Mental Health And Self-Care In The Summer

By Jennifer Fiorillo
Mental Health

Jennifer Fiorillo

Summer can be a welcome time for many of us as we usher in the warm weather, plan vacations, spend time outdoors and relax. For others, it can be more stressful as parents balance their children’s schedules out of school while managing home and work obligations.

Either way, the opportunity to recharge, refocus and enjoy longer days is before us and is overdue as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent tragic events that have had a profound impact on many of us physically and emotionally.

There are some simple things we can all do to care for ourselves and revitalize during the summer. Having longer days allows us the chance to get outdoors and enjoy nature. The increase in vitamin D from sunlight can improve mood, decrease stress, improve sleep and increase energy levels. Just 20 minutes of safe sunlight exposure a day can provide us with these benefits.

Summer gives us the chance to reduce the amount of time we spend on social media and electronic devices to get in some much-needed physical activity. Physical activity boosts both endorphin and serotonin levels, which can improve our mood and decrease anxiety. Exercise has a positive impact on our physical health, including improved sleep, weight loss, increased strength and improvement in certain co-morbid conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. We do not need to adopt a strenuous exercise plan to experience these benefits. Taking several 10 to 15-minute brisk walks a day can still improve our physical and emotional health.

We often hear this advice, but we don’t always follow it: planning and taking a vacation or time off from work in the summer not only gives us something to look forward to, but it also allows us to the take time to unplug from our daily lives. It is not always necessary to plan a lengthy vacation for it to be worthwhile. Taking several short and inexpensive trips can be just as enjoyable and fulfilling and allow us the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends.

While summer can be a good time to unwind and decompress, not having the structure of a typical school year schedule can be overwhelming and create more chaos in a busy household. Setting a new schedule in the summer is not only beneficial for children who thrive on having structure, but it also establishes consistency that helps parents to manage the daily demands of having their children at home and participating in different activities.

In addition to establishing a summertime schedule, setting personal goals keeps you motivated and focused on self-improvement as you may experience increased demands and chaos. It also adds to a structure that may be lacking.

Finally, setting aside time for mindfulness and meditation can go a long way toward reducing stress, improving overall well-being and maintaining the equilibrium that many of us aim to achieve in our lives.

Jennifer Fiorillo, MBA, MPH is the president and CEO of Bridges Healthcare in Milford, and may be reached at Jfiorillo@bridgesmilford.org.

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