Breaking Out of Summertime Stress by Dwight Bain
“Life should be easier this summer, so what am I doing wrong?” Was the hectic plea of a stressed out mom I talked to recently. She was facing what millions of other moms go through. It’s the middle of the summer without set schedules or routines, yet it is still one of the most stressful times of the year. Ever wonder why extended family time away from school or work can lead to greater conflict and tension?
First, realize you are not in a Disney movie. Summertime is like any other season of the year. It has a different temperature pattern, but that doesn’t mean it will be any happier. In fact, if you are facing financial challenges it can be harder since there are increased childcare costs, summer camp tuition fees and more meals eaten in the car between events. The traditional school year isn’t easy, but it is predictable, and from a budget perspective is often less stressful than trying to keep up with the continual obligations of summer. For people in high conflict relationships the relaxed schedule means more time to fight. It’s like they have more fireworks in their home every day than the fourth of July. Verbal violence is wrong no matter who starts it and extra time with greater financial pressure can lead to a continual battle. If you are in an abusive relationship don’t wait for it to get better – because it won’t. Call for help now.
Second, remember you are the parent and you set the tone for your summertime expectations. If you try to keep up with everyone’s fabulous vacation, or travel over to meet another family at the beach, or go to the movies to see every summer blockbuster, or go boating with the neighbors, or attend every barbecue and picnic you will stay broke and tired. Trying to live out the expectations of someone on a reality TV show will only cause disappointment. Figure out the schedule and budget you can responsibly manage during the summer and stick to it. Breaking the bank and losing sleep to be like everyone else will only exhaust you. Besides – everyone else is probably lying about how fantastic their lives are, which is why they may brag so much about their fantastic lives. If someone is constantly telling you how wonderful their life is – it could be a cover up. Either way, live your life, within your means to avoid the comparison game of beating someone else.
Next meditate on the words of Jesus, who once told his disciples to “Come apart and rest for a while.” This simple wisdom is essential to avoid summertime stress. Finding times of peaceful rest will take you from seeking family entertainment, (theme parks, go-cart tracks, movies, putt-putt, cruises, and the cross-country trek to visit “Wallyworld”), to move over to a deeper and more meaningful process of building family experiences. Face the reality that children rarely will remember spending money on something trendy, but will always remember catching fireflies, or making s’mores on the grill, or playing Lego’s because a thunderstorm knocked out the electricity. Creating a family experience involves time and creativity – not cash. But be warned, once you experience the laughter and peace of just being together as a family without all the distractions of expensive entertainment – you will never be able to go back to being a group of strangers who try to avoid one another with the latest, greatest event because active connection with the people you love trumps passive observation of another meaningless event. One engages your family, (think of tubing down river together – it’s not expensive, but it is a powerful memory that creates more connection than watching the latest Transformers film), while the other allows them to escape real family connection.
Finally, get back on schedule. One of the sources of summertime stress is being off your regular routine. Sleep the same, get up at the same time, and go do free stuff, (like story time at your public library), instead of sitting home watching TV. There are many subtle stress producing emotions that come from sitting and being bored, or worse, discouraged by how ‘perfect’ everyone on television seems to have it. Stop it! Turn off continual TV and it’s temptations or distractions, (same goes for Facebook), to get up, go out and live life – instead of staying inside and watching others live their lives on the small screen.
You don’t have to stay stressed this summer – but you do have to make the decision to be different. Start by changing your schedule to be out and about with activities that matter. Then move forward to have real conversations with the people in your life. This could be the best season for those you care about if you make the decision to break out of summertime stress to push toward meaningful relationship. Moving from relationship fireworks to relationship friendship is a good trade- and when you make it, you will be glad you did.
To schedule an appointment with Dwight Bain, please call our office at 407-647-7005 or visit our website at www.lifeworksgroup.org.