Four things to do today to protect your energy and time during the busy months of summer
Most of us got a summer vacation when we were kids. We would have a couple of months to play, and sleep in, and generally unwind from a year of hard work and learning. As adults, however, most of us hardly get to hit snooze once throughout the summer! Maybe you get one vacation, but if you don’t stay on top of your email you’ll regret it when you get home. Maybe all of the things you’ll need to do when you get home haunt you the whole vacation long. And weekends are filled with social gatherings, weddings, graduation parties, and more. If you’re anything like me, much as you love celebrating with and for the people you care about, it can simply be too much! How can you protect your resources and care for yourself amidst the adulthood stresses of summertime?
1) Your sleep is essential. Set boundaries around it
A 2014 report from the CDC found that in Maryland, between 38.0% - 44.1% of adults 18 years old or older are getting inadequate sleep (<7 hours per 24 hour period). For teens, the percentage is disturbingly high - in 2013, the percentage of teens getting inadequate sleep (<8 hours for teens) was a whopping 68.4%. In a large review of the literature on short sleep duration, inadequate sleep was found to be a significant predictor for increased risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart diseases, obesity, and mortality (Itani, Jike, Watanabe, and Kaneita, 2017).
Sleep is medicine.
If you know you need to take a medicine at a particular time of day or at a particular frequency or dosage in order to be well, most people take the medicine as prescribed.
But when it comes to sleep, we seem to have a steep learning curve. Maybe your friend has a party starting at 10 PM, or your partner is out of town in a different time zone, and you choose to stay up late talking to them on the phone, or your exercise classes start late at night, or you have an infant or young child who wakes you at night.
This is not an easy thing to work with. It requires a very high level of commitment and awareness around one’s health.
To start out, create a schedule for yourself that gives you at least four days out of the week where you can be in bed at the same time each day and wake up no sooner than 7-8 hours later. Once you have created this schedule and set this intention for yourself, communicate it to the people who are closest to you in your life. Your partner(s), friends, children, and coworkers may be able to support you in your commitment to your health, and you may even inspire them to do the same. You could find your friends’ invitations may change: “I know it’s late for you, I understand if you won’t come.”
If your friends don’t understand, you may want to reevaluate their place in your life. Good friends don’t tend to stand between us and our medicine.
2) Counteract overstimulation with quiet and calm
All stress is stress - we all know how stressful starting a new job, or a new school, or a new marriage can be. Parties may be fun, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Of course all of these events are exciting, and a source of joy. As are the parties and other gatherings we attend in high volumes in the summer time.
However, for many people, going to cookouts, weddings, and graduations every weekend can really drain our energy. In Chinese medicine, there are seven internal causes of disease: emotions which are out of balance. It is said that joy slows qi. It injures the channel which is associated with consciousness, attention, emotional awareness, and healthy sleep. When there is a condition of too much joy (generally considered to