Summer time stress: surviving the holidays and the heat
After the first couple of weeks of school break, many parents start to feel stressed, in need of a proper break, and start counting down the days until school starts again. For non-parents summer stressors can still crop up, leading to one feeling unsettled and tense.
Here’s a list of the top causes of stress during this time, and what you can do to address them.
If you find yourself feeling a little tetchy during the summer months, you are not alone. Studies show that levels of cortisol – a hormone that regulates stress – rise during the summer. This increase is needed to regulate sugar, salt and fluids that can fluctuate more in hot temperatures. However, the side effect is that people have higher levels of the stress hormone in their system and can feel more inclined to impatience and anger.
Research also shows that 80 per cent of people sleep better in cooler weather than in the heat. As you probably know, even a single night of restlessness can lead to feeling foggy the day after, and longer sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, and fatigue, for example you might find yourself snapping at your kids or partner over something really small.
There are a few ways you can manage heat irritability…
- Teaching yourself to recognise the first signs of anger, like a racing pulse or tense muscles, can be helpful in helping you control your feelings.
- Learn a few calming breathing techniques.
- Make changes to your sleeping environment to help you sleep better during the summer; get a fan, cool the room before you go in, have a summer duvet or sheet.
Travelling with children
Whether you are embarking on a car, plane, or train journey, travelling with children can be stressful. It is not always possible, but one way to reduce the headache is to try to fit your travel plans around your child’s natural rhythms. So, try to find daytime flights, and start car journeys just before your child’s bedtime so you can put them into the car in their pyjamas and hope that the natural rhythm of the car rocks them to sleep. The second thing is to plan entertainment for as much of the journey as you can; screen time limits are generally lifted during travel by most parents.
There are 1,008 hours in six weeks, that’s a lot of time to fill with activities. One great tip that should help you fill time with enjoyable activities is to create a boredom jar at the start of the holidays. You can do this with your kids, encouraging them to come up with lots of ideas for activities during the summer. They write their ideas – like paper airplane races, teaching the dog tricks, turning a mealtime into a restaurant experience by preparing menus and name settings – on little pieces of paper and add them to a jar. Later in the summer, when they are feeling at a loss for something to do, they can dip into the jar for inspiration.
You also should not be afraid of letting your children feel bored. Children actually need to feel bored. Boredom helps generate creative ideas, which is a great life skill for children. Boredom also encourages children to become more independent.
For many people, money is one of the most worrying aspects of summer. Money worries can take a huge toll, leading to a range of different emotions including low mood, anxiety, and stress. Take a look at our blog on summer spending here, which is full of advice on what you can do both practically and emotionally to cope with summer spending.
The social overdose or social void
It seems that many people fall into one of two camps during summer: the social overdose or the social void. Those who experience the social overdose, feel overwhelmed with social engagements, tons of birthdays, BBQs, and weekends away, which bring their own stressors of childcare, finances, and energy.
Those who experience the social void, meanwhile, really feel the impact of their friends/family being away and busy, and not being in the usual routine of the year, making them feel lost, unsettled, and lonely.
It is important to find your own balance for summer. Planning is essential, for both budget and time. How much quiet time or down time do you need? How much money can you spend on weekends away? Which weekends look too empty? Is there a class or group you can join during that weekend? Which weekends look too busy? Which can events can you skip?
For help and advice on how to deal with your summer stress call ICL on 0207 467 8548 and book a session with a therapist.