By Marina Trejo
Summer 2020, an unprecedented summer, unlike any other in recent history. After months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have dealt with a national quarantine, fears of getting sick, the stress of overwhelming our nation’s hospitals and essential worker’s capacity to do their jobs, school closures, unprecedented unemployment, navigating the stresses of full-time work at home, and monitoring the schooling of kids. To top it all off, nationwide civil unrest, police brutality and the sickness we have now come to understand as our country’s racist foundations that continue to overwhelm and strangulate this country’s citizens.
So how do we as parents stay well, healthy, stress-free while the uncertain future looms large? Kids are at home with no routine or schedule on-site and with most camps closed. How do we actually manage a health routine when there may be little to no support available?
First, defy the odds. Perhaps this can be a summer when we really start to look at all the old and tired out slogans of “Summer Bikini Ready,” “Beach Body Perfection,” “Best Summer Vacations,” “101 Summer Meals” and throw them to the curb for real. This summer is all about dealing with the cards we have been dealt with and ushering in quantitative dollops of calm management, pragmatism, and ease.
I’ve always been interested in long term solutions that require investigation, thoughtfulness and being true to one’s capacity. When I feel overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed, I realize that it is not the ideal time to start a new regime and be hard on myself about where I feel I am failing. Instead, I look for ways I can give my body true rest, create space, all while making small decisions that can have an impact for the immediate future to ‘get back on track’. What does that translate to?
When it comes to tips on how to navigate this summer and manage it all, I’d first like to point out that it may be different but not impossible to take care of you.
First, Start by Prioritizing What You Need the Most:
Simply aiming for a well-rested summer actually requires much due diligence and planning. Longer days filled with daylight make it easy to stay up late, sleep in late and all routines undone. All fine until you find yourself eating breakfast at 2 pm and chaos has somehow become your new home.
So whatever your bedtime/wake up time is, make it a consistent one that your whole family can do. And if you find yourself able to wake up earlier than the rest of the family, make time for five minutes of deep breathing through your nose — long, slow, and deep nasal breathing is ideal and will have a soothing effect on your nervous system. Make it as much of a daily habit as brushing your teeth each morning. The consistent routine of checking in with your breath will have cumulative effects that go beyond your rising morning.
Even if you are intimidated by the eight glasses of water per day, summer is an ample time to ramp up your fruit intake, and instead of eliminating the BBQs, the extra potato chips, rosé and s’mores, go for bulking up your daily fruit intake. Make a game out of how many stone fruits you can consume (be aware they can have laxative effects!), how much watermelon can you consume daily, and notice the effects the fiber sugars and water have on your mood. Reach for a handful of fruit before anything else and simply notice the effects it has on your cravings. The more hydrated and sated you are from filling up with fruit, the less power your cravings have on your hormonal system.
We can’t get to a class in person because of COVID-19, and Zoom and Instagram workouts with your favorite teachers are impossible with the kids now taking up every nook of the house. Instead, make your own favorite playlist and create a daily dance party for yourself and/or together with your family. Yes, you have heard it before, but honestly, I can’t think of a better activity to do daily that can reset moods, change the energy in the house, and allows for versatility of body movements too! You can dance in your bathroom, kitchen, garage, backyard, or bedroom. You can do it alone. You can do it with your kids. You can get everyone to pick their favorite songs and all of a sudden you have an instant heart raising, mood-boosting, bad mood relieving outlet. It is straightforward, fun, and actually works wonders. Aim for 15 minutes once a day.
Again go for do-able, manage-able, non-overwhelming stretch strategies. My favorites are pinky balls or tennis balls for my feet and a foam roller for the back shoulders and hips. I keep them in a bowl in my kitchen or by my sofa so I don’t have to look for them and they stare at me when I am snuggled up on my sofa. Stand on the balls and gently massage your feet (one foot at a time!) as if kneading bread, make sure you have something to hold on to for balance. One to two minutes per foot is plenty. Foam rolling out your upper back, hips, and side of the legs is straightforward. Find the sorest areas and roll for five minutes per day, you can do this for longer but five minutes daily is absolutely effective. Don’t have any props? Is the upper back and shoulder area tight? Aim for two minutes of arm lifts over your head, keep your feet planted on the ground wide, and stretch for your ceilings as tall as you can. Add in some deep, slow nasal breaths and imagine your lungs filling up with air and then squeezing the air out. Keep in mind, lungs are internal, angel shaped winged organs that have incredible capacity. I like to envision my internal wings expanding. Finish out your arm lifts with some simple shoulder and neck rolls to iron out the upper body kinks. Do several rolls each way and each side. And yes, I have been known to be that weirdo at the grocery store doing this, so depending on your comfort level, you really can do these almost anywhere. A new mindset is going for sustainable, healthy habits, not perfection.
Simplicity, start and end your day with paper and pencil. Write down three things you are grateful for. Write down three beautiful things that happened in your day. You can do it alone or ask your kids to participate as well. It is honestly one of the easiest, yet, most profound things you can do to begin and end your day with. And yes, there will be those days where it will feel redundant, but you will start to become more curious, more creative, and actually start to look for ways to be more grateful. The habit of focusing on the ‘glass is half full’ has residual effects. It really is a daily practice.
My hope for you is that all of the above will lead to more feelings of space and energy for your body, your home, and your summer. When we feel that we can achieve the small things, the bigger goals become more in focus. Perhaps you will then have the energy to train for that marathon you were always curious about attempting. Perhaps you and your family will realize that you have the time to volunteer for a local charity or a cause you didn’t think you had the time or energy for prior. Perhaps you will simply realize that the small elementary gestures and habits can lead to bigger ground swelling movements that we can all participate in and take part in. That is such a gift of profound true health and wellbeing.
Psst…check out Summer Staycation Fun and Games While Learning at Home
This story first appeared on newyorkfamily.com.