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How to Keep Your Cool When Summer Is Ending

The end of summer is stressful: new projects at work, new hires, kids going back to school, and resetting summer schedules - with or without jet lag. Here's how to bust stress right now.

 

The end of summer can bring on extra stress. Time is up. Holidays are over. Stress can be heightened by the disruption of summer’s slower schedules: now there will be extra tasks, new personnel, not-quite-finished projects. The heat and humidity don’t help either.

The stress you experience now, if left to become long term, can begin to wear you away. Once you figure out what causes you to feel stress, discover the root causes, you can take real control and actually avoid its harmful effects.

But what can you do right now? 

Here are “quick fixes”, meant for rapid intervention. They will not to identify and cure the root of your stress and anxiety, but they will get you through this moment. 

WHAT TIME IS IT? In the summer many of us travel often, and changing time zones and racking up some serious jet lag. But awakening in the middle of the night and nodding off during the day can even happen when we do not travel. Many people let their inner clock wander during summer. Now we have new schedules at work, kids going back to school, and new projects at work with new deadlines.

Get yourself into the now. Refocus, look at a clock, look at the calendar, and occupy this moment. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, nor next week. Keep yourself here. Right now, what do you need to do? Stay here, not wandering and wondering about what’s coming, or what happened. Stay with the now, just for now.

BREATHE. Yes, you are breathing already, but chances are if you are feeling stressed, your breathing is shallow. Think of your breath like a long cool drink of water on a hot summer’s day. Breathe in deeply, savor it, let your breath out slowly. Do it a couple of times to refresh your body. That’s it – a nice, long, deep breath.

WATCH YOUR MOUTH. Stressed? Do you reach for a sweet snack, and get a quick boost? No. Sugar will zoom you up and then dump you into the lows, and leave you craving more. Up, down, up, down. You just put yourself on a roller-coaster. Try a glass of water, or eat some protein that will slowly give you energy. After all, in a time of stress, whether you are ready to fight, freeze, or flee, you need some body-help. And all of those body responses can cause your mouth to get dry, and the muscles to be alert or shaky. Come on, drink a glass of water, and fill your tank with high quality fuel.

JUST DO IT. Come on, just do something. Stress sets off alarm bells in our bodies signalling that it is time to do something: fight, freeze, or flee. The trick is to interrupt your mind and stop spinning in stress by doing something super simple. Walk a few steps and throw away some paper. Or, toss it and make a basket (or not). Put your glass in the sink. Un-tuck in your shirt and then tuck it back in. Tie your shoes again. Count the paperclips in the box. Count tiles on the floor or ceiling.  See? Your mind went off of the spinning stress and onto the task for just a moment.

STAND UP TO IT. When we feel stress, our bodies slowly and subtly take on a more protective stance. This usually means we protect our chest by hunching our shoulders, dipping our heads a bit, crossing our arms across our chest, and bending our body slightly forward. Check your body’s posture right now. See? Now try pulling your shoulders back, uncross your arms and let them hang at your side with hands relaxed, and lift your head. It’s a relaxed and upright posture to face the world.

3 IS THE CHARM. Now that you have uncurled your body, take stock of the world. Look around and count three things you see. Now listen and name three things you hear. Now once again, mentally feel three parts of your body— your hand, your foot, your nose. This brings your back in your body and aware, again, of the “now”. You can do this, unnoticed in the boardroom, on a train, a sports’ field, or in bed after the alarm clock is shut off. It is a quick and invisible check, so you can do it anytime.

Focussing on your body instead of your mind can save you you from spiralling into a stress-packed moment. Our minds tend to spin quickly though thoughts and options if the mind is on high alert-status. Sometimes the mind becomes hyper-sensitive and gets stuck in this mode. This is often referred to as “Monkey Mind”, an adaptation from Eastern cultures to Western psychology. Spinning, jumping around, lots of energy, and no progress.

Recent studies show that more and more people are having problems with anxiety. Of these, 36% with social anxiety problems live with stress and anxiety for more than ten years before getting help.

You don’t have to let today’s stress become tomorrow’s stress.  It can grow into serious long-term stress and anxiety. If it is already a long-term beast or bother to you, try the short interventions and also get some help dealing with it. Don’t wait until it takes over your life.

Dr. Patricia Philo Kopstein provides psychological services internationally, via secure teleconferencing, for sessions in any time zone. Contact her at www.blurton-fdc.com