Taking Time for Yourself During the Summer

Summer is warm and exciting, with plenty of fun activities to participate in. But summer activities and jobs can get overwhelming. Year-round jobs during the summer (while everyone else is sunbathing) can get pretty overwhelming and depressing, too.
Therefore, it’s just as important as ever to take your occasional mental health days, or to set aside some time for you to relax by yourself, or with others.
Here are some of the ways I like to spend my own mental health days:
1.) Coffee and a good book. 
Don’t underestimate the power of an extra cup of iced coffee or tea to accompany that new young-adult, romance or science-fiction novel, while sitting near a window, or outside if possible. I recently read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, one of my favorite childhood authors, and it helped distract me from everything that usually stresses me out during the work week.
2.) A date with your laptop or TV.
Let your mind relax while you watch a movie in bed, or binge-watch a couple of the new “Orange is the New Black” episodes.
3.) Explore your town or city.
As someone who has been living in Washington, D.C. for the past year, I can honestly tell you that I have barely explored any of it. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that many of us live places where there are areas we have yet to venture out to. Take a break and explore your surroundings. Take it all in and let your mind wander. 
4.) Petsmart trip.
If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider relaxing by going to Petsmart. Look at all of the cute little kittens or the weird looking birds and guinea pigs. Also, studies show that watching fish swim in fish tanks can help relieve stress and anxiety. 
5.) Youtube pet videos.
If you can’t go to Petsmart, take a look at some of these online cat and dog videos that are sure to make you smile.
6.) Take a break from social media.
Uninstall Facebook and Twitter (if you can) from your phone for a day. Sometimes social media stresses us out more than we can tell. Social media is great, but it’s important to maintain your mental health while using social media 
7.) Listen to instrumental music.

I love listening to rock, country and pop music. However, I have come to realize that sometimes lyrics can stress me out. When I really need to calm down and relax I turn to my favorite pianist, Yiruma. I also enjoy listening to the Scottish instrumental band Mogwai
8.) Go for a swim.
 If you live in an apartment complex with a pool, or if you live near a pool, take a swim every now and then. Swimming can help clear your mind.
9.) Redecorate.  
Sometimes, all you really need is a change of scenery. Move around some furniture in your home or hang up a few new pictures and interior decorations here and there. Need help? Check out Apartmenttherapy.com, which is one of my favorite redecorating blogsCurrently, this article about temporary and removable adhesives is my favorite.
10.)  Try a cold shower or a warm bubble bath. 
We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of rushing to get ready for work on time and rarely ever take that time to relax. If you get a moment later in the day, try a cold shower (you know—for when it’s INSANELY hot outside and your commute home involved walking) or a warm bubble bath (because when was the last time you actually took a bath? What about one with bubbles?) with a book to read or music to listen to. 
11.)  Window shop! 

Whether it’s the book store down the block, or the consignment shop two streets over (or maybe you have returned to take another look at the fish in Petsmart), window shopping is a nice (and free) way to get your mind off of daily stressors.
12.) Creative expression.
Have a few hours to relax in between jobs or obligations? Try a quick and easy outlet like creative writing, sketching, journaling, painting or singing. Personally, I tend to prefer writing or painting to help express myself. This article is one of my favorite guides to painting for stress relief. 
13.) Go on a road trip. 
If you have a car and gas money to spare, road trips can be really fun and are great for taking your mind off of work. It doesn’t have to be long, either. Maybe you live two hours away from the beach, or three hours from the mountains. Pick a friend or family member, your favorite CD and hit the road! Driving down country roads with the windows down, while listening to “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas never fails to make me happy. 
14.) Go kayaking or canoeing.
If you don’t have a canoe or kayak (I don’t have either), you can still take part in this activity. There are many businesses along rivers in cities and towns that let you rent a canoe or kayak for an hour. I like to kayak on the Potomac on Saturday mornings when I’ve had a really bad week. The wind and the smell of the fresh, river water helps me relax. Plus, it’s a great work out. It can be a little expensive ranging from $15-$20 an hour, so I only do it occasionally.
15.)  Rant. 
Find someone willing to listen to what you have going on in your life—your best friend, your mother, your significant other, your dog, the Internet…and just rant. The rant could be about annoying coworkers or your detail-oriented boss, but they don’t have to be. Rant about the weather. Rant about climate change and social justice issues. Rant about how silly you think it is that a museum in Kentucky decided to keep a sinkhole as a tourist attraction. Just rant For me, I am constantly ranting to myself about these subjects in my head, but since I’m not letting any of that anger out verbally, it just bottles up. After getting all of those rambling, raging thoughts out of your head, the weight on your shoulders starts to feel a little lighter, and it really does help. 

