Emotional Health•Healing • 5 minutes to read
It’s official, summer is here!
Despite COVID-19 still being a real thing, people are getting out of their houses to enjoy the sun. Some are choosing to go for hikes, bike rides, runs, fishing, boating, and the list goes on. I have even found myself soaking up the sun at the overly packed beach.
With all the wonderful things going on it seems as though summer can bring out the best and the worst in us. We can easily push-off work and other responsibilities because, well, the sun is out and it’s so beautiful. We all want to enjoy as much of it as we can in as many ways as we can. Which can make for some wonderful memories but can also result in feeling exhausted by the end of the week. Ultimately, it all boils down to finding balance.
This is something that I personally struggle with. I can either be “in the zone,” focused on nothing but my work and what I need to get done next. Tackling one to-do list after another.
I take a glance at the number of emails I need to attend to and choose to take the kids for a FULL DAY at the beach instead.
Both extremes will ultimately become draining and will leave me feeling a sense of neglect that only I’m responsible for. If left unattended and I continue this behavior, this will lead me down a path that will end in relapse.
And talk about a real summer-fun killer. The weight of guilt and shame that follows an overwhelming week of feeling trapped sure can bring down the mood.
How do we break out of this cycle?
1. IDENTIFY when, were, and why you feel most vulnerable.
Summer itself can feel like one giant trigger. There is alcohol almost everywhere, people walking around with nothing but swimsuits on, and an underlying sense of “I’m not good enough” because I don’t look like______, I don’t do______, and I can’t go to______. (You know what I mean.)
Feeling this way might not be fun, but it’s good to look at and acknowledge these feelings. Identifying how and why we feel triggered is the first step to knowing what we can do to work through it.
Over the last few years of analyzing my emotions, I’ve not only been able to learn more about myself and the people around me, but I’ve also been able to actually enjoy the things that used to cause me pain. I can now go to the beach and enjoy time with my family instead of being in my head the entire time. I can spend time with my friends and know that things don’t have to be “all or nothing” to really have fun. I know there are certain environments that I can’t be in and I’m actually happy about it because I truly enjoy the sense of healing and freedom that I now have.
2. Put together an ESCAPE PLAN.
What is an Escape Plan? I’m happy you asked. It’s just about one of my favorite tools besides the FASTER Scale (which can help with step 1). Using the Escape Plan helps identify the red flags in our lives, plan out the next steps when confronted with a red flag, and easily customize ways to follow through.
During the summer months, it is easy to get caught up in all the fun and forget to check in with ourselves. We tend to go-go-go until the evening comes and then we crash. This is when we are at our most vulnerable state. Our mental, emotional, and spiritual health can be in jeopardy but at this point, it’s difficult to recognize what we need. This is where looking at our pre-written Escape Plan can come in handy.
Something I’m guilty of is finishing out the evening by watching something on TV. Allowing the TV to “fill me up” when I need it most, instead of reading my Bible or having an intimate conversation with someone close to me. The TV ends up having a bigger impact on my mind than God because that’s what I have turned to during times of weakness. RED FLAG!
When I am able to identify that I’m feeling this way, I’m able to form a plan. Now, watching TV isn’t anything bad, but this particular plan might include me not immediately sitting in front of the TV. Instead, I will go through a Bible study and allow God’s Word to fill me up. Maybe I will reach out and connect with a group member or someone safe. I could even spend time filling out a FASTER Scale. Following an Escape Plan during times like these is what will keep us centered and help us feel balanced.
This podcast on using an Escape Plan might be a good place to start.
3. Use a CALENDAR.
I acknowledge that using a calendar isn’t meant for everyone, but it is a simple tool that can really help. My husband is someone who enjoys using a hanging, full-year type of calendar. I personally rely on the calendar that is on my phone but have also really enjoyed using a liturgical planner. A liturgical planner is an amazing tool to keep track of your day to day while also allowing you to reflect at the end of each week.
By utilizing my calendar I’m able to keep track of the to-do lists and work that needs to be done while also scheduling in “me time,” family time, and just plain fun time. Instead of feeling like I’m wasting time when I’m not working, I’m able to set it all down, feel accomplished, and be present while “playing.”
As you are going through your summer bucket list, remember that the roller coaster is only as good as the bolts holding it all together. Rather than going around a few times and then falling apart…it’s always better to be aware of our weaknesses, address the red flags, and maintain healthy habits.
It’s through these actions that we can truly experience freedom and enjoy the fun that summer brings.