Summer Vacation Anxiety? 3 Ways to Improve Your Mood

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 / 7 comments

Confession time. I battle with anxiety. Sunday night anxiety, last minute change of plans anxiety, and, strangely enough…Summer Vacation Anxiety.

It’s almost perverse – but the weeks that are supposed to be spent recharging my emotional battery have often left me feeling drained and depressed. A mean little voice in my head continually scolded me for not doing enough. If I let the kids hang out at the house while I caught up on laundry, the mean little voice would remind me that I didn’t take them to the library or the pool. If I spent the afternoon at the pool the voice would whisper that I didn’t get in the water and play with them enough, or if I did, that the kitchen floor still needed to be mopped.

To be frank, it sucks – a tiny jerk in your head telling you that you’re doing it all wrong when you’re supposed to be serenely enjoying the “me” and “family” time so often missing from our lives during the school year.

If you put this on a triple word score square it's really awesome. 

So I started reading, and talking to people, about ways I could tell the little voice to bugger off. By the end of last summer I had a list of strategies I was starting to use and during the last weekend of the summer, sitting by a lake and watching my kids play in the water I breathed deeply and peacefully and truly felt calm, happy, and refreshed. Of course, it would have been nice if I had felt that way all summer long!

With that in mind, I thought I’d share some of the tips that work best for me…the ones that I’m already using to ensure that I enjoy more of my summer break this year. 

Make a To-Do List that Makes Sense
I use this one during the school year as well. My old to-do lists used to look like an epic poem.  It just went on and on, full of small reasonable actions and massive projects that could never be accomplished in one or two days. I listed them all side-by-side and then grew anxious as I saw how little of the list I was actually accomplishing.

The feeling of accomplishment from checking things off the list was great, but I needed to figure out how to create the list without setting off my anxiety when I didn’t get everything done. With that in mind, I read a bit about “Covey’s Time Management Matrix.” Basically, this method asks you to prioritize your tasks based on how important and how urgent they are. If you’re interested in learning a bit more you can read about it in this article.

I liked the concept, but the designations didn’t really work for me. Playing around with it, I came up with a system that better suited my needs. You can download it here if you’re interested. It allows me to put everything I want to on the to-do list but visually reminds me that not all of it needs to get done today.

Prioritized To-Do List (Executive Functioning Skills)

Make Mindfulness Part of Your Summer PD
Knowing that I always feel better when I’ve accomplished something, I decided that I would make learning how to meditate one of my summer goals. Luckily, there are tons of options available that make this a really easy and enjoyable part of your day. I find that taking 10-30 minutes, depending on how much time (and patience!) I have available to just focus on being present really reduces anxiety. And since I’ve made it part of my daily “to-do” list, I get to check an item off my task list too! Bonus!

My view when I meditate looks just like this - except I meditate in my messy bedroom. 
And half the time I'm interrupted by my kids. But other than that it looks pretty much exactly like this...

If you’re interested in giving this a try, there are lots of quick and easy ways to get started. YouTube has a lot of wonderful options that will get you started. Try searching for “guided meditation,” if you feel like you’d have no idea to do with yourself if you had to sit and do nothing for 10 minutes. There are also some excellent apps and podcasts like Headspace and Meditation Minis that will get you started.

Make Sunshine a Daily Requirement
The sunshine is the best way of getting vitamin-D into our systems, which naturally reduces symptoms of both anxiety and depression. So whereas in the past that mean little voice might have told me that the 30 minutes of sitting on the porch reading a book was time I could have spent doing something “more worthwhile,” now I look at it as a homeopathic treatment to keep me healthy and happy. If you can add in even a 20-minute walk, you’ll reap even more mood-boosting benefits. We might not all be training for our next half-marathon, but I can usually talk myself into a relaxed walk around the block.

I still haven’t figured out how to completely shut down my anxiety when it springs up. I have bad days where that mean little voice wins for a bit. But since I’ve started to pay more attention to what triggers my anxiety and making a concerted effort to find ways to shut that little voice up…my summer vacation is starting to feel like it should.

So what strategies do you use for taming the mean little voice in your head? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. Wonderful post. I struggle with anxiety too. Thanks!

  2. So true. I agree when we make goals and try to do it, everything will turn out just fine.

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