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern


Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

20 Ideas for a Stress-Free Staycation this Summer


We all need to get away sometimes, but the reality is that life doesn’t always let us escape for long, expensive vacations. Perhaps your spouse is in school or the kind of job that leaves limited free time. Maybe you just graduated college and don’t have a lot of funds set aside for plane tickets and hotel expenses. Perhaps you prefer not to travel long distances with your children. Maybe you are taking care of an ailing parent. Or maybe, as much as you try, balancing work and life isn’t as easy as you would like.

These very real situations make it all the more important to remember that there are lots of little adventures that fit into our busy schedules. So if you don’t have a vacation already planned for this summer, take one of these staycations—because you deserve it!  And, just like a vacation, don’t forget to block out the time on your calendar.

Play a round of mini golf

Spend a day at a local pool

 Find a trail and go hiking or for a walk

Go for a bike ride/wagon ride with your family

Go camping

Rent a canoe or kayak and go for a little ride

Rent some fishing poles and go fishing

Go to the zoo

 Visit a national park

 Go to a baseball game

 Visit a farmer’s market and make a meal

 Take a historical tour of your city

Go to a science or space museum

Visit an aquarium

Go to a drive-in movie theater (don’t forget to bring snacks from home!)

 Take a tour of your city’s capital building (call before you go)

Set up a tent in your backyard and have a slumber party

Find free movies in the park (they are usually hosted by the city)

 Go star gazing.  Find maps and look for constellations

Stay the night with Grandma & Grandpa, with an Aunt or Uncle, or with a good friend

*If you have a great idea for a summer staycation, please feel free to share it with us! 

The Spirit of Summer

To many, 7 AM on a mostly sunny Monday morning in July means getting ready for work, if you are not already there. Did you have time to eat breakfast? Were you able to read your favorite section in the newspaper: the comics perhaps  or the front page news? Did you speed on the way to the office? Much of our adult lives seem to be bogged down in a constant rush to get from one moment to the next. But what exactly are we rushing toward? Do you remember the summer months as a kid? No school. Great warm weather for playing outside. And if it was too blisteringly hot, jumping into the neighbor’s pool to cool down. This is the true spirit of the summer: leaving your stress behind to rejuvenate and relax. While summertime is not a get-out-of-work-free card, there are a myriad of simple activities that can help us slow down and enjoy. So try to pencil in one of these four ways to relax in the summer heat, or whatever else may help you enjoy the season a little more!

