With its longer days, students out of school, and warm weather, Summer encourages us to slow down.
For years, Bethaney and I have supported youth or young adults who are actively engaged in school-settings: ebbing and flowing with the natural tide of the year and re-adjusting their lives with summer’s changes. Journeying alongside them in this process, I’ve noticed some patterns.
When approaching seasonal free time, it seems there are two categories that people often tend toward:
1) The chronic over-schedulers. These folks see an upcoming stretch of free time and jump into “go-mode,” planning to cram as much into those hours as possible – it may be items on the to-do list that are prioritized or it may be an abundance of fun and activity. Either way, that time is scheduled. ASAP. These are people who DO.
2) The go-with-the-flow-ers. These folks cherish windows of free time for the gift that they are. If you are a go-with-the-flow-er, you excel at the art of slowing down, embracing opportunities as they arise, and nurturing your very normal, very human need to just BE.
Admittedly, I strongly identify with the first group. I’ve had my Over-scheduler Membership Card for years. In college, my friends used to gently ask me when I had scheduled “fun” into my week and jokingly admonish me if I was caught laughing or seeming to enjoy myself too much outside of that time. “Is this scheduled fun time?” they asked with a grin.
They graciously inviting me to move toward balance in this dialectic, the push/pull of doing and being. And I am grateful to them, because, of course, human existence requires both activity and rest.
DOING is valuable for obvious reasons. Life requires that we complete tasks, from the mundane (laundry! ugh!) to the complex (completing homework assignments, developing new work flows, etc.). But intentionally integrating BEING into our lives is equally as valuable. BEING promotes mindfulness, creativity, and introspection. It helps us connect with ourselves and with others in new ways. It nurtures a part of us that is otherwise neglected.
With my friends’ wisdom at the forefront, I’m practicing creating opportunities to BE this summer, and I invite you to join me. Because, as it often does when we encounter two opposites in life – the secret is to find balance somewhere in the middle and develop the ability to move back and forth between the extremes as needed, depending on the moment or situation in question.
Here are 5 ideas to help yourself embrace BEING this summer – and all year round:
- Create “doing-detox” time. Have an opportunity each week that you intentionally DON’T schedule anything. Leave it free. But block it off. This will help you protect that time for yourself. You aren’t allowed to DO anything during this time. You’re only allowed to BE. Which means you aren’t producing anything, you aren’t headed to appointments, you aren’t tending to other’s needs. During this time, you are leaning into the words of Mary Oliver in her poem, Wild Geese, as you “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”
- Keep it screen free. As our culture has progressed technologically, we tend to rely on screens to resolve our boredom or to fill our free time. You can observe people just about anywhere to see this phenomenon in action: airports, malls, public transportation, waiting rooms. All of these spaces offer excellent examples of the way we turn to our screens when we aren’t sure what else to do. And while it may seem to fall inside the same realm, screen-time isn’t really BEING in the purest sense. It’s more numbing-out. So keep your phone out-of-reach and don’t touch that remote (unless it’s to turn the TV off…). Check-out our earlier blog post to learn more about benefits and strategies to reduce screen time.
- Go outside. Nature only knows how to move at its own pace. There is no rushing a tree to grow. No insisting that the sun hurry-up and rise. It all happens as it happens. Nature excels at BEING. And surrounding ourselves in nature often invites us to do the same. Spend some time noticing the bugs in the grass, take a hike and appreciate a beautiful view, or visit your favorite neighborhood park and smell the flowers (cliche, I know).
- Spend time with an animal. Similar to nature, animals invite us to be fully in the moment. This is one reason that C.H.E.R.I.I.S.H. Counseling offers equine-assisted therapy in addition to traditional office-based therapy. There is something striking about being in the presence of a horse. The essence of the horse is in the here-and-now, and they tend to their own needs as they arise. Interacting with horses invites us to stay present, too. To settle into the moment and just BE.
- Invite others to join you in BEING. Not only does this allow the circle of BEING benefit to expand into your community, but sometimes it’s easier for us to try something new when there’s a layer of accountability built in. Keep your gathering centered on BEING with these ideas: Invite a friend over with no agenda other than to drink some lemonade, enjoy a picnic in the park, or sit next to a river and listen to the birds together.
Finding the right approach to BEING is a journey unique to each of us. If it’s difficult at first, extend yourself some grace, acknowledging that growth and change are a process.
If you’d like to experience the BEING nature of horses for yourself, contact us to learn more about our equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning services!
You can schedule a free phone consultation using our online scheduling platforms. Click on our names below to access our calendars:
Alycia Smith, LCSW, LICSW, CMHS, AASW
How will you practice BEING this summer?