Maintaining Balance While Enjoying Summer

Summer is a great time of year for those of us (like me!) who love warm weather.  Deep shades of green are flowing everywhere peppered with the colors of wild flowers.  But summer also tends to be a time when our schedules change and our usual routines are disrupted.  Living here in the Black Hills, summer can also be a time when we are busiest.  Whether you’re travelling or welcoming visitors or maintaining more business hours to accomodate the tourists, it’s easy to get frazzled and forget that most of the time the “disruptions” are created by things we really want to do.

This was illustrated in my own life this past week when I spent 4+ days in an intensive yoga workshop.  The first part of the workshop was an evening event and the hours that preceded it were filled with other personal obligations that required me to show up for scheduled events at specific times with lots of driving in between.  Driving is not my favorite task which added to the stress load.  As I anticipated this day and the intensity of my schedule, it was easy to get uptight and let negativity creep in.  Somehow I was able to remind myself that everything on the docket was an activity I had chosen to do.  Nothing was forcing my attendance and I could easily have bowed out of any of it without serious consequences.  It may seem obvious, but this realization was a revelation.  This was all stuff I wanted to do.  The thought allowed me to relax and just enjoy the day.  From that point on everything went smoothly and in the end I was glad I did all of it.

Granted, it is possible to overload with things we want to do.  This is certainly a trap I can easily fall into.  There are so many things I want to do!  But, unfortunately, time and stamina are finite commodities.  It’s a privilege to have the luxury of being able to be choosy about how I spend my time.  So I’ve become more discerning in recent years.  A friend of mine remarked once that she was very protective of her free time.  I’ve come to appreciate and share that sentiment.  I try to weigh my choices carefully and sometimes I just have to let things go that I would really love to do.  If I make the wrong choice and find myself spending my time on something that really doesn’t work for me, I try to extricate myself as quickly as possible.  Life is short.  And none of us know when the end will come.  Time is precious.  When there is a choice, it pays to be picky about how I choose to spend what time I have.

So as we get into the busy-ness of summer, think about the choices you make.  If something you really want to do disrupts your usual routine, remember that it is just that – something you really want to do.  And try not to let it throw you off balance.  Don’t depend too much on specific outcomes or anticipate negative issues (travel problems, etc.) before they occur.  You may find that whatever happens – even if it is not what you expected – may be surprisingly pleasing.  Stay open minded to whatever happens.  Think of travelling as an adventure.  There are lessons to be learned in every experience.  If you have guests, let them be part of your life.  You might find out that they actually enjoy the same things you do.  Time passes quickly and you will be able to resume your usual routine with fresh enthusiasm soon enough.

On a practical level, changes in our usual routine can often mean physical disruptions like alterations in patterns of eating and sleeping or not getting the same type of exercise that you’re used to.  These complications can further interrupt your enjoyment of vacation and/or company.  Whenever possible, try to anticipate changes and be prepared.  Bring food with you to avoid being at the mercy of what’s available on the road.  Yoga and Pilates are both disciplines that you can easily take with you.  They don’t require much space and there are some great lightweight yoga mats designed for travel that you can keep with you.  In a pinch, use a towel or invest in those socks with the non-skid bottoms.  Or do some chair yoga. Or take a walk.  Walk between gates in the airport.  Or at the rest stop if you’re driving.  If you have guests, try getting up a few minutes earlier or inviting your guests to join you.  Don’t forget – their routines are also being disrupted.  They might welcome the opportunity to accompany you.  Even 10 minutes a day will help keep you grounded.  Just focusing on breathing for a few minutes can make a big difference in your attitude.  Frequently attitude adjustment is all you need to change a negative to a positive.  And breathing can be done anywhere, any time, under any circumstances.

If worse comes to worse and you forget something, unless you’re visiting a third-world country you will probably be able to find whatever you need somewhere in your travels.  No need to beat up on yourself for forgetting.  Treat the situation as a puzzle that requires a solution using what’s available rather than lamenting a lack that can’t be changed.  Remember all of the things we do to and for ourselves effect our overall health, both mental and physical.

In a recent article entitled “Cultivating Self Sustainibility” from the online magazine OM Times, Angela Levesque, an exercise physiologist, mind/body educator and energy healer, wrote the following:

“Sustainability is a word often associated with economics and environmentalism.  But the concepts of sustainability should also be applied to our health.  Our health and healing largely revolves around our self-care.  .  . it is our day-to-day actions that matter the most in how well we feel.

Stress has been defined as when perceived resources do not meet perceived demands.  When we fail to practice self-care and take time out when we need it, we put our minds and bodies in a lowered functioning state.  If we honor the needs our bodies we set ourselves up for greatness.

. . . remember to use your resources wisely.   Allow them the space to renew when necessary.  Without stress reduction and relaxation you will deplete them. So put the same value on loving more, laughing often, and moving creatively and with purpose.  This is how you cultivate the sustainable self.”

Take care of yourself and enjoy the summer!