Summertime is the season of sunny waterside visits, sailboats, cookouts and bike rides. Yet after a long winter cooped up (and an even longer year of being inside), summer can be a busy social season making us prone to burnout, particularly if we try to keep up with the plethora of happenings that are thrown on our family and friends’ calendars.
Self-care has become a hot topic over the past few years but seldom does self-care include outdoor activities. Luckily, there are ways you can care for yourself while still enjoying the warm summer air.
Ask any professional and they will emphasize the outstanding mental (and obviously physical) health benefits of exercise. This summer, try setting aside some time each day to get moving outdoors.
This can include yoga, tennis, or just throwing a ball with a member of your family in the yard or at a nearby greenspace. Spending time outside has been proven to increase our moods–while aerobic exercise has shown a marked improvement in anxiety levels.
By combining these two forces, you can clear your mind and recharge your body too.
Take That PTO
Working from home has been a luxury many have embraced, but with so many usual destinations closed off for so long, the monotony of everyday life has hit hard for many Americans.
This summer, use that paid time off that you’ve been accumulating over the last year and a half.
Even if you are not comfortable with or able to travel, take time off from work to connect with yourself, your family and friends. Perhaps explore the locally owned businesses in your area that have been closed, sleep in, walk the dog on a trail you haven’t had time to check out. Taking vacation time doesn’t have to mean taking a trip, but doing so will give you something to look forward to and let your mind rest while your stress levels decrease.
Head To The Shore
Even if you’re not a beachgoer, being by the ocean even for a short period of time has been shown to increase calmness, according to a recent University of Exeter Medical School study.
It doesn’t have to be a grandiose trip to rolling cliffs on a shorefront resort to do the trick. Just getting to a more regional body of open water to take in the crashing waves and sand or pebbles beneath your toes provides a sensory refresh. It’s magical how looking out onto an open horizon can remind us of how big the world is, and how much we focus on small things.
Try taking an adventure to a nearby lake, beach or river with someone or solo. Sit down in a safe space and relax for a few moments while you take in your surroundings and bask in the warm rays.
Up Your Fresh Produce
Eating healthy impacts how we feel every day.
Summertime may be conducive to heavy meals like cookouts and delicious potato salad, but be sure to take advantage of the fresh produce that you can find more widely available during this season too.
Studies show that people who eat more fresh produce and lean meats are at a 25-35 percent lesser risk of depression than those who eat a traditional diet. Try experimenting with your foods, upping intake of lean proteins, salads, legumes and fresh fruits, and see how your body and mind begin to function more seamlessly. (More information on nutritional psychiatry and the connection between food and our moods can be found here.)
Opt For The Bike (And Helmet)
After a winter of getting in a cold car and battling parking at every turn, using a bicycle to get around is a great way to get your exercise in, hit your Vitamin D goal and connect with nature.
Sure, biking is simply enjoyable and fun to do, but it also helps circulate blood more quickly through your body, releases endorphins and dopamine (naturally occurring feel-good chemicals) and increases oxygen circulation to our brain. The combined effects can increase alertness, mental clarity and help lessen worry.
This summer will no doubt be a readjustment period for many. Be sure to take the time to check in with yourself and clear your mind with some of the tips above.