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Finding Balance This Summer, Whatever That Means for You

A father walking in the woods with his son on his shoulders.

You’re probably going to be sticking close to home more than you anticipated this summer. That raises unique challenges for everyone, depending on what home looks like for you. If you live alone, it might mean you’re going to have way more “me time” than you ever imagined. If you live with kids, it might mean you really have to search for a moment in the day when you’re not in the presence of another human being. Regardless of your situation, find ways to keep your life balanced, and prioritize the things that matter to you.

Full House

If you have children at home, congratulations! You’ve survived the several months that have likely included homeschooling while doing your own work, finding new and creative ways to entertain kids, and generally trying to keep a chaotic, speeding train from derailing. Summer should bring a much-needed break from some of the obligations of school year parenting. You kept your family balanced, now it’s your turn to find balance. Time to carve out some time for YOU.

Kid-Free Time If you are not the only adult at home, be sure you have time to unwind. Yes—it is definitely okay to grant some screen time to your little ones so you can have a mental health break. If there’s another adult in your house, schedule times when you are “off duty”—put someone else is in charge, and you can hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, around your neck, or on your chaise lounge. Having time to yourself allows you to unwind, recharge, and be your best self when you’re back “on duty.”

Date Night Plan a “date” at least once a week, once the kids are asleep. Have a drink on the porch (no phones allowed), lay out a blanket for stargazing, or watch a movie. Reconnect with your partner, and really check in with him/her. A little maintenance on your own relationship will help both of you function better in the more chaotic family times.

Relax your family’s schedule. Even if this summer is shaping up to be way different than any summer—ever—you can still make it feel like a (scaled-down) vacation. Do yourself a favor and let the kids sleep in (if they will). Go ahead and hang up your makeshift teacher hat, put away the textbooks, and lean into the activities that make your kids—and you—happiest.

Home Alone

Now to the other extreme: when quarantine means you’ll likely not see another human being in the flesh all day (or possibly all week). Summer conjures up images for most of us of getting out, catching up with friends, and really living life to its fullest. With social calendars looking a bit bare (non-existent?), you may need to make an extra effort to feel connected.

Hold the weekends sacred. Be sure to make plans-- even if you can’t keep the outdoor concert series/beach weekend/dinner with friends schedule you used to. There’s nothing wrong with embracing some serious “me” time by binge-watching reality TV or becoming engrossed in a book, but be sure to also connect with friends and loved ones. Be proactive in seeking out safe outlets for socialization: Zoom happy hours, neighborhood porch toasts, even watching a movie with a friend on FaceTime. Keep normal parts of your routine where you can feel your community. That could mean a remote church service, or an online exercise class or book club. You need things to look forward to—and be sure to reward yourself!

For Better or Worse

Here’s the pro: you’re not quarantining alone! You have someone around to keep you sane. Here’s the con: you’re not quarantining alone. You have someone around to drive you insane. Right? Too much time—even with the love of your life—can start to feel oppressive. Be sure to get some alone time. Something as simple as watching your guilty pleasure on Netflix on your iPad, or taking time to read a book or call a friend on the porch can make a big difference.

Also be sure to make your time together count. Make date night special. Yes, you can still have date nights, even if you can’t leave the house. Splurge on takeout from your favorite restaurant, light some candles, and have a special dinner. Then, pop some popcorn and watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see, instead of just watching TV reruns. Leave your phones in the other room so you can give each other undivided attention.

Nowhere to Go

Now to balancing life when your home is your office. Find a good routine for you—and follow it. Get dressed. I am by no means suggesting you wear anything that needs to be ironed, or even pants with a zipper for that matter, but do resist the urge to stay in your pajamas all day, every day. Start your day with a shower and fresh change of clothes. You deserve it, plus it can help add structure to your day.

Speaking of structure, define your workday. Just because your office is now your house doesn’t mean you’re always at work. Set an end time to your day, and be sure you’re taking lunch and snack breaks, and even stretch and fresh air breaks, along the way, or burnout will catch up to you. Once the workday is done, try to figuratively, if not literally, step out of the office, and put non-emergency work issues on hold until the next day.

No matter your situation—STAY ACTIVE. Here’s an idea: take the time you would otherwise spend commuting, and turn that “found time” into a moderate intensity workout. If it normally takes you 25 minutes to drive to and from work, spend that time taking a brisk walk or jog around your neighborhood. When time’s up, head inside and start your workday. Do the same when you finish work for the day. 25 minutes of exercise—a cooldown from your day—and then proclaim yourself home from work! It is now more important than ever to be sure you get that workout in. After all, your commute may have just shrunk to 20 feet, so go the extra mile with your workout.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we can do hard things. Things that seemed impossible a few short months ago. There’s a mantra (author unknown) quoted frequently in yoga and meditation: “It is not the weight of things that matters. It is all about our balance within." Take time to find that balance for yourself.