Some of the best parts of summer are the nostalgia and joy that come with it. Looking back on summers past, can you still feel that untouchable excitement that comes when the final bell rings on the last day of school? Or the warmth of the bonfire as you bite into a s’more surrounded by your friends? The feeling of jumping into the pool for the first summer swim on a hot day? For kids and parents alike, summer is a happy time filled with fun memories.
When it comes to mental health, many people feel a decrease in stress and anxiety due to slower and more flexible schedules in the summer months. As a result, it may not feel as important to prioritize mental health during this season. However, in reality this time of the year provides us with an important opportunity to really focus on our wellness, building positive habits to take care of ourselves now as well as coping ahead for the inevitable busyness of the fall.
When schedules slow down we are presented with some options. While it is always important to allow ourselves time to rest and recover, it is perhaps even more valuable to use this time to learn and practice skills that support long-term wellness.
Let’s use a metaphor to break it down. Much like the ocean, life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes the waters are calm: life is moving at a reasonable pace and you feel in control of your thoughts and emotions and are motivated to achieve your goals. Your energy levels are high, and everyday stressors feel small and manageable. Other times, though, the waters are turbulent: you feel stretched in too many directions, your thoughts are plagued with anxiety and your emotions shift up and down like the waves. You are inundated with expectations and deadlines and even the smallest of obstacles can sap up all of your energy.
For many, summer waters feel calm while the beginning of a new school year brings with it more unpredictable waves.
If you’ve ever taken a swim lesson, you know that the calm waters provide you a safe place to develop and practice your skills — so that when you do experience turbulent waves, your muscle memory kicks in and you know what to do.
The same logic applies to mental health! Summer is the perfect time to hone in on your coping skills. Historically, the transition back to school brings about an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression among students and parents alike. In preparation for turbulent waters of this transition, let’s talk about some skills that you and your family can use to take care of your mental health and cope ahead!
Ride the wave comes from the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) framework. Not only is this skill in theme with our metaphor ; ) it’s all about learning how to sit with the ups and downs of emotions. Just like the shifting tides of the ocean, our emotions ebb and flow too. When we experience strong emotions, our instinct is typically to immediately react. Especially when those emotions are negative, we experience the natural urge to avoid, run, fight or hide from these feelings. Giving into this urge may provide some temporary relief, but prevents us from long-term healing and growth.
Riding the wave encourages us to accept our emotions, sit with them, and allow them to roll in and out without reacting — finding peace in the knowledge that they will inevitably pass. Here are a few strategies you can practice to help you tolerate difficult emotions as you ride the waves:
CPRR is a simple skill you can apply in your everyday life. The purpose of this skill is to increase awareness of your inner experiences when you feel overwhelmed or stressed. It’s designed to help you mentally reset before your stress takes over your day. Once you learn and practice it, it can start to become automatic!
Let’s break down what CPRR stands for:
Check out this download for space to learn and practice this skill!
Limitless thinking is a deceivingly simple skill: it’s believing that you can achieve anything, and training your thoughts and self-talk to support that idea!
More often than not, our thoughts are limited: we tell ourselves all the things we can’t do. When we think in a limited way, we get limited results and it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. In order to improve the way you think (and thus feel and act), we can make just a few adjustments in our words and thoughts to grow and become more resilient. Think about a goal you have, big or small. Now fill in the blanks with that goal:
“I can _____________________________.”
“I will _____________________________.”
“I am capable of _____________________________.”
Repeat the words (either in your head or out loud for an added bonus). It’s as simple as that! It may not feel like it’s making a difference, but the more you start to use this language, the more you train your brain to feel confident and capable, and the more likely you are to act out of a place of strength. This can be an especially helpful skill for kids — we encourage you to practice it with the whole family!
Instead of just treading water to try and stay afloat this summer, take control of your mental health ahead of time! Now is the time to start coping ahead for the start of next school year. Learn the skills in calm water so you can ride the turbulent waves feeling more prepared, capable and resilient.
Download our Summer Coping Skills resource to learn more & practice the skills above!
If you feel you or your family are in need of more support this season, be sure to check out Simply Bee’s summer services: