Summer is here at last!

With the summer solstice last week, that long summer stretch is well and truly here. This is a time of year where we can enjoy long evenings, bright mornings, and look forward to taking those all-important summer holidays. Holidays are an integral part of our lives and it’s vital that we take them, however we choose to spend them. Taking a break, whatever that might look like, gives us a chance to rest, recover, and rejuvenate, all of which are essential for our mental and emotional health.

Slowing Down

When we reach this mid-way point in the year, we often feel the growing need to take time out. I’ve written before about the effects of the eventful past few months – getting over the January hump, settling into a new year, and the challenges of managing an evolving situation. Preparation for summer holidays can also be tough. We can feel like we’re busier in the weeks or days running up to our much anticipated break, trying to close everything out.

It’s not unusual by the time we greet our summer holiday with open arms, to find ourselves tired, unsure how to relax, and generally at sea with it all. This year, for some, it might be doubly tough to slow down and enjoy our break. This is because it’s not just the first chance in the year to ‘get away from it all,’ as we have been familiar with in years past. It’s also the first break we’ve had from what has felt, for many, like a never ending cycle of lockdowns. Many of us may feel like we’ve settled into routines which include feeling on alert, or in an almost perpetual state of motion.

Often after a stressful time we can fall into a rhythm like this, of feeling constantly alert and ready to face whatever new issue might present. After all the triggers and challenges of a protracted pandemic we may be surprised to find it a little trickier than usual to give ourselves over to the holiday mood. This can leave us feeling somewhat unprepared for fun, relaxation, and down-time.

I took a much looked forward to break recently, expecting it would take the usual day or two to switch off. I noticed that the anticipated slow-down took longer to come than expected, and I began to suspect that my pandemic-alert brain hadn’t caught onto the fact that I was on holiday, and that it was ok to switch off. This in itself may be a normal experience this year, as we can feel under pressure to relax, now that we finally have the opportunity. Until the momentum gets a chance to slow, it can take time to come down and actually settle into doing absolutely nothing for a change. It’s important to recognise these feelings, and acknowledge them, as often when we fight them, we can run the risk of exacerbating them.

Making our own holiday, at our own pace

As you approach your summer holiday this year, it may be helpful to give yourself permission to ‘go with the flow.’ Maybe this year will look and feel different to previous years, but you can still find your own ways to enjoy the time, and let yourself relax a little. The most important thing to remember is that it’s ok to relax, and to take your time getting there.

It’s also useful to remember that while others might be getting right back into it, you might not be there yet; we all move at our own pace. Some will be the eager Hare racing ahead, while others, even in the same family or circles of friends, may be the more cautious Tortoise. Some may be travelling cross-country or further afield this year, while others may choose to stay local, put the feet up, do some gardening, or bits and pieces around the house at leisure, with no deadlines to worry about.

Making the decision to take things at our own pace, and to take it as it comes, can really help to take the pressure off. We might still have an ‘off’ day here and there during our break, but giving ourselves permission to take it as it comes can help us to recover more easily from these moments, and find our way back to moments of enjoyment and relaxation.

A final thought…

Summer holidays come in all shapes and forms, as do our feelings and reactions to them. When you take your much deserved break this summer, remember it may take time to slow down and settle into it. Taking it at your own pace can help you to connect with those all-important moments of rest, and relaxation.

This post featured as a Monthly Wellbeing Series article in The Midland Tribune on 1st July 2021