Summer is a time many of us look forward to and long for. Long days. Chilling in a hammock or on the beach. Barbeques, cold beers, time just hanging with friends…or playing with our kids. We remember the endless summers of our youth – catching fireflies, licking dripping ice cream cones and bomb pops, spending afternoons in the lake or the pond or the pool – and envision what a wonderful season we’ll have.
Then reality hits. There’s too much to do, too many emails to answer, and too many responsibilities.
And then it’s fall.
Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for most of the people I know and especially true for those of us who are wired hard to accomplish, prove, and achieve – or those of us who are wired hard to take care of others, sacrifice, and be the one that makes sure everyone else is okay.
I have both of these wirings…and more. I was raised in a cult by one parent (my mom was a Moonie, or member of the Unification Church) and in an environment of sex and drugs by the other (my dad was a drug-dealing, New York City bartender). My brain wired in a bunch of self-protective ways – “Always do more. Always try harder. Take care of everyone and everything. Save the world.” These were the (wacky) rules I created to live and survive by.
They’re also the wacky rules I’ve worked hard to break away from, and through that process, I’ve learned quite a few useful things.
I’ve learned over the years that life is too short to miss. As someone once said to me, “Life isn’t a dress-rehearsal.” This very well may be the only life I get, and I’ve certainly wasted some of it when I don’t allow myself time – and space – to chill. Research has shown that we are more productive and effective when we give ourselves breaks and fun – and what better way, or time, to do that than to dive into the joys of summer.
You too may be wired with the same “rules” as me or with some other habitual ways of being that get in the way of you really relaxing and enjoying yourself. But if you want to let go and chill, here are a few ways to start.
- Get a “chill” partner – we have accountability partners for when we want to get things done, why not accountability partners for when we want to learn to do less? Having someone to report back to about how you took time off or stopped for a moment (or ten) to rest will help remind you to take time off and stop for a moment (or ten) to rest. Find someone to hold you accountable for chilling.
- Promise to do less – one of the first things we can do is stop putting too much on our to-do lists. If I keep volunteering to take care of everything, everyone will keep letting me take care of everything. One of the best ways for me to have less responsibility is for me to take on less responsibility. Stop taking it all on.
- Go more slowly – life is longer, and often more enjoyable, when we go slower. Walk more slowly between appointments. As my friend just started to do, consider taking a yoga class instead of running. Pay attention to what’s around you. Look for things to savor and then savor them. Slow down and actually smell the roses.
- Set aside “chill” moments – even if your chill moments are short and sweet, make time to take them. Scheduling time to sit and read a book for a few minutes or to take your coffee outside in the morning and enjoy the day means you’re more likely to do these things. Even if the schedule is only in your mind. Look for moments – and extended moments – and give yourself space to breathe.
- Take your vacation days – enough said. Don’t waste them. No one ever said “I wish I spent more time at the office” on their deathbed. I love, love, love my work, and I love, love, love when I’m not working. Take your time.
- Notice that the world doesn’t fall apart – when you start stepping back and chilling more, you may rock a few boats. People have been counting on you for years to keep things moving forward. That said, the chances are strong that you won’t drop anything hugely important. Notice that. Notice that things are still (at least mostly) okay, and notice that you’re actually in a better mood and more able to tackle the next task at hand. Notice.
Life is short. Summer is shorter. It’s there for us to enjoy and savor, or it’s there for us to miss. Give yourself permission to really let go and chill this summer, or if you need permission from someone else, I give it to you now. You will be happier – and better off – when you do this.
Written by Lisa Kohn