I’m starting to think of my summer slow down as my yearly Soul Sabbatical. In Greek, the word sabbatical comes from sabbatikos, which literally translates to a "ceasing". How much do you love that idea? I get so tired of striving, of stretching, of trying to hustle. A ceasing sounds like just the ticket to restoring my energy and my imagination so that I can keep going with the creative work that is my life’s calling.
Yet every year, I can feel a fair amount of guilt at clearing my schedule to relax. In a culture where we are defined by how fast we go, how tired we are, and how much we produce, taking some time to downshift often feels like giving up or admitting defeat somehow. But the only way to stop feeling like we are failing at this game is to stop playing altogether, or perhaps, to find different rules to play by.
This year, in the spirit of breaking my own rules, I am going to experiment with giving myself permission to recharge the way I want to for the next couple of months. My summer may very well include creative projects and whims and playful activities; by all means, I hope it does. But I want to stop packing my schedule to the brim and instead to give myself the spaciousness to be spontaneous with whatever strikes me on given day. In spite of our belief that going at top speed all the time will make us more prolific creative souls, all that rushing around all the time actually does is burn us out. If we never take a time out to refill our creative well, where will inspiration and energy come from? Like the seasons in nature, we must experiment with our own rhythms to figure out how to best care for ourselves and our creative spirits.
Inspired by countless articles about how to give kids an old-fashioned laid back summer vacation, I’ve put together a short list of ideas for getting your grown-up self ready to recharge and primed for play:
- Replace hectic habits with peaceful practices. One of the best ways to shift a habit is not just to stop doing the thing you don’t want to do, but to replace it with something that is more constructive. Don’t want to spend as much time checking your email on your lunch break? Put your phone on airplane mode and read a book instead. Sick of visiting the vending machine every time you feel stress rising at your job? Go to the bathroom and take five deep breaths instead.
- Make your scheduling habits work in your favor for fun. If you are really having trouble not scheduling anything on your calendar, try scheduling in unscheduled time on a particular date. It sounds crazy, but I often write in “Rest” on my calendar and something about seeing it scheduled there makes me more likely to stick to it.
- Don’t scroll the summer away. I’ve written about it before and no doubt you’ve read countless articles about this as well, but let’s be honest: as much as we read about this idea of unplugging from technology, how much do we actually put it into practice? The next time you find yourself tempted to scroll the day or night away on social media, ask yourself how doing that will make you feel. For me, I have started to become aware that I don’t feel well afterwards, like an emotional sugar high that comes with a crash afterwards. What activity can you do that does make you feel good when you’re done? For me, it’s writing a poem, cuddling with my cat, or watching a new movie. Once you get a few feel good activities under your belt, it will become harder to settle for something that feels less than good.
- Design a DIY creative retreat. Last summer, I looked into going to an artist’s retreat for a few days, and though getting to stay in a small cabin by a lake and have someone else cook me dinner while I get to write all day sounded dreamy, the price tag brought me right back into reality. If you’re like me and can’t afford to go on a formal retreat, why not DIY? Get out of your normal surroundings for the day, turn off your phone, and bring a journal for capturing some thoughts and ideas. For me, it would be a day spent walking the beach with an endless thermos of iced tea, a good podcast or two for creative inspiration in my ears. Inexpensive enough to not break the bank but different enough from the day to day routine to get you thinking outside of your own box.
- Eat all the fresh summery foods you can find. I love to cook most of the year, but in the summer? Bring on the no-cook meals; they save heat from the oven and time that could otherwise be spent in the park watching a sunset. I’ve started to get creative with my meals in order to be able to spend more time out of the kitchen. On a warm June evening, it doesn’t get much simpler than cold shrimp, raw green beans, beets, carrots, strawberries, and some olives on your plate. If I don’t have to think as much about what I’m eating and can find a way to get my protein, veggies, and healthy fats, it’s a win win.
- Get outside. I live in New England and we only really get a few months of summer weather a year. Much as I feel addicted to my phone, I do not want to get to the cooler fall weather only to realize that I have spent no time at all immersed in the warmth of summer sunshine. Put away the vacation photos of the girl you used to be friends with in high school and instead open your eyes to what is around you right now. Touch the coolness of a pink rose petal, put your bare feet in the grass, sip some ice cold hibiscus tea as you look up at the sky. I guarantee you that the views out there are better than anything you’ll see on your iPhone.
- Bike! Swim! Hike! A recent article I read said that kids needs to have more play time outdoors; the fresh air is good for your lungs, the sunshine good for your body, mind, and spirit, and a healthy amount of physical exertion helps you to sleep better. If this formula is good for kids we care about, why aren’t we heeding the same advice for our precious selves? Find some movement you like to do, grab a friend or two (or if you’re introverted like me, a good podcast!) and get moving and grooving.
- Get a library card. Remember as a kid when you would go to the library get to pick out books to borrow for reading by the kiddie pool? Is there anything better than getting to take a mental trip through the universe for FREE? I have such wonderful childhood memories of visiting my town’s local library and loading up my weight in dog-eared books into my tote bag, then settling in with a bowl of Doritos (half Cool Ranch, half nacho Cheese flavor. Oh. Yeah.) to crunch and read the day away. Check out some new releases or a favorite series as a kid, grab a snack, and plan to float the afternoon away in pure book bliss.
My biggest creative inspiration, Julia Cameron, says that “Treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong.” How better to take care of ourselves and our sense of imagination than to practice self-care this summer? It’s high time to bow out from the rat race for a few moments (spoiler: it’s not actually a race that is possible for anyone to win) and accept that we all need to rest and recharge from time to time in order to keep dreaming and doing. While other people keep hustling for their self-worth, you can be taking it a bit easier on the “sidelines” for a bit, stretched out in the sun daydreaming, which is where all the really good stuff actually is.
How about you? Do you have any tips for a summer sabbatical? Feel free to share ideas in the comments!