Savvy Gal Spotlight: Six Shortcuts For A Stress-Free Summer
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” – so goes the classic Gershwin tune. However, if you’re already counting the days until the kids are back in school or if you’re overcome with heat, insects, and weeds, then stress might be getting the upper hand.
You need some help focusing on the special qualities that summer has to offer. Summer should definitely be about sunshine and picnics, lemonade and BBQs, pools and beaches.
The following six shortcuts, easily activated by the ordinary events in your day, will help put the easy back into your summer.
1. Bon Voyage
Trigger: When you’re washing your hair after a day at the pool.
Tool: Pour the shampoo in your hand and sniff the aroma. Close your eyes and inhale deeply. As you lather your hair, imagine yourself in a wonderfully pleasant faraway place. Maybe the fushion orchid and coconut milk will inspire a fantasy trip to the tropics. Or the ocean’s breeze will have you sailing on the high seas. Concentrate on the fragrance and let the experience take you away.
Purpose: Directing your attention to a pleasant fragrance calms your stressful thoughts and transports you to another place. Let your imagination match the smell and take you on a mini-vacation. With this aromatherapy, you’ll emerge from the shower peacefully restored and refreshed.
2. Now Hear This
Trigger: When you’re feeling overwhelmed by summer in any form: too much heat, too many garden chores, too many kids in the house, too many camp schedules to coordinate.
Tool: Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, breath low and deep . . . and listen. Turn your attention to the sounds around you. Label each sound: dog barking, crickets chirping, kids laughing in the sprinkler, car honking. Just listen to life around you and sharpen your sense of sound.
Purpose: When you bring yourself into the moment and redirect your mind from your troubles, you become aware of the music of life all around you. This activity calms your body and creates a disruption to the cycle of annoying thoughts.
3. Big Sky
Trigger: When you’re packing up the car for an outing.
Tool: Look up to the sky . . . (how often do you stop and just look up?) Contemplate the vast space, details in the clouds, the colors. Imagine beyond the blue sky to our solar system and even beyond that. Imagine our galaxy as one of hundreds of billions of galaxies (really!) “Breathe” in the sky, “breathe” in the spaciousness, and then exhale slowly. Say, “The spaciousness above is mirrored within me.”
Purpose: This Shortcut opens you to the vast beauty of the sky, which reflects the spaciousness within you. With it, you remind yourself that you are a small but vital piece to the puzzle of our planet. This Shortcut offers perspective, reminding you not to sweat the small stuff.
4. Fair-Weather Friend
Trigger: Whenever you talk negatively about the weather or are reacting negatively to the current weather conditions (i.e. heat, rain).
Tool: When you catch yourself complaining about the weather, stop. Instead of joining in with the grousing, simply say, “Really? I love this weather.” Usually that produces a shock effect. If saying this feels like too much of an inauthentic stretch for you, then simply state a fact, such as “Yes, it has been raining for five days now.” If you cannot be positive, at least try to be as neutral as possible when describing the weather. Remember that all kinds of weather are necessary to keep this earth healthy.
Purpose: When we complain about the weather, we leach negative energy into our minds and bodies. Resisting something that you have no control over is futile. Making friends with ‘what is’ generates positive energy which spills over into your life as inner peace.
5. Go with the Flow
Trigger: When washing your hands after digging in the garden.
Tool: Whenever you’re at a sink and touch water, let the stream of warm liquid cue you to say, “I go with the flow” or “I trust the universe” or “I have faith in the flow of what is.” This exercise reminds you to let go and flow with the current of life.
Purpose: Swimming upstream is not only exhausting but usually futile as well. There is a wonderful feeling of peace when you give up resistance and let the current carry you. When you focus for a moment on water and your hands, you create a space within which resistance can dissipate. And warm water actually calms your body. This tool reminds you of the peaceful power of acceptance.
6. Rest in Peace
Trigger: When your head rests on the pillow at night.
Tool: As you are in bed starting to fall asleep, review your day and list three things that happened for which you are grateful. Don’t just vaguely remember each instance, but actively recall it and re-create the experience of it. Hold the feeling and think of yourself as a sponge, absorbing the memory in your body.
Purpose: This tool is a way of focusing your mind on positive emotions. By reflecting on moments of joy during your days, a habit of positivity grows, and you become increasingly more joyful and more peaceful. Cultivating this evening gratitude practice will definitely help you sleep better.
Use these six simple Shortcuts consistently through your summer days to cultivate a spirit of peacefulness, gratitude, and relaxation. Before you know it, you’ll be chillin’ in spite of the heat.
Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW is a psychotherapist in southern New Hampshire and a self-help author. Her most recent book is Shortcuts to Inner Peace: 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity (Berkley Books). For more resources, visit her website atwww.ashleydavisbush.com.