and what seemed like 23 million blogger beach scenes really got to me. I told myself I needed to at least attempt (keyword) to quiet my mind and enjoy what is meant to be this season of pure relaxation. I’m a worrier (I’m also a Cancer, if that makes my sensitive traits more understandable) and struggle with giving myself time to rest, so I knew I’d have to be increasingly aware of my attitude and stress levels.
First, I needed to do what I never do and summer is synonymous for. Go on vacation. Yes, like many other working Americans, I don’t always take all my time off, and while in the beginning of my career I thought it made me a harder worker or seem totally committed, I know taking time to reset my mind will boost creativity and actually make me more productive and effective in my tasks in the long run.
So, in the early spring, I decided I did need to go to my family reunion, and I planned on taking that week vacay to a New Hampshire lake house with zero wifi and limited cell service. And while I knew I didn’t want to take any more time off of work, I planned a few weekend getaways—two trips the Jersey shore and one weekend with my girlfriends to Montauk.
These things actually gave me the opportunity to unwind, besides what I can do on my couch in front of Netflix.
I also kept in mind that while those scenes of an Italian getaway I see on Insta. seem perfect, I don't know if the person taking the snap is stressed or if everything is fine and dandy. Basically, I stopped comparing my current life status with someone else's vacay.
Allowing Myself Nights to Myself
I often fill up every single one of my nights with something to do. Between work events and working out, there’s maybe, maaaaaybe one night a week where I’m home at a decent time, taking care of apartment, cooking dinner, and catching up on other things I like to do—reading, decorating my teeny tiny apartment, or talking on the phone. Damn, texting.
I found that the reason I feel like I’m constantly “go, go, go” is because, well, I am “go, go, go.” I told myself I would give myself one night a week where I wouldn’t make any plans with anyone, unless I truly wanted to. No obligations, no “shoulds” or “musts.” This gave me that chill-out time the summer is so synonymous with, time So did I follow through? Eh, I had the most trouble with this area. I always feel bad about turning down plans, but have learned that saying “no” doesn’t mean disappointing someone. And sometimes a few glossy magazines, my bed, and a bowl of pasta is exactly what summer truly means.
Here’s the thing with meditative exercises. They take like, all of five minutes, yet I still say I don’t have “time” for them in day. But when I actually sit down and breathe in and out for a few minutes and practice mindfulness, everything (life, work, friends, family, the fact that my apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher!) seems a little less daunting and more enjoyable. Sure, I’ll wash that salad bowl. No problem!
That meant adding it to my morning routine–post shower and before makeup—so I could approach each day with a clear head. I even did it at the beach because, ya know, #summer.
Taking Lunch Outside
Summer means sunshine… or an office AC and 40+ hours a week inside! To soak up the most sun (pun intended), I started taking my lunches outside on our office deck. I got to enjoy the weather before I start crying over being cold for the next seven months and I marinated in some vitamin D.
While I don’t think I had the same relaxation levels as someone who summered in Santorini, I think I did a good job at getting my mind in an eased state that comes along with June, July, and August.
The funny thing is, there’s no reason I can’t practice all of these things once summer does come to an end. Until about early November, I can totally take my lunch outside, and chances are the sun will still be shining. It’s almost like warmer weather gave me the excuse I needed to introduce these self-care practices into my life. While these worked for me personally, everyone is different. If you’re looking for a way to de-stress, chat with a pro about what works for your lifestyle.
Now excuse me, I have to go take my salad outside.