Summer Stress: Is It Normal?
View of umbrellas from below with "Hello Summer" tagline.
Summer is a season that holds many expectations. While it is usually viewed as a season for relaxation and fun, it can be overwhelming at times and comes with its own unique set of challenges.

Summer is a season that holds many expectations. While it is usually viewed as a season for relaxation and fun, it can be overwhelming at times and comes with its own unique set of challenges. You might have noticed an increase in “I should” thoughts running through your head. I should travel. I should make this the best summer ever for my kids. I should spend more time with my friends. I should look better in these clothes. This pattern of thinking (playfully coined as ‘should-ing on yourself’ in the mental health field) can lead you to set unrealistically high expectations for yourself without even realizing you are doing so.

When these expectations are not met, it can cause feelings of anxiety, sadness, frustration, or even guilt. Experiencing these emotions during the summer is often isolating as this season is associated with carefree fun. If this is your experience, know that you are not alone in feeling this way, even if it appears so.

Take a moment and ask yourself where these thoughts come from. Who is telling you that you are not doing enough? Is there a figure in your life communicating this to you, or is this coming from your own mind? There is power in recognizing the way you speak to yourself. Imagine what it would be like if someone spoke to your dearest friend in the way you speak to yourself. If you are finding that your thoughts are overrun with ‘should-ing’, you likely have a loud and persistent inner critic. Noticing when your inner critic is being loud and harsh is a great step towards silencing that voice.

This summer, challenge yourself to find the balance in taking advantage of the sunny days and being kind to your mind.

Parenting Place: Modeling Coping Skills

What are coping skills?

Coping skills are tools that can be used in moments of strong or overwhelming emotions. They help to regulate feelings and bring people back to a baseline when experiencing high intensity stress. Coping skills vary greatly and depend on what works best for you. Some examples of coping skills include:

  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise: This skill uses all 5 senses by finding 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste
  • Box Breathing: Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, breath out through your mouth for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, repeat
  • Walking outside
  • Taking a moment by yourself
Why is it important to model coping skills?

Children by nature are social learners. This means that children learn how to act and react to situations based on how the adults in their life do so. It is very important to be aware of what your children see when you are in stressful situations or are experiencing strong emotions. When children see you model healthy coping skills to handle a situation, it encourages them to do the same in age-appropriate ways. Over time, modeling healthy coping skills will help to develop a sense of emotional regulation and stability in your children lasting into adulthood.

How do I model coping skills for my child?

Modeling coping skills for you child begins with a knowledge of how to use them for yourself. It is important for kids to understand how and why you are engaging in coping activities. Opening the conversation around strong emotions and the need for tools to help deal with them strengthens children’s understanding of the connection between emotions and actions. It is also helpful to explain times when it would have been more helpful to use a coping skill instead of reacting in a negative way to an upsetting or stressful situation. When you see your kids using healthy coping mechanisms, make sure to praise them for doing so. This strongly reinforces their desire and ability to cope with strong emotions in healthy ways.

Let’s Talk About Body Image

Written by : Haley Pauls, LPC-A, CRC

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