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Resourcing the Summer Holidays

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Sarah Leonard is an experienced and extensively trained Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Coach. She runs a busy and successful practice in Hertfordshire and works with young people and adults. Sarah creates bespoke programmes designed to help clients achieve the results that they want, so that they can live the lives they’d be happiest living.

Sarah joined the Grow Therapeutic Coaching team in June 2022 and works one day a week providing bespoke therapeutic sessions in a school in Luton.  She has written this article for parents about to embark upon the school summer holidays.

Resourcing the Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are always met with a mixed reaction, and often heightened emotions. There are expectations, possibilities and a ton of if, when, where and maybes.  Some people love them and some people just can’t wait for them to end. Regardless of circumstance, the summer holidays are always a juggling act and there are a few things that might make them more manageable!

Manage Your Expectations

This could be the perfect time to take that digital detox that you’ve been meaning to take. Comparison is the thief of joy and the last thing we need to be doing is comparing our holiday to Instagram perfect photos. Give up on perfection and accept that real parents get reality holidays! Focusing on being a ‘good enough’ parent and finding ways to laugh at things that will inevitably go wrong.

Just because we know unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment doesn’t mean you won’t have them. But we can learn to manage expectations so that they do not negatively impact the experience that we are having.  Our minds feed from what we focus on, so shifting your energy from unrealistic to realistic expectations will help to cultivate a sense of stability and peace.

When things go wrong, or situations change, our brains react to the threat and part of it goes ‘offline’, meaning we are responding from a place of protection (fight/flight).  Stop, take a minute. Breath. Allow yourself a moment to reset so that the part of your brain that helps you focus, be rational and use all your language schools – the prefrontal cortex – can get back online. Reframe that initial expectation in light of the new situation.

Expectations can lead to a lot of stress. It’s important to take time out to do something that you enjoy. And even though you might not feel like it or have time, exercising and eating well can help you feel better. Getting plenty of sleep can also keep you healthy.

Keep A Structure

Keeping a structure is great for you and your kids. Our minds are creating predictions for the future all of the time, the certainty of a structure can create a feeling of safety and help us to manage fluctuating emotions. Having a plan doesn’t mean that you have to stick to it rigidly, but it does increase the likelihood of us being on the same page. Be sure to structure in some time for you, you can’t pour from an empty cup so make sure that you are prioritising your needs to.

Children’s brains are still developing, especially the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for executive functions. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. This means that they don’t have the ability to plan ahead and make predictions like we do. So they depend on structure and routine a lot. Uncertainty can sometimes lead to anxiety. A highly predictable routine helps children feel secure and know what to expect, and practice by making simple predictions. Even if you don’t typically thrive on a strict schedule, having a routine can be helpful in times of unpredictability, uncertainty, and stress.

Get Outside

“Reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, wellbeing, spirit, and survival”. Richard Louv

Even just a short amount of time outside is enough to have a positive impact on reducing symptoms of stress. It might be a struggle to get some kids outside, but even through the potential moaning and groaning their central nervous systems are relaxing and resting and helping them to down regulate. Getting outside also increases the possibility of a good night’s sleep which will definitely benefit everyone.

Studies have also shown that spending time in nature increases attention span and focus. It also boosts your immune system and increases energy and fatigue.

If you have a garden or balcony, it’s fantastic to do this first thing in the morning –natural daylight exposure at this time is great for your body clock, helping you feel more awake and, hours later, sleep better.

Practise Gratitude

Research shows gratitude isn’t just a pleasant feeling—being grateful can also support greater health, happiness, and wisdom in ourselves and our communities.

Gratitude is more than just a momentary good feeling. Scientists who have studied written gratitude interventions, such as gratitude letters or journals, have found benefits for an individual’s mental health and well-being. Gratitude practices also appear to help you feel more satisfied in life and can boost your self-esteem, according to peer-reviewed research.

“Physiological changes associated with gratitude are typically a reduction in blood pressure and increase in vagal tone, which is taken as an index of increased parasympathetic influence on the peripheral nervous system,” says Dr. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Science Director at the Greater Good Science Center. The parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that allows our body to “rest and digest”) can help you conserve energy by slowing the heart rate, stimulating digestion, and contributing to overall relaxation.

It can be something we practise alone or as a family which can create bonds through the shared practice.

Celebrate the wins

Incorporate three gifts into your bedtime routine. Find three things throughout the day that you can give yourself a little cheer for.

Maybe even start a pebble jar to celebrate the times that you get outside as a family or achieve something that you all wanted to do.

Finding healthy ways to celebrate good days, fire and wire the positive emotion with the positive behaviour, meaning that the behaviours are more likely to be repeated over time.

Just say No to comparing yourself to anyone else. You can’t see inside their family; you can only do what seems right for your family at this moment, and that is more than enough.

Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done!