  1. Lemonade. Okay, so you are not eight years old anymore and quite frankly, it’ll probably seem creepy if you put a cardboard sign outside of your house offering a glass of lemonade for 25 cents. But there’s no rule against fixing a pitcher of ice-cold liquid heaven for yourself. Imagine sitting with a cool glass of lemonade, watching the last lazy beams of daylight slowly recede beyond the horizon and feeling the cool stirring of a breeze across your forehead. Simple. Elegant. Relaxing. Lemonade, water or any other non-alcoholic beverage will help keep you hydrated as well as give you a much-needed moment to rejuvenate after work or whatever else the day throws your way.
  2. Get Out and Play! When we were younger, being told to come inside was a punishment. “Ten more minutes! We are finishing the game!” Now, many of us barely take the time to journey outside at all (especially in the heat of the summer). But a few minutes makes all the difference. According to a recent study by Prof. Pretty at the University of Essex, mood and self-esteem increase substantially after only five minutes outside. So go for a bike ride or a swim, go fishing or sailing, or even take your significant other out on a picnic date to the park or local zoo. Any moment you can spare outdoors will boost your spirit for the rest of your day. (Don’t forget the sunscreen!)
  3. Chores? Yuck. That word has inspired disgust for centuries, but it’s time to buckle down and get some things done around the house nonetheless. Can chores possibly be relaxing? Absolutely! It’s time for kids and adults alike to take a new perspective. Start a water war with your loved one while washing the car together. It’s a great way to cool down and have fun while rinsing the winter salt stains off of your vehicle. Need to make dinner for the family? Try baking a new summer pie recipe to serve with a side of mouth-watering ice cream. And don’t forget the yard! Start a garden of flowers or vegetables and watch them bloom and grow over the summer months. It’s very rewarding work, not to mention that it can increase the value of your home and provide fresh vegetables on the dinner table.
  4. Enjoy the Night Life. As night approaches, temperatures drop (even if only a little) and the concern of being sunburned fades. City lights blossom from the darkness and stars wink overhead. Dusk is the perfect time to wind down for the day. If you can find a patch of soft grass and have a minute to escape, lay down and stare up into the stars, pinpointing constellations as they appear. Try to recall elementary school science or high school astronomy if you can, but don’t forget to tap into the younger you who would trace your own patterns in the stars. Make it a family activity by creating names and stories together from the images and characters found. And when it’s dark enough, listen to the crickets and night owls. Sit up and watch the fireflies glow like fairy lights in the distance, or even try to catch a few with the youngsters in your family.

On the next morning you wake up and feel the rush of the day bearing down on you, remember to slow down for a few minutes and capture the spirit of summer. Whether by sitting back with lemonade, biking down a country lane or catching fireflies, being outside and spending more relaxation time with those you love will be sure to boost your mental health!

Four Perils of Summer – And How to Avoid Them

Summer is a time to relax, unwind and possibly get away from it all even if for just a week or two.  Unfortunately, the season also holds its share of dangers including storms, break-ins, floods, and of course sun burns.  Fortunately, by following a few basic safety tips, you can enjoy a worry-free summer holiday.  With that in mind, here are some of the biggest perils of summer vacation and some ways to keep them at bay:

Storms – violent summer storms don’t just send kids and pets scurrying for cover, they can also lead to substantial home damage if you are not prepared.  Here are some things you can do to minimize the risk:

  • Make sure all gutters and downspouts are clear and guiding water away from the house.
  • Clear ground drains, especially those in basement stairwells.
  • Test your sump pump if you have one to make sure it is operating properly.  If you are in an area with high flood risk and frequent power outages, it would be worth having a back-up battery installed on your sump.
  • Take stock of your trees.  If there are large branches overhanging your house or dead or dying trees that could cause damage then you should call the tree company before the big storms roll in.

Crime – burglars love summer because there are a lot of vacant houses to choose from and they don’t have to freeze to death when checking out a target.  Keep them at bay by doing the following:

  • Stop the mail and have a neighbor pick up fliers, papers and other debris that could signal your house is empty.
  • Put some lamps on timers so that they turn on at different times each day suggesting that someone is home.
  • Wait until you return home before you start posting your vacation pictures and experiences on Facebook and other social networking sites.

Flood – in addition to storm water, your home is always at some risk of a pipe break or other plumbing disaster.  The fact that nobody will be home for days could turn a small leak into a major disaster, so before leaving home take the time to turn off the house water and drain the pipes.

Sunburn – Last but by no means least, always remember the sunblock!

Before you go, take care of these small precautions so that once you reach your vacation destination you can sit back and enjoy a stress-free holiday.

My Mental Health Day Thanks:
Andrew Balfour, Vice President of Hassle Free Homes
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