Friday, February 23, 2018

Enjoy a Stress-free Summer

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

It is a time of year when we let our guard down and hope to relax on a lounge chair. Some lounge chair, anywhere. Let go of expectations and find adventure in the every day …

Skip that Cook-Out

During a few short months, everyone seems to want your attention. Community events, social gatherings, and daytrips fill the calendar. We take advantage of longer daylight hours, better weather, and less strict schedules to jam in extra fun and activities. We don’t think of these things as stressful. However, keeping a fast-paced lifestyle with minimal downtime and lack of consistency, especially a summer’s worth, can induce stress.

Just do it: Nap.
Just do it: Nap.

Break from routine and enjoy seasonal opportunities. However, make sure they include relaxing on the patio, going for a simple walk, or (imagine!) taking a nap. They don’t call them the “lazy, hazy days” for nothing.

The latest nap facts reveal a 20-minute snooze can improve thought processes, encourage a peaceful state of mind, increase resilience and immunities, and enhance creativity and memory. It can be a great segue into the second half of your day after work in the late afternoon hours. Be sure not to doze too close to bedtime though, or risk affecting your nighttime sleep. Put it on your agenda for weekends and vacation days. Use it to power up your workout. Many professional athletes nap to improve their coordination, motor skills, speed, and overall performance.

Write down your priorities. Make them happen.
Write down your priorities. Make them happen.

Approach the summer with a priority list. As the season kicks off, envision how you would like the days to transpire. Determine which activities, events, and trips are most important to you and your family. List them in order and work to make them happen. Then, when you’re invited to cookout number 25, reflect on your ideal summer days. Have you accomplished them? It might be time to decline that invitation and enjoy your next “priority” on the list.

Although a pool party sounds fun, it may not be what you need. Ninety-degree weather, and the simple fact it is summer, does not make you obligated to attend another soirée. Occasionally pass and power-up instead.

Do the Unexpected

Go against the season. Packing pool bags, preparing picnic lunches, and slathering on sunscreen may seem like a joy when sitting in your office. In reality, summer fun takes work and energy. Don’t feel guilty if you simply stay inside. Beautiful weather should not be enjoyed begrudgingly. It is okay to view it from the coolness of an air conditioned environment.

Think back to when you captured a slice of summer during the winter months. Maybe it was a picnic in front of the fireplace. Perhaps you grilled hot dogs and burgers, or made an out-of-season fruit salad. (Watermelon in January is extra delicious, mentally.) It felt good. Do the same in the summer.

Dedicate a day to watching movies, reading, or organizing the house. Turn on the AC, get under a blanket, and stay inside. Take a break from the blazing sun. It may seem ridiculous after you longed for it during those freezing cold months. But, there can be too much of a good thing. Your skin will thank you, too.

Discover new ways the Center can help reach your summer goals. If water play is big on your list with trips to the beach or pool, Family Swim time or swim lessons can be beneficial. You may not have time for a trip to the shore, but the Center pool is conveniently in your neighborhood (without weather worries). When you do hit the surf, everyone will be more experienced in the water.

Make a day of it! Movies, books, games, popcorn.
Make a day of it! Movies, books, games, popcorn.

A day out of the sun is a necessity after too much exposure. Even if you manage to protect yourself from sunburn, skin still may become dry. Take a hydration day! Replenish with moisturizers, lots of water, plenty of fruit, and indoor fun. Adventures come in unexpected ways. You may discover your best memories are not made at an official beach outing, canoeing excursion, or fireworks display. You may simply recall moments– shared laughter, a cold one with a buddy, or a trip to the backyard swing-set by moonlight.

When heading back outside, be ready.

Sunscreen Tips

Sunburn’s sting can undo a summer day and squelch even the smallest adventures. Follow the latest sunscreen recommendations, all day every day.

Smooth on an SPF 50 or higher. The SPF alone does not provide the more long-term benefit of skin cancer protection. It only indicates burn-free time. It is the product’s ability to protect against skin turning red.

