When autumn can’t come soon enough

Hot weather isn’t always a breeze—but there are ways to brave the inevitable stormy days.
Having a rough summer? Remember SEEDS when you want to bring back the sunshine. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Having a rough summer? Remember SEEDS when you want to bring back the sunshine. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

It happens every year.

Patients come into my office talking about how they had been so excited for summer to begin, but now they wish for it to be over soon.

When school lets out each spring, it seems we all look forward to warm days and nights and a well-deserved break from school stress—for our kids and for us.

Summer means a break from packing lunches, PTA meetings, and hunting for notes in backpacks. We get to enjoy relaxed mornings and more lenient bedtimes, and there seems to be plenty of time for family games, campfires and cookouts with friends.

It all sounds perfect, right?

So, why do we get halfway (or a little more) through our summer before we begin wishing for the cool weather of fall again?

I think a story from one of my patients can help explain why we start wishing away the days of summer.

Sara’s summer

I patient I’ll call Sara came in for her physical in late June, and she brought her kids with her because she didn’t have a sitter.

That wasn’t a problem, considering they sat quietly with their iPads in the waiting area.

I asked Sara how she was doing and she said, “Every summer, it’s the same thing: I gain weight, my PMS is worse, I yell more, and I get in fights with my husband. I just don’t understand what happens. Summer is supposed to be fun, and I can’t wait for it to be over!”

Sara’s story is similar to those of many other moms out there.

She works three days a week, and she truly looks forward to being home with her kids the other two days and on the weekends.

As the summer continues, however, she finds her schedule exhausting.

Her kids are home with a high school sitter on the days when Sara works, so they are excited to see Sara when she walks in the door after a long day at work. Of course, they want to play with her until their summer bedtime, which is later than normal.

By the time she tucks them in, she realizes she has had no time to think about herself or say hello to her husband. Sara has no energy left for anything—especially not for what her husband is thinking!

And, she still has to clean up the kitchen from dinner and pick up the house.

Although she feels guilty, Sara finds herself counting down the days until school starts and a new routine can begin.

During the school year, she has a good schedule for everyone and the house just seems to run smoothly. She feels more organized, her husband and kids know her expectations and often help clean up the kitchen after dinner.

Homework is done early, and early bedtimes mean she can get the house picked up, coordinate things for the next day, exercise regularly, have time to unwind and connect with her husband, and still get to bed at a decent time.

It’s still busy during the school year, but she feels more in control and has time to take care of herself—maintain a good weight, control her moods, and manage her time wisely.

Now that she is in the middle of summer, she is wishing for her kids to go back to school, and she feels awful for feeling that way!

Plant the SEEDS

I listened to Sara and then gave her some advice on how to gain control of her life and enjoy the rest of the summer with her kids.

I started by talking about the Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success (SEEDS).

You have likely read about these in some of my other blogs where I have been addressing women in menopause.

But, the SEEDS are not just for women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause—they are for all of us, at any age.

The more we practice these important habits at a younger age, the better prepared we will be for menopause and daily life. Practicing these seven habits helps us feel like ourselves every day—even when our routine has been disrupted.

Here are the Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success that you can practice in your daily life:

  • Drink plenty of water (eight glasses a day). Add one more for each cup of coffee or for each serving of alcohol.
  • Get plenty of sleep (seven hours a night). Take power naps if necessary to be sure you are getting enough sleep.
  • Take your vitamins daily, including Vitamin D and a multivitamin.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of healthy carbs and protein, with only one sugar treat (including alcohol).
  • Eat plenty of fiber (think vegetables) and take a fiber pill if needed.
  • Exercise regularly (30 minutes a day, with a mix of walking, aerobic activity, strength training and stretching).
  • Start a gratitude journal and do metered breathing each night before going to bed.

Welcome structure

After we reviewed the SEEDS, I reminded Sara that summer vacation doesn’t mean a vacation from self care—it’s just a change from the daily school routine.

I pointed out that the less she cared for herself, the worse she felt. And it was affecting everyone in her family.

By putting herself last, Sara thought she was helping her family, but in reality no one was happy. Sara agreed it was time to take back control.

She appreciated the insight and realized that having a summer schedule didn’t mean less fun—it actually meant less stress and more fun.

She left my office looking forward to the rest of her summer, without weight gain and stress.

 

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