By Valeria Vilar, MA, BEd, LMH
Summer is here, and the sun’s warm kiss invites us to relax, to do water sports, and to plan for fun. Vacation, hot weather, long hours of light, and less responsibilities at work make up for a great mix of ingredients.
While the rest of the year has been stressful, with a routine that is far from our idea of fun, it often happens that summer months come with an overdose of, much longed for, entertainment activities. It would seem as if people would only allow themselves these pleasant occasions during this season.
When this is the case, we may suffer a post vacation disorder when we go back to work. We don’t feel like taking back our routines because we associate them with stress and absolute lack of enjoyment. Symptoms of anxiety and depression start to appear accentuating even more the difference between the two scenarios.
To avoid this unbalance between summer and the rest of the year it is advisable to spread entertaining activities throughout the year. This helps improve your mood, your tolerance to stress, and your motivation to work.
Sometimes happiness is associated with extremely ideal situations that are, most of the times, very expensive too. If, in contrast, we could balance these thoughts, and start associating happiness with small moments of pleasure, we would be more balanced. Some examples of these simple pleasures are:
· Closing your eyes, and going inside yourself while breathing and visualizing relaxing situations. If this technique doesn’t come naturally, it is because of high levels of anxiety, but with the right training, it is very easy to attain.
· Getting pleasure out of a conversation with our loved ones. Our fast paced lives, text messaging and tight schedules have diminished dialogue to merely transmitting information as a telegram-like communication, and conversation keeps getting postponed for “when we have the time”. It does not happen spontaneously, unless we intentionally open a space for it.
· Being able to stop and enjoy the view, to walk on the beach, to smell the flowers, to listen to the birds.
· Having mini vacations on weekends throughout the year. When monotony starts to invade, it is advisable to generate a change in our routine to motivate ourselves to feel pleasure.
Those of us who are not used to opening these spaces of enjoyment in our lives find this goal very difficult to attain. We may even doubt whether or not it is worth the effort. When this is the case, many times, we don’t even know what to do, or how to do it, we don’t remember what we used to like, and we get a feeling of guilt when we step out of our routine. We often think, “There is so much to do, I should not be here wasting my time.”
This is a red flag that may be indicating depression or anxiety. This is why it is so important to start little by little, incorporating small changes into our routines, and having real expectations. In the beginning we are likely to not get as much pleasure out of these experiences, because we have denied ourselves the right of having a space for enjoyment for so long.
The key is to create balance throughout the year. The best time to start is now, during the summer, but do not forget to continue this habit all year round. Allow yourself to find pleasure in the simple things and to break the routine frequently. This will lead you to feel that you can, and you do, have moments of relaxation and fun throughout the year.