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Does Your Summer Feel More Busy Than Lazy?

Multi-ethnic children and young adults at water park A group of multi-ethnic children and young adults on the lazy river at a water park, shouting with joy and looking at the camera. The focus is on the mixed race African American and Caucasian 9 year old boy in the center foreground. lazy summer stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
Photo: Istockphoto.com

Who hasn’t dreamed of spending a lazy summer at the beach or by a pool, relaxing and escaping the routine of our daily lives? Or daydreamed about spending an entire summer traveling or simply enjoying unstructured days?

Yet, research shows that Americans tend to work the longest hours of any Western nation, have limited vacation time compared to other countries, and often don’t use those hours or work even when they aren’t at the office. For many of us, the dream of enjoying the “lazy, hazy days of summer” has been replaced by the refrain “summertime and the living is busy.” Surely there is a way to make summer easier on all of us.

The whole concept of a summer break is a holdover from a bygone era. One explanation is that in agrarian settings, families needed to keep their kids home from school to help with the work during the summer. Another is that in the pre-air conditioning era, it was simply too hot in many cities, so people went elsewhere, reducing the number of children in the classroom.

Today, most jobs are year-round, but our public schools are not, creating a scheduling disconnect for many families. As a result, few of us end up spending summers that live up to the romanticized versions of travel and relaxed vacation time we see in our social media feeds, movies, and television. While we often question the relentless pressure we feel to create a picture-perfect Christmas celebration, the gap between our summer expectations and reality can be equally frustrating.

Even if we have given up on the idea of a summer holiday, many of us hope to spend time catching up on projects we are meant to do during the year. However, managing a household when the kids are home all day, cobbling together a childcare schedule, or getting work done when colleagues are on vacation can feel even more difficult than maintaining a regular schedule. So, are we doomed to spend the spring waiting for summer and the fall waiting for Christmas only to be disappointed twice a year? Or could we find a way to reduce the gap between what we have and what we want?

There are two ways to approach this. One is to change our circumstances, the other is to alter our thoughts, and often we need to do both simultaneously. If you feel your summer is racing away without you, spend some time thinking about or even writing down what you wanted to do or accomplish. Once you have a comprehensive list, rank each item as something you really want/need to do, would like to do, or could delay or eliminate.

Then you make a realistic assessment of how much time, energy, money, cooperation from other people, etc., those activities will take. If that list is overwhelming, think about how you might adjust the goal, enlist help, or move your categories around. The idea is to figure out how you can use the resources you do have to achieve the goals you most care about.

You might notice that up to this point. You haven’t taken any action. What you are doing is creating a realistic plan. If it becomes apparent that you don’t have enough time to achieve all of your goals, try finding a future time when you can focus on some of them. For example, if you can’t find a free weekend to take the family to the coast in August, check the average weather reports and see if you can find a slot later in the fall when the weather is still nice, the rates have dropped for accommodations, and the beaches are less crowded.

Source: Psychology Today, Mary McNaughton-Cassill Ph.D. https://bit.ly/3yXROqr

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