The summer holidays may be just around the corner and whether you are a parent, guardian, caregiver or just a human being then the summer brings about changes for us all.
Are you a teacher and loving the summer holidays, are you a parent who’s scared about juggling so much or are you a worker who looks out the office window on the sunny summer days wishing you could be outside?
The summer holidays are notoriously difficult to plan for and the good weather makes us all wish we had more time to get out in it.
How does the summer make you feel? Excited, nervous, anxious, stressed or just plain wishful? The summer is a lot like regular parenting, only played out at three times its usual speed. You quickly realise how much of the strain of child-rearing is carried out by the education system and you vow to never make one of those snide remarks about teachers knocking off at 3:30pm every day and spending most of their lives on holiday!
55% of parents say their stress levels go up during the holidays
Read my summer survival guide to making the summer your BEST time of the year! I have a really simple formula for you to follow.
I’ve always loved the summer and what it brings. I remember at an early age being at school and asking my teacher if we could have the lesson outside when it was sunny. I remember the freedom you felt as a kid and I enjoyed running about outside in the sunshine.
Then becoming an adult hits us and then what?! Furrowed brows, bills to pay, 40+ hour work weeks and families and responsibilities come along then suddenly any fun or joy we felt is thrown out of the window and we feel stressed as we can no longer keep all the plates spinning and your life gets thrown out of balance.
I have had periods of stress and I have suffered severe burnout twice in my life and it’s really not pretty. I had ZERO balance. I couldn’t even balance a cup on a saucer and keep my tea in it I was like a walking zombie. I was exhausted from consulting 70 hour weeks, commuting 3 hours a day, running my own business, doing a university degree and renovating properties at the weekends.
I was successful in a lot of people’s eyes, I was bringing home a big lump of bacon, I had nice holidays, nice clothes and a nice home but I had no time AT ALL to enjoy it
I looked 10 years older than I was and I was making sacrifices in other areas of my life.
Friends became distant as I kept putting them off or changing plans at the last minute as I couldn’t even get off the sofa once I got in, family were sympathetic but didn’t really understand my plight and said “I took too much on” and my relationship, well wasn’t….. I was living off packet noodles for lunch, Marks & Sparks ready meals for dinner and fruit and veg played a significant side-line in my life. I was running literally on empty, my kidneys hurt and my skin was terrible and I needed help fast I knew I did I just didn’t know where to turn? I had no time to even begin to start looking for help or reaching out for it so I found myself on the hamster wheel of life wishing I could ask the boss if I could take my desk outside to work in the sun to get my Casper like skin some vitamin D it so desperately wanted. And I wasn’t on my own.
A fifth of people neglect their own wellbeing, 18% admitted to constantly feeling tired, 15% said they had increased arguments with partners and 14% blamed the holidays for long-term weight gain. 20% said that they felt less focused at work as a result of the stress caused by arranging childcare and managing the summer holidays and 19% felt that this had a negative effect on their boss or superiors unable to relate to the issues that childcare of the summer had.
So far, not so good?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that stress has become a ‘World Wide Epidemic’ and 60% of Japan’s population is currently moderately to highly stressed. It’s so bad in Japan compensation claims for Karoshi or death by overwork has dramatically increased since the 1990’s.
Are you listening? Are you taking this in? Do I need to shock you any more for you to make some changes? Enjoy life more?
What about your children and the generations behind us?
1 million children between the ages of 5-15 now have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and they’re getting younger and more complex health problems as time goes on with children as young as 2 getting diagnosed with stress. Academic worries account for 50% of children’s stress so they need to enjoy their holiday time to be productive, have fun and be able to act like children without feeling stressed or burdened with life.
The reason I’m so passionate about work:life balance, is that there are so many people suffering unnecessarily as they don’t have the tools and techniques to structure their lives more effectively. Work:life balance literally means prioritising between work (career and ambition) on the one hand and life (health, leisure, pleasure, spirituality and family) on the other. Some of this stuff is simple! So why don’t we do it? The Danes seem to have it sorted.
Denmark has the best work:life balance in Europe plus they have the highest levels of life satisfaction in the world. Why? What’s important to them might not be as important to us. They list life satisfaction, the environment, health and work:life balance as more important than jobs and income. They enjoy a high degree of flexibility at work, often being able to choose when they start their days, they get a minimum of 5 weeks paid holiday, they work an average of 33 hours a week and everyone from the cleaner to the CEO usually leaves at 4pm. So they can’t be productive right?
Actually they are the second most productive country in Europe (Norway is the 1st and the UK is 16th). The UK actually dropped by 7% productivity last year so we’re working longer hours for nothing.
