May 27, 2022
Last year we did a big thing for our summer vacation. We bought a 26’ travel trailer and went on a six-week tour of America. We drove more than 8000 miles during the trip and stayed in over 30 states. The locations were beautiful. The activities were straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation. I thought I was planning the most exciting stress-free summer ever. Let’s just say, it was a marathon that I will never do again unless the Lord Jesus himself strikes me with lightning. Why was it so challenging? It was the schedule. Even though most of the places we stayed were amazing and the time with family was wonderful we barely had time to relax between stops. Once we made it home we were all tired of the trailer, the driving, and the “togetherness.”
I decided then and there that I would fight for stress-free summers in the future. This brings us to this year. Already sports, trips, camps, and weddings are clawing their way into my summer schedule.
You don’t realize how much of a battle it is to plan relaxation until you try to schedule a summer with school-age kids. If you are like me you become a master “air-traffic-controller,” in coordinating all the moving parts. I was determined that we would enjoy this summer and leave time and space to relax. So how did I manage to begin to build this stress-free summer dream schedule? I prayed.
This may sound weird but seriously pray about what things you SHOULD do. Make a list of anything that you feel is a must-do from God. Guess what? He will not overschedule you, make you go broke, or put you into situations that you cannot handle. It is the best place to begin when you are trying to plan for a stress-free summer.
The kids want to do 14 sports camps, 2 church camps, and 3 family vacations in a span of 8 weeks. If you do the math, it’s just not feasible. Even if each member has a personal assistant, uber driver, and airline miles to get them there. Determine how much time you realistically have in your summer and work backward. We have a shorter summer because we go to school year-round. That means we really have eight weeks for summer and seven if you don’t include the week before you go back to school. Here is how I start building my schedule, in this order.
That’s it. Anything more than this and you are asking for trouble. Leave time in the schedule for last-minute plans, BBQs, and hosting friends.
I know that most of us spend more time outside during the summer but not everyone lives where it is comfortable outdoors. I live in Phoenix where temperatures hit triple digits almost daily. Therefore, we spend a lot of time inside. However, being outdoors has been scientifically proven to reduce stress. A study by Science Direct found that spending time outdoors can help improve mental health. According to their research, nature excursions can help alleviate feelings of time pressure and mental stress. If you live in a location that is hot and humid in the summer find a local state park that has streams or waterfalls you can hike. Take a cooler backpack and enjoy a day outside. It will reduce cortisol and help you feel happier and more relaxed. The best app I have found for finding walks, hikes, and trails through the wilderness is AllTrails.
Our summer schedule can become just as hectic as the school year if we don’t intentionally protect days of rest. I have gotten pretty defensive when someone or something threatens to take over Sunday afternoons. This is an unscheduled family fun time. We try to do something together as a family. I have started to intentionally leave a day or two “open” in the summer schedule for the same reasons. We need a little breath, a little boredom, and some moments to hang out and do nothing. I will say that this is the single hardest task in planning a stress-free summer.
Last year, I thought I was planning the summer trip of a lifetime. It was an experience my family will never forget. More than unforgettable I would like my family to reset and restore this summer. Planning a stress-free summer takes effort. It requires saying “no” when you start to feel overwhelmed. It means being selective about the trips, camps, and activities you say “yes” to. Lastly, it requires you to be fiercely protective of times of rest. This year I am hopeful that we will get to the end and feel revived more than relieved. I hope your summer holds the same hope. Download “5 Prayers for a Stress-Free Summer,” to encourage you if you already feel the pressure!