Ten Summer Self-care Ideas to De-stress and Prevent Burnout
by Brent Roy
"An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly." ~ Unknown
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
The term was introduced into our language in 1974 but the World Health Organization (WHO) only officially recognized burnout in May 2019, classifying it not as a medical condition but rather an “occupational phenomenon” resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
WHO says burnout “refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Burnout is always a risk, especially for high-achievers, but often people with these personalities rarely see it coming.
Because high-achievers are often so passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the signs. As I wrote in a previous article, burnout tends to affect the enthusiastic and energetic people with ambitious personal goals and high levels of engagement at work.
There are worse afflictions in life, but if you can do things to avoid burnout, do them. Where I live, summer is short and we could be forgiven for unplugging during vacation time and just vegging out.
If you’re like I am, you might find unplugging and being kind to yourself through self-care habits difficult to do. I often need to be productive in some way, followed by a sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t take much, however. Just mowing the lawn will do it for me.
Self-care is the mindset, practices and habits we use to combat stress, unhappiness, and lack of fulfillment, illness, depression and negative emotions.
Unfortunately, many of us view self-care as a luxury rather than a necessity.
But, summer is short and a great time to take advantage of the slower pace to build resilience to stress.
These are the ten things that have helped me to enjoy the summer with self-care in mind.
- Take a nap on a hammock. A few years ago, my kids gave me a cool hammock for Father’s Day. I strung it between two birch trees at the back of our yard, under a canopy of leaves. I love nothing more on a weekend afternoon or on a vacation day to crawl into that canvas cradle of comfort to listen to the cicadas while reading before drifting off for a summer snooze.
- Read Fiction. And I even allowed myself to grab a John Grisham novel to read. Gasp! Fiction! Normally I enjoy books that will teach me something new whereas reading fiction seemed too much like a guilty pleasure. A 2018 study on the effect of reading fiction made me feel better about it, though. Researchers found that reading fiction modestly improves people’s capacity to understand and mentally react to other individuals and social situations. There’s even evidence that reading a book for 30-minutes every day predicts a sharper, healthier mind, with a 20% reduction in mortality a dozen years after follow-up.
- Play a Board Game. Who knew that it could reduce stress, increase memory formation and cognitive skills and lower blood pressure? There are many more health benefits but it’s mostly a way to have fun and feel good. Thanks to our friends Kevin and Faye for reigniting that passion.
- Listen to a Podcast. I love listening to podcasts. Often, I will pop in my ear buds and load up a podcast on my phone while riding my bike on the trails. I try to time my bike ride to coincide with the length of the podcast (about 30-40 minutes). I find it a great way to get some exercise and learn something at the same time.
- Declutter one corner or area of a room in your house. I confess to being a clutter bug at times. I’m convinced it has to do with procrastination—not dealing with paper the moment it comes in. Last summer, my home office was a disaster. What started as de-cluttering turned into a minor reno project. New paint. New desk. Nice window coverings, plants, a Himalayan salt lamp. This continues to be a relaxing and productive space for me. The stress of a cluttered space is gone.
- Unplug from social media, the Internet, and email. Just try it for one day. You’ll be surprised at how little you missed and how good it feels to not have a device nearby.
- Fix a small annoyance at home. There are always little things to do around the house. So pick something small and get that feeling of accomplishment when you’re done. Today, I climbed a ladder with a saw and manually cut down a long branch that was hovering too close over the clothesline.
- Make your bed in the morning. Not my favourite thing to do but who wants to face an unmade bed at bedtime? I do it, or Mary-Jo and I do it together and I’ll bet we’re making Navy Seal Admiral McRaven proud. Maybe it’s a “guy thing”, but I still think a pillow sham is, well, a sham! The lazy way to do it is to just drape them over the pillows. Even my wife does it now!
- Meditate. I’ve done this off and on throughout my life…mostly off. For the last month or so, I’ve done it every morning for 15 minutes and it makes me feel much, much calmer and relaxed. There are great phone apps like Headspace to help out.
- Get a Massage. My mom was always an advocate of the benefits of massage and recommended I try it. I resisted for years because I was just not comfortable with the idea. I’m glad she was able to change my mind as I've found massage to be an amazing de-stressor. It's been an instrumental part of my regimen both for relaxation and for other health benefits. Massage helped to completely heal a damaged rotator cuff.
Life is short. Summer is shorter. Try one or more of these simple tips soon so you'll have better resilience when things ramp up in the fall.
Burnout occurs when you’ve become out of balance with your life and work. Here’s a free tool you can use to find out where you stand.
Thanks for reading these articles. I always appreciate your comments and insights.
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Brent is a life and leadership coach with a goal to help exhausted leaders reclaim their balance so their family life and careers bring equal amounts of joy most of the time.