Most people associate the summer with a nice slow-down. The days are longer and warmer, and everyone takes their time now that they have more sunlit hours in the day…at least that’s how it seems to go everywhere else. But this? This is New York City, the city that NEVER sleeps. And here, if there are more hours in the day when it’s socially acceptable not to be sleeping, that only means there’s more to do.
Now admittedly, I may be a bit biased. I work in the tourism industry, so summer is our busy season. But add that to the amount of social engagements that seem to crop up when there’s more sunshine and more outdoor space to be social, and my introverted self gets a little overwhelmed. I need a very delicate balance of social and alone time, and if not kept in check I tend to devolve into a semi-functional stress ball of a human (insert picture of me wrapped in several sheets hiding from the world). Not that it’s inherently a bad thing to have lots to do, but for folks like me, it takes a lot out of us. Stress relief becomes very important. So here are some of my tips to stay as stress-free as possible as your work and social life ramps up this summer.
Meditate: Y’all, I started meditating on the regular when I got my most recent job, and let me tell you it is amazing. Maybe it’s a sort of placebo effect, but making an effort to be really mindful for ten or twenty minutes a day has made me more efficient and productive and has definitely reduced my stress. While one option is to simple focus inward on your own, I prefer a guided practice and guess what? There’s multiple apps for that. My personal favorite is Calm. They have a guided practice for sleep that I use nearly every night, and a commuting meditation that is great for public transit.
Color: Embrace your inner child with one of the many adult coloring books now on the market. Coloring keeps your mind somewhat active, exercising a different part of your brain from most day-to-day tasks, and it allows you to push your troubles aside for a little while and just make something pretty. I think the same is true for other creative projects — knitting, whittling, drawing freehand — but coloring is an equal opportunity artistic endeavor. If you can hold a pencil, you can color.
Clean: Hear me out: I know that most people don’t really like to deal with their mess. But I am a firm believer that a clean room/house/sink equals a clean mind. I always feel like a small weight has lifted when my space goes from disastrous to tidy. So pull on those rubber gloves and do your dishes, or whip out the vacuum and spruce up the living room (preferably with a catchy soundtrack, dance moves encouraged). And let me tell you, nothing is better than collapsing into a freshly made bed.
Hydrate: This is especially relevant when it’s hot outside, but no matter the season my brain just functions better when I supplement my caffeine intake with some good old H2O. I try to get in two 32-ounce Nalgenes or like four S’well bottles a day (although it ends up being closer to one of the former or two of the latter). I feel better when my body gets the liquid it needs; plus, I get to show off all the awesome stickers that live on my water bottle.
Go on a Solo Outing: Whether it’s to your roof or the bookstore or the bar or the coffee shop or even the great outdoors, it’s great to do something just for yourself. This is one of the things I miss most about having a weird schedule. Working at night or on the weekends really allowed me to go do things on my own, and let me be out of my apartment without draining my socializing capacity. Whether you go on a hike or go lay in the park and read a book, just go for you.
Exercise: Okay, so I haven’t been on a regular exercise regimen since I was on a sports team in college, but even if I don’t always follow my own advice, I know that exercising is a great way to relieve stress. In the words of the great Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” So listen to Elle: relieve stress and avoid homicide.
Journal/Write: Sometimes you just gotta get it all out. Journaling is a great way to do that. Just put it all out there. Maybe you’ll look back on it later, or maybe you’re the type to spew your feelings in a Word document and then select all and delete. And if you need a a bit more structure or guidance to get you started? There are journals for that. You can write fiction, or poetry, or songs, or to-do lists. Just put it out there.
The best way to relieve stress, at least for me, is to spend a little time with yourself — to do some stuff just for you and forget about the rest of the world for a while. In this busy season and city, it’s especially important to slow down the tempo of your world and give yourself a breather. Because in the wise words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”