Summertime,and the living was definitely not easy

Take the time to enjoy and appreciate the small things in life while practicing deep breathing. This will help relieve feelings of stress.

Take the time to enjoy and appreciate the small things in life while practicing deep breathing. This will help relieve feelings of stress. (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: REUTERS)
Take the time to enjoy and appreciate the small things in life while practicing deep breathing. This will help relieve feelings of stress.
September really snuck up on us this year. Actually, it feels like we had no summer break at all.
Scanning the calendar, you may have realized that the hagim (holidays), with all the work they entail, are just over the horizon – less than three weeks away. For many, the worst part of it all is that instead of feeling refreshed and ready to take on those more stressful fall routines, you may feel that you desperately need a vacation.
You may have noticed that over the past few months your overall stress level has been higher and you’ve done few fun things. Glued to the news, afraid to go out and bored with staying in, you endured more than your share of whining children, canceled cultural events and disrupted sleep. Like many, you worried about our soldiers, our people in the South and the uncertainty over what will come next for our country, and the world.
Lacking energy and motivation, you may have gained some weight – given the propensity for comfort food, lack of sustained activity (aside from running to a shelter), and a desire to not linger in the grocery store. Along with many others, you may be wondering if you are depressed.
The answer may be “yes” and, with all that has gone on, this is perfectly normal, given all that you have been through.
You may be surprised to discover that you just don’t feel settled, and as good as usual. You may be tired, lack energy and enthusiasm, feel irritable and short-tempered, have difficulty concentrating, and find yourself with a host of somatic complaints.
While summer is generally a time for relaxation and a break from routine, most people still plan daily fun activities and look forward to various events that punctuate the months of intense heat. This year, it was all eclipsed by periods of inability to plan or predict, and stresses that had a far greater impact on everyone than initially acknowledged.
For most people, the kidnapping of the three boys in mid-June was just the beginning of many weeks of an unrelenting emotional roller-coaster ride. So now, while you can’t change what has happened, you can and must work to let go of these pressures and challenge yourself to move on, making this a better time for both you and your family.
This may require more energy than you think you have, but you can get creative and make up for some of the lost time. So don your coach’s hat, put some pep in your step, and challenge your family to make the most of the months ahead.
Here are some suggestions to help get you started: 1. Begin with some self-examination. On a scale of zero to 10 (zero being very bad and 10 being very good), rate how you currently feel. Ask yourself what it would take to raise that just a half a point. What would you like to see or have happen in order to make you feel better? For instance, do you need more motivation, a vacation, to lose a few pounds or to sit with a calendar and plan out the holidays? This will be your-short term goal.
Now, imagine yourself having achieved that goal.
Visualize the successful moment: Do you look amazing in the outfit that was snug a few months back? Have you planned your holiday menu? Have you helped your children get their notebooks and backpacks well-organized? 2. Write down five good things that happened today or reasons why you are grateful. When you’ve finished, take two deep breaths (in through your nose and out, very slowly, through your mouth). Say each reason slowly and aloud. Notice and appreciate each one, by allowing yourself to stay with that feeling for a few minutes before moving on to the next one; this is very important. Slow down time. Breathing, guided imagery, visualization and relaxation techniques used properly are valuable tools to help you feel more optimistic and in control.
3. Plan a vacation. Can you picture yourself frolicking in the waves or enjoying a lovely gallery? Now, allow yourself some time to be there in your mind.
One day, rushing to prepare dinner between patients, I boiled a pot of water. After pouring out the pasta, I slowly inhaled the steam. For two minutes, I imagined I was lying on a beach enjoying the warm sun.
While you may want to take a real vacation, for now, just visualizing this – while having concrete plans and a future travel date – can help.
Likewise, can you turn off your phone and computer at 9 p.m., get in bed with a good book and allow yourself to be “swept away”? Or, perhaps (and don’t quote me), you can have a “play hooky” day with your kids. Plan an in-home scavenger hunt, followed by a trip to a museum and then the park for a picnic lunch.
Having done so with our children, this was one day of “skipping school” that was highly educational for all.
There are many other out-of-the-box ideas that can make you feel good.
4. Get back into routine, and back on track. Being able to plan and predict lowers anxiety, so try to stick to a schedule, as this will help let others know what to expect.
5. Eat healthily. Enjoy fruits and vegetables and go light on sugars and carbohydrates, which can leave you feeling sluggish. Plan meals in advance and use a food diary to help you maintain accountability. Eat slowly, and mindfully savor each bite. Drink water to stay hydrated, and avoid using alcohol as a solution to your stress.
6. Wind down your evenings earlier so you can actually get into bed and to sleep at a better hour. Quantity and quality of sleep are both important in lowering stress.
7. Make exercise an essential part of your day. Do something you enjoy, but make sure you also get outside and drink in the sunlight and fresh air. Go with a friend, and the time will go faster.
8. Take time to acknowledge that the summer did not live up to your expectations, then let it go, recognizing that at this moment you are okay – and all will be okay.
See the holidays ahead as an opportunity for personal growth and renewal, and a time to move on.
We will explore this in more detail next time. In the meantime, enjoy today.
The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra’anana, and author of Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts. She has written about psychology in The Jerusalem Post since 2000. ludman@;