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Spending Summer Like a Kid: Rediscovering the Benefits of R&R

by Sue Dickinson

My son is enjoying the sweet expectations of the summer to come.
Dreams of vacation, summer camp, trips to the zoo, and time to play outdoors consume his thoughts. Much as I know he’s enjoyed the past school year, not once have I heard him say that he’ll miss the classes and the structure that has been imposed on him for the past nine months. Rather, the opportunity to relax comes as a welcome change in his life, one he is ready to embrace with both arms.

The benefits of rest and relaxation have been touted throughout the ages. A Spanish proverb says "How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward." And Ovid, a philosopher born in 43 BC is quoted as saying "Take rest; a field that has rested gives us a bountiful crop."

And yet, I, a "modern mom," have a heck of a time accepting this universal truth for myself. In fact I have found that, subconsciously or not, I more readily follow Helen Hayes philosophy: "If you rest, you rust!"

Something tells me I’m not alone.

As summer quickly approaches, we parents are busy scurrying about trying to fit in all of the last minute band concerts and sporting events; awards programs and graduations. The thought of a little free time sounds pretty appealing right about now, but is it also just a little scary?

After all, adults aren’t issued a report card at the end of May and given a "Get out of Work Free" pass for the rest of the summer. We are judged day in and day out the benefits of taking a little rest and relaxation when we can.

But the benefits are clear. The R&R we take today builds up over time, creating the excess energy we need to overcome the challenges we will face in life. It’s what helps us deal with the major issues we encounter. What better time to make room for this important activity (or rather, lack of activity) than this summer when you can enjoy it with your kids?

Actor Donald Curtis defines "relaxation" as "releasing all concern and tension and letting the natural order of life flow through one’s being." We only need to watch our kids at play to realize that they have already discovered this wonderful secret to rejuvenating the spirit. How can we more jaded adults find the same joy in abandonment?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Live In the Moment. Ignore the dishes and laundry. Go outside and lie under a tree, or watch a ladybug crawl across the concrete. Really talk to your children, and listen to what they have to say – without thinking about the next three chores that need to be done. Stick your face out the car window like your dog (preferably not if you are actually driving the car), and enjoy the breeze. Whatever it is, lose yourself in the experience and enjoy the moment!

2. Be Patient. Especially, with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t accomplished. Instead of that useless exercise, take the time to celebrate everything that is great with your life. Observe your wonderful kids and give yourself the credit you deserve for raising them that way! Are you healthy and fit? Are you successful in your career, or are you taking steps to make it happen? Have you found the perfect hairstyle (if so, could I have the name of your stylist)?
Enjoy those victories. Sure, you probably have goals you haven’t accomplished yet, but with time anything is possible. Patience will help you retain the perspective you need to make it happen, even with all of the other obligations you have every day.

3. Exercise or Laziness? It’s easy to think that exercise is the opposite of rest and relaxation. After all, which do you picture when you think about a little R&R? An afternoon in a hammock with an adult beverage and a good book? Or a sweaty run at the track? In reality, a little bit of both is necessary to achieve true rest. Exercise releases tension, clears your mind and strengthens your body. But a little lounging helps your subconscious mind to think creatively, reduces your fears and anxieties, and prepares you to face the challenges you will most definitely encounter in the future. Both are necessary to achieve the relaxed status we need to respond to life’s tests rather than react to them.

In the past, I have often misunderstood relaxation to be an existence without a purpose. But, recently I’ve come to the conclusion that we will never find our true purpose in life until we are willing to be idle, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. Rest is a critical element in tapping our subconscious mind to discover and accomplish our goals. And what better season to dedicate time to this essential skill than summer? You may be surprised at the progress
you make by taking a chance on doing "nothing." Writer Ralph Marston sums it up so well: "Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then, GET BACK TO WORK!" Are you ready to act more like your children this summer? Then go ahead - give yourself a little of that R&R you so desperately deserve!

Copyright, 2004 Sue Dickinson


Sue Dickinson is the author of What’s a Mom to Do? Overcoming the
Urge to Put Your Life on Hold and the creator of,
designed to celebrate the many facets of Mom. Because when you
recognize them all, your possibilities are unlimited!


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