The sun pounds on my back as I put our two-year old daughter, Beckitt, in her car seat.
“Hot, mommy, hot!” she shouts at me.
“I know, honey. I’ll turn on the air in a sec,” I reassure her.
As I close the door and walk to the driver’s seat, she looks at me with a furrowed brow, and starts kicking her feet.
“Hottt!” she bellows again.
I quickly crank up the air. Hot air shoots into my face.
Did I walk into a sauna?
Nope, it’s just another summer day in Phoenix, Arizona.
Summer Can be a Difficult Season for Self-care
Summer is a season full of contrasts.
On the one hand, it screams freedom and adventure, letting go and surrendering to a less serious, more pleasurable way of life. Whether you sit around a bonfire roasting marshmallows with friends, watch your children chase fireflies through the woods, or enjoy a barbeque poolside, summer is filled with activities that bring you closer to nature and people you love.
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On the other hand, summer can be oppressively hot and humid, a breeding ground for bugs, dehydration, and irritation. Lathering on bug spray and sunscreen every time you turn the corner can get tedious. And, for those of you with children, having them home every day can get messy, on all fronts!
From scheduling challenges to continuous groans about boredom to siblings at each other’s throats, there are myriad factors that can hike up stress this summer.
I must admit, up until a couple summers ago, most of my attention was preoccupied with the negative aspects of summer. I dreaded going outside. I complained regularly about the heat. I would’ve been happy to skip summer altogether!
But, as I started to reflect on my attitude, I realized I had a dramatically different experience of summer as a child. I lived for long, toasty days. It was pure joy to play pick-up games of baseball with friends, then race bikes to the neighborhood ice cream store.
Who said adults can’t partake in similar experiences of joy?
Using Mindfulness to Restore Proportion & Overcome Negativity This Summer
What images or experiences come to mind when you think of summer? Do you find yourself resistant to joy or goodness and, thus, more concerned with annoyances? Or, are you pretty good about allowing yourself to experience pleasure?
If you find yourself primarily identified with what you don’t like, there’s a good chance you’re not alone.
Every person is influenced by something called the negativity bias. This is when your brain automatically hones in on the less enjoyable aspects of your experience.
While crucial for our ancestors to be clued into looming dangers, it’s no longer useful – or necessary – to spend all your precious energy ruminating on problems.
Here’s where mindfulness can help.
If you tend to be hyper-focused on parts of your life that are hard, you can use mindfulness to restore proportion and see the full picture.
For example, if the heat is unbearable, you could pause to consider what else is true of your experience: Are you providing a safe home for your family? Are you enjoying delicious food? Did you plan a fun trip? Are you working on a cool project or taking good care of your body?
In other words, what can you enjoy and appreciate about your current experience? This isn’t about sugarcoating. It’s simply an invitation to have a relationship with both joy and challenge. What would happen if you got to know joy just as intimately as you do fear or frustration, for instance?
Prioritizing Self-Care and Sensible Action
When it comes to dealing with the inevitable challenges of summer, mindfulness can also help you see what you can and can’t control.
Thich Naht Hanh said, “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what’s the use of seeing.”
It’s a good reminder that mindfulness isn’t about just sitting back and doing nothing in the midst of challenging conditions. It simply helps you see the situation for what it is, and then do your best to approach it with sensibility and care.
That’s right, you’re not expected to tolerate – or bliss out on – intense heat. Nor do you have to maintain a state of calm as you navigate severe weather conditions!
Mindfulness helps you to be accepting of who you are – in all your quirks and magnificence. If you’re sweating profusely and annoyed that your A/C is blowing hot air, it’s OK. Feeling this way isn’t bad or wrong.
At the same time, however, when you’re in a lather about the weather, it’s helpful to recognize that being mad about it won’t magically drop the temperature 15 degrees. For this reason alone, you may choose to focus on something that will help you feel more supported or stable.
In general, it’s important that you prioritize self-care this summer. Honor what you want and need. If you need more support with summer plans or taking care of the children, ask for it. Make sensible, weather-safe choices. Sprinkle in joy and fun. Plan activities that sing to your soul.
Embrace a sense of adventure and spontaneity. Do stuff with and without your kids, even if it takes a little extra effort to find a sitter. Be gentle with yourself when you get heated. It’s bound to happen!
Try mindfulness practices to create a more mindful summer by participating in eM Life’s Mindful Dailies with Breon and more than 30 other teachers. Sign in or create your free account today!
By spotlighting joy and pleasure this summer, and not allowing yourself to be overtaken by stress and negativity, you’ll kickoff fall and back to school season with energy and optimism.
About the Author – Breon Michel
Breon Michel, MAPP, is a MBSR teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Also a mother of two, her mission is to support parents who are doing the hard, uncertain work of raising children in modern times. Providing families with tools to feel more connected, balanced and peaceful while creating an environment for children to thrive, in both the short- and long-term. Breon writes about various mindful parenting topics on her blog page & on Instagram, @breon.michel.