Our Summer Can’t be Stolen
At this point in our “new normal”, you may be looking at a calendar with question marks next to upcoming dates or with big events just crossed off entirely. We have been experiencing multiple griefs in this time, while this includes our hearts breaking for the loss of our fellow man or even the loss of loved ones, we are also grieving the lost time and opportunities we thought we had. Whether it’s the graduation ceremony, vacation, summer camps, family reunions, anniversary dinner, sporting events, or grandma’s 80th birthday, the list goes on and on and on.
Video chats and take-out food have been appreciated substitutes, but our hearts ache for what could have been this summer. How do we survive this time and actually enjoy the season, at the same time being unsure of what the future holds? As the days lengthen and the summer sun emerges it may be time to reconsider how we can take back our summer.
Taking Care of Your Needs
First and foremost, your own emotional health needs to be addressed. There may be a drive to push on and go, go, go to ignore the feelings. You may have already organized your entire house and taken up more than one new hobby, or you might be on the other end of the spectrum and have been in a blanket burrito the last couple of months numbing with sleep, television, and potentially even substances.
Everyone has their own unique reaction to stress and fear. That fear can range from just not knowing what to do today, all the way to fear for your life or the lives of the others.
No reaction to stress is necessarily right or wrong but represents more what comes naturally to us. What can be helpful as the weeks pass is to begin to take an inventory of how you have been feeling. Recognizing, validating, and accepting our feelings and the feelings of others can help motivate us to move forward.
Here are some tips to help:
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Taking time to sit with your breath can be surprisingly informative. This gives you an opportunity to slow down and begin to notice what comes up without judgment. Even a few minutes every morning can help you feel more connected with yourself. Find free resources- Here.
- Moving Your Body: This could be in the form of taking a walk, doing yoga, or even dancing around your living room! In stress, the mind can feel floaty with anxiety, and bringing in movement can help feel more grounded in your body.
- Talking to a Trusted Friend: You might be pent up and need to verbalize how you have been feeling. This could also be in the form of writing in a journal. When thoughts have been externalized and not just trapped in your own mind, there may be the relief to not need to think about them as much. This also gives us the opportunity to connect with others. You may want to make sure to ask this person if they are in a space to be able for you to vent before diving in, to ensure that you’ll both be better off on the other side.
- Identify What is in Your Control: There are a lot of ‘what if’s’ during this time and it may feel like the dials of fear and anxiety are turned all the way up. Our emotions are normally trying to signal to us that an action needs to take place, that we need to ‘do’ something. Writing down what is actually in your control and what isn’t, can help to realign your expectations of yourself.
Communicate with Others
When you have taken time to connect to your feelings and identify your needs, express those to others. This could be the people in your home or people long distance. You may realize that watching the news has been overly stressful, or that there has been shame about not being ‘productive’ enough in quarantine, or fears about the loosening restrictions in your state. Taking time to allow others to know your needs and how to help you can break down the barriers in receiving those needs.
With this summer it can be helpful to grieve together what could have been, but it could also be a time to acknowledge what has been blocking enjoyment in the right now. Maybe you have noticed that you really miss getting outside and hiking, but have not felt motivated to leave the house. Sharing this with a loved one can help begin to explore how to help you meet this need in a way that is comfortable to you.
Could you research less-populated trails or parks? Do you need an accountability partner who checks in on the day you want to hike? Brainstorming how to make your needs a reality can help you begin to take steps towards reclaiming this summer.
Make a Game Plan
When the lines of communication are open it is time to get creative and figure out how to remake a summer plan based on your state’s guidelines and your own needs. This means that we need to be intentional with how to proceed.
Maybe this is having a family meeting to create a 2020 summer bucket list. You could make it fun by offering a prize to the person who comes up with the most ideas. For those in a smaller household, having a Zoom meeting with friends can also be a great way to share ideas about how to make this summer fun. Each state or county may also be making adjusted plans for events, such as offering digital libraries. This may not be the summer we imagined for this year, but it does not mean that we cannot make new memories. We may even be a little bit more in tune with ourselves and what we enjoy, in this slow down.
This is not an easy task though, so remember that the counseling community is still here to provide help. Teletherapy sessions are available in many places and are here to support the many mixed emotions brought by this drastic change. This summer may be the time to begin to provide yourself the care you need through therapy.