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Summertime: reflection and restoration

By Mark Sanders
St Raphael Counseling

Did you know? Catholic Charities of Denver’s St. Raphael Counseling is the largest Catholic therapy practice in the nation, and you can make an appointment now by calling 720-377-1359.

Summertime has arrived in Colorado and, as it always does, it’s arrived on its own terms. Chilly mornings of late winter burst forth into a brief springtime of flowers and blossoming trees. Then, before we know it, the hot weather is here, and lawns are crying out for rain. Kids are out of school, pools are open and families are hoping for a bit more time to relax. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Let’s talk about how you and your family can make the most of this special time of year.

There is a biological component to why summer feels different than other times of the year. Abundant sunlight provides vitamin D, which helps improve our overall health. Longer days where we can be outside earlier in the morning and later in the evening encourage us to be more active. The darkness of the winter months, which can contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder, gives way to periods where we are able to more fully engage in life.

Being outside during this time has well-documented health benefits, especially when that time is spent in a natural setting away from the usual hustle of our daily lives. These physical components can help us to recharge and re-engage with ourselves and others.

However, these periods of re-engagement need planning. As with everything else, intentionality and balance are important components towards achieving our goals. As we know, gaining rest and refreshment while at the same time enjoying opportunities that are available only during the summer can be tricky. From days in the mountains to week-long out-of-state beach trips, vacations are wonderful opportunities to make new memories. But they don’t happen by accident – we should take the time to plan them. Movie nights, cookouts with friends, beach reads, swimming, etc., can fill these sunny and hot days… but only if you let them.

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These warm months are absolutely a great time for increased relaxation. Our unique and dedicated American work ethic has created a situation where it somehow feels “wrong” for people to take time for themselves. However, during this time of year, you can almost hear the world breathing differently.

It might take some practice and patience to slow down. Our fast world doesn’t allow much for relaxation and reflection, so give yourself the grace needed to approach these days differently. Work on being more mindful of the day and engage more in the moment. Take “mini-vacations” of a few days here, a long weekend there, to intentionally live your life differently.

Summertime can also be a time for faith. The solemnity of Easter is past and the explosiveness of Christmas yet to come (“Christmas in July” notwithstanding). This leaves us in a quiet interlude that can be filled with reflection and adoration. Consider using this time to visit a new parish, enroll your children in a vacation bible school or volunteer at a church festival. It might even be a good time to seek out a new spiritual practice that can help us prepare for the rest of the year.

Even though there are many positive attributes about June, July and August, summer can be a difficult time for families. A lack of structure as kids are home from school and sports can lead to increased need to “entertain.” Additionally, we all benefit from predictability and structure in our lives, and losing some (or most) of that can lead to a range of emotions.

At St. Raphael Counseling, we see various responses to summertime. From individuals, couples and families taking advantage of time to work on issues in their lives to breaks that allow for reflection and implementation of treatment goals, summer can be helpful and unsettling. Remember, two things can be true at once. Again, remember that theme of reflection when we can clear our minds or settle out of the hamster wheel, if only for a while.

Our lives are marked by discrete periods of time, and summertime is one of the best to make new memories and enjoy old ones. Take the time to do so and you will not regret it. Ideally, learning how to engage in your life during this time of year can also provide new ways to live throughout the rest of the year.

Happy summer!

Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities
As the charitable arm of the Archdiocese of Denver, and inspired by God’s love and compassion, Catholic Charities extends the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor and those in need.
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