This week marks the first week of July, meaning that school has been out and summer is in serious session. As the school year ended, you may have been filled with excitement. Perhaps you’ve planned an incredible vacation or have a summer bucket list just itching to be checked off. Maybe you idealized bright sunny days in the back yard, at the pool, or the park. But like clockwork, the magic of summer evaporates as you find yourself rushing around, making sure everyone and everything is taken care of. Summer stress is enough to make any parent feel anxious and overwhelmed. Here are some mindfulness techniques to help the next time you feel you’re going to snap this summer.
Parenting, in general, is hard work. Incorporating mindfulness can help you stay grounded, present, and intentional as you continue raising your kids. Mindfulness also allows us to connect back to ourselves (aka a form of self-care). It allows us to be more adaptable so that we don’t give into reactions of yelling and “losing it.” While these mindfulness practices won’t stop your kids from throwing a tantrum or generally not cooperate, it can help you feel more energized, patient, and in control of your own emotions.
Summertime Stress Practice: Square Breathing
Breathing is an involuntary process. We breathe all day, every day, from the moment we are born until the moment our time has come. But not all of us are very conscious or intentional with our breathing. Square breathing makes us focus on breathing – and only breathing.
Start by taking a deep breath in for four seconds as you visualize drawing one side of a square. Hold that same breath for four more seconds, then exhale for four seconds as you visualize drawing the next side. Repeat that again as you draw the last two sides of the square.
Repeat this series as many times as you need. You should aim to expand your belly full of breath as you inhale. And try to feel it constrict as you exhale. As you utilize and get better at this practice, you can try experimenting with different breath lengths. Just make sure they are all in equal proportions.
Mindful Appreciation and Gratitude
Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that gratitude can lead to an overall increase in both happiness and health? Research has linked it with the feelings of joy, optimism, and even pleasure. Practicing gratitude in moments of stress may seem like a difficult task. But it can be as easy as taking a moment to pause and listing 3 things you are grateful for in that moment. The things you are grateful for don’t even need to be that insightful. Being grateful for the fact you have a place to live in, food to eat, and enough water to drink is enough.
Think of mindful appreciation as a way to change your world view lens at that moment. Instead of thoughts like, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m a terrible parent who has raised out of control kids.” can turn into “My kids may be a mess right now, but I am grateful to have healthy kids full of life. I’m lucky to have the means to be able to spend a weekday afternoon with them and create memories, as they won’t be this young forever.”
We’ve talked about meditation before. And if you overlooked those blogs before, now might be the time to reconsider. And while meditation can seem daunting, remember you don’t have to go at it all on your own. There are a number of guided meditations both online and via apps. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it almost anytime and anywhere. It’s a wonderful coping mechanism to deal with stress and can set you up for a calmer and more grounded day.
CPA Counseling Wants to Help with Your Summer Stress!
Counseling can be a helpful tool to help you make mindfulness techniques a part of your daily life. Sharing your summer stressors with your therapist can help you both stay on the same page and keep you accountable in working towards your goals. Therapy and counseling are safe spaces where you can voice your concerns, develop coping and communication skills, and find the support you need.
Remember, therapy is hard work! It can feel extremely uncomfortable and even exhausting. Having a hand to hold and help guide you will only add to your personal success. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh and one in the Robinson area. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients, so check out our videos to learn more about how we can help you stress less this summer!
Jennifer Krause – MS, LPC
Jennifer is a Licensed Professional Counselor who received her Masters of Science Degree from Chatham University. She has over 18 years of counseling experience with a wide range of patients in a variety of treatment settings. These have included: outpatient community mental health agencies, partial psychiatric hospital settings, both inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol facilities, correctional settings, and an outpatient intensive treatment foster care program. Her clinical experience has been broad, treating both adolescents and adults struggling with: addiction, trauma, mood disorders, anger management issues, borderline personality disorder, depression, and anxiety. I also have experience with couples counseling, working with families, and group therapy. She has extensive training in Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Trauma-Focused CBT.