The Summer Holidays are here!
With the weather looking up and the start of the summer holidays upon us, some of us might be feeling the pressure that can come with the 6 weeks break. Whether you’re a working parent who is trying to figure out the headache of childcare or if you are feeling some anxiety around how you are going to keep your little ones happy and entertained for all that time (without losing too many of your marbles!), this break can be both a blessing and a time of increased stress.
So why do some of us find the summer holidays such a challenge?
To understand this, let me first explain the science behind our thinking and why we respond the way we do to certain situations as modern-day human beings. You see, back in the Cave man/woman days, life was pretty wild. Simply staying alive was the main aim of the game as there were a fair amount of daily threats to life for our ancestors- think big hungry bears and other such creatures. Luckily as humans, just like animals, we have a primitive part of our brain which prompts us to act fast when our lives appear to be in danger.
Let’s imagine that you open your front door one day to find a polar bear on your doorstep. The primitive part of your brain will thankfully kick in in an attempt to prevent you from being the polar bear’s lunch. Your heart rate will soar, your stomach will churn, you’ll become rather hot and sweaty, and you’ll likely be running for the hills.
This is obviously super handy if you happen to be hanging out in places that are highly populated with polar bears. Unfortunately, this original, primitive part of our brain hasn’t quite caught up with our modern world we live in and it has a nasty habit of setting off its panic button for events in our life that might well be tricky but not a genuine threat to our lives…. Such as the pending summer holidays.
Thankfully, unlike animals, the human brain has advanced over time and as well our overprotective, primitive part of our brain, we also have a more civilised, rational, problem-solving part which we know as the intellectual brain. This part of our brain is logical, creative, and always sees the positives. A cup half full kind of guy.
In order for this part of brain to stay in charge so that we can live out the holidays feeling calm, in control and even enjoy that extra time with the little ones, there are some simple things we can do.
Here are just a few tips that will keep that primitive mind from taking over and spoiling your summer.
Top Tips for a Calm Summer Holidays
Tip 1 – Don’t try to pack too much in
I have definitely been caught out by this one. It seems like a great idea to plan or say yes to every single activity or outing that’s out there for fear of missing out on the event of the summer and in the hope that it will wear out the kids, but it’s not just the kids that will be worn out. And when our tank is empty, our intellectual brain goes offline and the little daily annoyances that come with entertaining our darlings all day long are a lot less bearable. Try to remember that despite what they sometimes might have you think, children do not need constant entertainment or grand days out and 6 weeks is a long time, so pace yourself.
Tip 2 – Do things that you enjoy too
So, if you can’t do everything, then spend some time really thinking about what YOU will enjoying doing with them. Taking positive action and doing things that we enjoy, help to keep that intellectual brain in charge. So if the beach is your thing, then go for it, but if sandy pants and seagulls pinching your chips is not your bag then maybe this is one for the grandparents to take on. This is your summer too you know!
Tip 3 – Don’t compare your holiday plans to others
We all know that comparison is the thief of joy and often the shiny holidays snaps that are plastered all over social media can lead to us feeling lesser than or inadequate. When we begin to have negative thoughts such as ‘why aren’t we having as much fun as them’ they all accumulate and build and eventually convert into anxiety. So if this is an issue for you (which is for many), try taking a social medial holiday as well a summer one. And always remember that the life you see on social media is NOT a reality and is NOT a reflection of you of your parenting.
Tip 4 – Don’t feel bad for taking a break or calling in favours from friends or family
Us humans are creatures of habit and when our usual routines are disrupted, i.e. 24/7 parenting kicks in when we are used to having the respite of school, it requires us to use additional energy on figuring out a new way of doing things for a while. That can feel draining because our brains don’t like change and they want to do as much as possible on auto pilot. So, accept those offers of unaccompanied play dates or put on Encanto for the 7 zillionth time and slyly shuffle off to ‘rest your eyes’ while no one talks about Bruno.
Tip 5 – Do talk to and spend time with friends and family when you can
Interacting with others positively gives us a nice boost of serotonin – the happy chemical that will help us to have a happier day, lighten our mood and stay in control of how we are thinking and feeling.
Tip 6 – Do try to focus on the good times
We all have tricky days and it’s easy to convince ourselves that the whole summer has been a shambles and that we have officially lost at the parenting game. Instead, if we take time to think about what has been good, the golden moments, the little nuggets of joy, then quickly your brain will repay you with yet more of that lovely serotonin, which acts fast to lift our mood and pull us out of the dumps. Try creating a habit with your children at the end of each day to choose at least one thing you’ve enjoyed or that has been good that day.
Tip 7 – Do eat all of the ice cream!
A daily dose of ice-cream has proven benefits to our mental health. I might have made that bit up, but it feels like it could be true, so why not!
About the Author: Rose Horgan works with people online in our Epping Forest clinic and she specialises in working with people anxiety, low confidence and parental stress. Rose is a member of the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists and, as an experienced Social Worker, she is also registered with the British Associate of Social Work.
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