A higher SPF does not result in significantly stronger protection against the sun. Who knew! The numbers simply refer to the duration of protection. An SPF 15 blocks approximately 93 percent of the sun’s rays compared to an SPF 30, which blocks about 97 percent. Protection is not twice as strong but rather twice as long. SPF 30 may last for about 10 hours instead of only five with an SPF 15. Next time you search the bottomless beach bags for the mega numbers, feel safe in grabbing the lesser. Just be sure to reapply more frequently.

The harmful rays that may lead to skin cancer must be blocked with UVA and UVB protection. Broad spectrum products block the sun’s cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays. Unlike the telltale sting of sunburn, skin cancer is silent and initially invisible. We can only rely on the label’s assurance.

Don’t expect sun block to be water or sweat-proof. Such claims are forbidden now by the FDA. The only promise you can purchase is “water resistant” with a timeframe to reapply, usually within 40 to 80 minutes. If you’re sweating it out in the sun or enjoying extended water time, be sure to reapply often. Try to schedule fitness excursions for a shadier time of day. You won’t need to worry about the elements as much, including heat exhaustion.

That day inside sounds a little more acceptable now, doesn’t it?

Watch Your Back

Increased physical activity is another way summer does the body good. Be careful though. With that increase comes opportunity for injury. Keep yourself in good condition to avoid pulls and strains. Many vacations have been ruined by a back wrenched when catching a wave.

Keep fitness efforts going to enhance summer activities. Reduce your risk of injuries by continuously strengthening muscles and supporting joints. Focus on workouts that improve flexibility and stamina. The former keeps functional movements limber, including on the day your inner-child rediscovers the diving board. The latter keeps your momentum strong, even during nice long daylight hours.

Meet with a personal trainer for a customized fitness program that helps make the most of your summer. Try a Group Fitness class after work to spike energy levels going into the more fun part of your day. (You have plenty of daylight left!)You may find yourself ready for an evening adventure that takes you farther than a trip for ice cream and a TV show.

Pilates reformer gets your core summer-ready.
Pilates reformer gets your core summer-ready.

If you happen to strain a muscle, consider a gentle yoga class or Pilates workout. The Pilates Reformer is known for its healing benefits. A few informative Pilates sessions could have that nagging tug in your back gone for good—or at least until you try learning to skimboard. Pilates’ focus on core strengthening helps prevent future injuries by creating a supportive, balanced structure where the entire body works in unison.

Remember to warm-up before you dive in, water or otherwise. Warm muscles then should be stretched gently. You may find yourself carrying heavy bags, suitcases, beach umbrellas, the contents of a mini cabana. This puts a strain on muscles and the skeletal system. Trudging through sandy hills with this stuff can lead to painful shin splints, which linger longer than the sand in your car.

Partly cloudy or partly sunny? Your choice.
Partly cloudy or partly sunny? Your choice.

Although your personal trainer’s watchful eye isn’t there to monitor form, lift and carry objects sensibly. Loosen muscles with a quick warm-up and stretch session. You probably are already over-heated, so focus on a few gentle stretches, emphasizing neck, shoulders, and calves. Silly vacation injuries are not age discriminatory, and are vacation-wreckers. Take your time and blow off tension. Whatever you endured to arrive at your destination (traffic, ten rest-stops, a car of overly excited children), do not spoil your efforts with one wrong move.

Go with It

There will be mishaps, rained-out activities, crowds, and the occasional over-indulgence in junk food. Every day cannot be picturesque. But, every day can count. A successful summer is one from which we emerge healthy and happy. It cannot be defined by a postcard vacation. Kids aren’t always happy campers. Sometimes they need to be dragged to camp. (Another good reason to keep fit!) Make personal growth your goal. You don’t need excess time, money, or sunny activities. You only need the right attitude.


Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age, by Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell.

Image Credits

Bubbles (introductory photo):


Summer journal:


Partly cloudy/sunny:


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