Summertime, and the livin' is easy. Or so the George Gershwin song goes.  Yay!!!  Summer is finally here, with its longer daylight hours and hot sunny weather.  Time to enjoy the "easy livin'", right?  That may have been true a long, long time ago, when the steamy weather and lack of A/C forced everyone to slow down, relax, and curtail their activities.  But now our summers only add extra activities to our already overloaded schedule. And we're expected to keep on top of our jobs and all our other responsibilities that we handle during the rest of the year.

Let's take June for an example. The lovely month of June is overflowing with end of school-year activities, final exams, graduations, engagement parties, showers, weddings, dance recitals, playoff games, Father's Day, and registrations for summer sports and camp.

We try to juggle our schedules so we can get away and enjoy those vacations we've planned (or are still planning).  When we do finally manage to get away, technology doesn’t let us get too far.  Our cell phones, laptops, and tablets keep us chained to the world we're trying to escape.  Sound familiar?  Sound stressful?  You bet it does!  But it doesn't have to be.  Not if we have the right mindset.

Stress is our bodies' response to stressful situations.  But our minds determine which situations are stressful and which are not.  This is our perception of the event.  If we perceive an event or situation as stressful, it knocks us off balance, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Our bodies naturally fight back to regain balance using their defense mechanism: to fight, flee or freeze.  We'll talk more about this in the coming weeks.

But let's get back to tackling the stress of summer:

  • Look at your calendar. Are there too many things on it? Decide which are important, and which you really want to attend.  It's not the end of the world if you politely decline an invitation.  If anyone controls how you spend your time, it should be you.
  • It's also important to leave some open time for spontaneous events - things that you can enjoy either by yourself or with family and friends, at the drop of a hat.
  • At the opposite end, does your calendar look a little empty? Remember that boredom can be stressful too. You want to have a happy balance between your activities and your free time.
  • Are there some events or activities that you are dreading?  Ask yourself why.  Maybe you fear a graduation party because you're at odds with a family member.  How can you make this less threatening?  Or you might be anxious about an upcoming vacation because you hate car or air travel.  Are there ways you can make this more enjoyable or at least bearable? 

Now that you've set up your calendar, it's time to plan for the activities:

  • If you’re attending an event, ask yourself what you need to bring, wear, prepare, buy, how you're going to get there and who you are bringing with you.
  • If you're hosting an event, write down all the details:  date, time, menu, guest list, invitations, and, if applicable, decorations and/or special activities or games.
  • Whether your attending or hosting, break each job into manageable bites.
  • When you create your to-do list, decide what's critical and what's not.
    • List things in order of importance.
    • Can you eliminate the chores that are your lowest priorities, or delegate them to someone else?
    • Next, schedule the tasks on your calendar and spread them out so you're not doing everything at the last moment.

Although these steps seem like extra work, it will actually save you time, headaches, and, yes, stress, in the end. 

Above all, give yourself permission to relax and take care of yourself!  Make it a priority!  Remember that self-care is not selfish.  In order for you to give the best of yourself to anyone, you must have the best of yourself to give.  That means being well-rested, nourished, and strong, both in mind and body.

Which of these tips will you use to reduce your stress this summer?