We need to work smarter not harder and we need to review what is important to us. Is it our life satisfaction NOW or is it having a 5 year countdown calendar to retirement like my Dad did?
Summer for me now is full of amazing possibilities. Endless walks, BBQ’s, going to the beach, going on holiday, seeing your family and your children more, spending more quality time with your partner as the nights are longer. Is this what you have? No?
Some of you may think you’ve got life well and truly sorted, a happy family, a job or business you love and you’ve truly found your purpose, friends who you can rely on and you are living your life with passion and joy? Great!! My work here is done. But……. for those of you who are on the hamster wheel of life the point is you may NOT even realise it UNTIL you make some changes. Only then will you be able to look back and see how your life has improved.
For some of you like me I absolutely knew I needed help but the doctor wasn’t someone I wanted to go to as I knew that me and only me could make these changes so I had to make a start somewhere.
I have come up with a really simple formula that I want you to start with NOW
As I’ve said summer can bring its own challenges but if you get the foundations of your life right you’ll find it so much easier to cope with anything life throws at you and not only that you will be helping future generations with it too.
The rest of your year will be a breeze so it's time to make this summer the BEST time of year:
Want to know that you’ve got your balance right and can take whatever life throws at you? Start with some simple changes.
Think about what gets you worked up or stressed? For me it’s 2 things; bad driving and being late. There’s nothing I can do about the bad drivers until Elon Musk invents some cool car that can fly above middle lane drivers but I can do something about always being late. So now I always leave the house 15 minutes earlier than I think I should. I tend to then get to places 5 minutes early and I have no stress about being late to appointments or meeting friends.
What bugs you? Cleaning I bet is one of them so in the summer holidays how about getting a cleaner? £20 once a fortnight for an extra 2 hours of your time is worth its weight in gold. Struggling to keep your business going while the kids are at home, why not hire a Virtual Assistant? They usually charge about £20 an hour and they can get your admin tasks done so much quicker than you and you get extra time to spend with the family, on your business or on you!
Think of your life and outsourcing parts of it to people who enjoy doing it a lot more than you do usually for minimal outlay
Once you’ve outsourced you’ll be amazed at what you can do with that extra hour a day!
E-NJOY THE MOMENT
You’ve heard of mindfulness? Being present in the moment? How many times are you with people and you’re distracted checking your phone for work emails or Facebook? How about leaving your phone at home?
Even Simon Cowell has quit his phone for the past year and although he could do with checking ASOS for fashion trends every now and again he’s loving life without the constant social media updates
Switch it off or leave it at home. And while we’re on social media remember that what you’re seeing is other peoples highlight reel. One of my friends felt that during the summer holidays she had to take her boys out every day or they would be missing out. Do you know what one of her boys said: “Mummy I love spending time at home playing outside with you”. Kids don’t need constant trips out or money spent on them to have a good time. The best times of my childhood were spent outside on the back garden with my two brothers. Keeping up with the Jones’s or Kardashian’s as it now seems to be isn’t good for you, your children or your business/work. Even kids need down time.
Treat the summer holidays like a fun project. Schedule in time for activities for both you, your kids, your partner, your home and your business. One of my friends on Facebook shares her spreadsheet for the summer holidays! I’m not suggesting that you do this but her kids sure look like they’re having fun and it takes the pressure off her to ‘do something’. Build in down time, time at home and don’t forget time for your partner. Get your kids to join in the fun by asking them to pick something that they want to do and build that in. They’ll appreciate being involved. While we’re on the kids, schedule in some chores for them to do over the summer for pocket money.
It’s amazing how schools generally don’t teach business or money advice so you’ll be giving them a great life lesson on budgeting and how to run businesses
I’ve seen lots of negotiations happen at this point! Scheduling takes the pressure off you to come up with something to do every day.
This is a critical part of the formula, you need to take care of you. Take a walk, go to yoga, do some meditation, write a gratitude journal on 3 things you’re grateful for each day. Add this time into your schedule. The number of people suffering burnout is increasing and you’re no good to anyone last but least yourself. Listen to the usual advice of exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, restricting caffeine and reducing your alcohol intake. Do something that you want to do, you're just as important. Take time off your business/work and turn every piece of technology off to do with your work if you can. DON’T take your work phone/laptop on holiday, you’ll come back much more refreshed and able to deal with it when you get back after a proper break.
Don’t be afraid to say NO! To your children, work, partner, friends
Whoever it is putting demands on you remember you are in control of what you do, how you do it and the choices you make. Alter your thinking style, be more realistic about what you can get done, re frame problems you have to put a different perspective on it and most importantly keep your sense of humour!
Now that you know the BEST framework, you'll find it so much easier to focus and make these changes for not just the summer but the whole year.
Resources You'll love: