Summertime: Finding Peace In Change

Published at SankofaPsychology.com

There’s no time quite like summertime in Chicago. The city sparkles as buildings reflect beautiful blue skies and white clouds, beach memberships are at an all-time high, and downtown streets are crowded with tourists searching for some retail magic. However, with all of this beauty around us, there’s also a lot of change. Many people are working full time jobs, taking time off for vacations, weddings, and family reunions. All of this traveling and intermittent work adds a lot of stress and anxiety, and rightly so.

Humans love routines and any disruption to the regular schedule can add some challenging emotions, not to mention the added chaos of airports, unpredictable weather, and those family members you wish weren’t invited to the wedding. With many of these changes occurring at the same time, many people struggle to truly relax even while on their “vacation.” How can you enjoy all of this time off when you have so many other things to worry about?

Change is challenging because it’s out of our control. We so strongly desire to plan and control aspects of our life that when the unexpected happens we feel intense anxiety. As creatures of habit it’s hard to switch gears from work to relaxation, especially when you’re still connecting to your email inbox. We quickly feel overwhelmed as we try and balance our work stress with our desire to live in the moment, as well as manage unpredictable situations. In order to relax into change, we need to simplify.

While it may be ideal to drop everything and remain in a meditative present-focused state, sometimes that’s unrealistic for many working professionals who have major responsibilities in the office and at home. Thus managing change means finding a way to balance responsibilities and obligations with whatever’s happening in the present moment.

One way to do that is to schedule yourself time to check on work-related items like email, for example. In the technological age, everyone maintains their connection to work through emails, texts, phone calls, and if you’re really unlucky, social media too. While on vacation or at family functions, it may be helpful to disconnect or distance yourself from this form of work. Schedule a time to check in and resolve work-related issues – whether it’s an hour in the morning, 30 minutes during lunch, or before eating dinner. After creating that schedule, avoid compulsively checking those aforementioned tech-based connections. If and when you make a mistake and start sifting through your email mid-conversation with someone you don't actually want to talk to without noticing, stop scrolling, and then put your phone away.

Soak up the present moment during those times you are not fully engaged in attending to those work-related activities. Allow yourself to get lost in each moment—focus on how you feel, enjoy the presence of those around you, and when your mind wonders onto the topic of work simply return to the present with a deep cleansing breath. The more you’re able to separate those worlds, the more pleasurable others will find interacting with you and the more fun you’ll have. As you remain in the moment instead of thinking about what’s happening next at work, your anxiety and stress will decrease, allowing you to enjoy the little breaks in routine. If you can do this, you will be able to fully recharge and approach your day-to-day schedule with renewed vitality.

Finally, schedule time to reflect. Taking time to reflect on all of the progress you’ve made in recent weeks, months, and years helps you stay grounded. Viewing yourself as someone who is constantly changing and growing allows you appreciate the beauty in change – the beauty being that change is absolutely unpredictable. When you let go the need to control events and the anxiety from thinking about work, you’re able to enjoy the refreshing newness of each moment and find peace in the uncertainty. Embrace that which you do not know, place a firm boundary between yourself and your work, and enjoy every second of your unpredictable reality.