The kids are off school for six weeks and they couldn’t be happier. Parents, however, have suddenly got childcare to sort out, entertainment to organise, and little things like arguing siblings and summer tantrums to deal with.
If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious over everything you have to do or deal with during the summer months, there are a few coping strategies you could adopt to help.
What is a coping strategy?
Everyone deals with stress differently. Your own personal response to stress will have been forged within you over the entire course of your life. Some people cope with stress by carving out ‘me time’, others exercise, some people have unhealthy coping strategies; most commonly smoking, over-drinking, or over or under eating.
Coping strategies that worked for you in the past might sometimes stop working for you. Our responses need to change with time, our lifestyles, and with the type of stressors we are faced with.
Below we have outlined some coping strategies that help in managing stress. Not all coping strategies will work for you, and some might help in certain situations and not others. You might have to test out a few before you decide what your best group of strategies are.
Coping strategy 1: Deep Breathing
When we are stressed our breathing naturally gets quicker. Slowing down your breathing can help you relax again. The technique is to sit or lie down and take a series of slow steady breaths through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. Try to breathe in for four counts and out for four counts. This sort of breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which can calm you down. This is the main breathing technique used in yoga and meditation classes. The good thing about it is that you can do it anywhere; on the bus, in the car, at home, or out.
Coping strategy 2: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is about taking the deep breathing technique to the next level. It involves tensing a certain muscle group in the body and then letting that muscle group relax. You start at your toes and work up, or start with your face muscles and work your way down, working through all the muscle groups. We naturally tense our muscles when we get stressed, by training our minds to expect relaxation to follow muscle tension, we can teach ourselves to calm down during periods of stress. There are many guided videos on You Tube for this, if you want direction.
Coping strategy 3: Focus
Try to set a focus for the day/week. If you’re going on holiday, for example, you might decide to focus on the kids’ entertainment. If stressors happen outside of that focus, you can bring yourself back to your focus in order to feel calmer. So if you are agitated that the food in the resort is not very appetizing, by reminding yourself the focus is the kids’ entertainment, you might feel that the standard of food is not a priority this week, but next week you can have a meal in your favourite restaurant.
Coping strategy 3: Time for your self
When you’re feeling stressed, it can seem like there’s no escaping that stress. Making time for yourself can help you feel more in control. Take some time out to exercise, for example. In addition to being “you time” exercise floods your body with the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, which will boost your mood in itself. If you haven’t got much time to spare, just gift yourself ten minutes, make sure everyone knows not to interrupt you during those ten minutes, set an alarm. Make a cup of tea and be mindful of how much you’re enjoying that tea. If both you and your partner are feeling stressed, try a date night.
Coping Strategy 4: Planning and Communication
It may sound simple but planning ahead helps reduce stress in the summer. Get a wall calendar and split the days into morning and afternoon sessions. Fill in any commitments you have and if you need to, prepare a budget for those occasions, too. Plan in some specific times when your kids are in charge of making their own entertainment, too.
Make sure you communicate with your kids. Talking to them before bed about what’s happening the next day can help level their expectations. If you’re planning a family day out for example, you might explain to them in advance that you’ve got a fun day at the zoo planned, but that seeing the animals is the treat for the day; there won’t be any extras like ice creams.
Coping Strategy 5: Write Things Down
Keeping a diary can be hugely beneficial when you’re feeling stressed. A sense of catharsis can be gained by getting your feelings out of your head and onto a blank page of paper. Journaling can also be helpful in problem solving. Writing things down helps you find a logical order to things so you can see solutions more clearly.
For further help and advice on how to deal with summer stress and anxiety call ICL on 0207 467 8548 and book a session with a therapist.