By Mary Reitano
Summer is a great opportunity for relaxation and restoration. It can also be a season for reconnection with loved ones. For many people, summer means unplugging from a stressful schedule. When transitioning from work to vacation, you may need time to change gears to that slower pace. Fortunately, society allows school breaks, summer hours, and suspension of many activities until autumn. If you are retired or semi-retired, you may still benefit from a relaxed tempo. Even retirees can get so busy with volunteering and scheduled activities that life becomes stressful.
Often, our focus on accomplishing tasks creates isolation from family and friends. Conversations are about chores and deadlines rather than affection and fun. But, Matshona Dhliwayo, Canadian-based philosopher, said “if you are too busy to love, you are too busy to live….” Fortunately, summer’s slower pace is an opportunity to correct this and reconnect with loved ones. Deepen your emotional relationship with a partner or child or grandchild. Maybe even take time to mend fences with a relative you have been distant with. People sometimes drift apart unintentionally through neglect. But this can be repaired by refocusing on your loved ones and taking action.
So how do we achieve a satisfying emotional connection? According to Katherine Di Cerbo of Connection Craft, emotional connection is “when two (or more) people knowingly feel and perceive the same thing at the same time.” This can happen spontaneously, or at other times, a connection is achieved by practicing empathy, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.” Empathy occurs through the skills of active listening and validating the opinions and feelings of others.
One obvious way to increase emotional connection is simply by talking. But it helps to create comfortable opportunities to chat. Taking a walk, sitting by a fire, taking a boat ride, or sharing a meal, can allow good conversations to happen naturally. Bob Erhlich, former governor of Maryland, said “Some of the most important conversations I have ever had occurred at my family’s dinner table.” Also, spending time one-on-one with people rather than in groups can be a chance to connect. Early morning or late night chats can be intimate, as can scheduled times with a loved one. Former First Lady Barbara Bush wisely said: “Cherish your human connections—your relationships with friends and family.” You can also create good memories and positive connections through indoor game nights or outdoor activities like going to the pool, on a picnic, or playing golf.
So, this summer, whether you travel or stay home– take a vacation from alarm clocks, deadlines, schedules and hurry. Relax! Time should be your servant, not your master. Consider some breaks from emails, cell phones, and other technology. Be comfortable, informal, flexible, uninhibited, spontaneous, playful—even adventurous! Allow time to “do nothing” and just hang out and reconnect with people you care about. Glenn Stewart, American author wisely wrote, “The deep love that is born of friendship can too easily become stagnant when life becomes busy.”
Mary Reitano is a licensed Professional Counselor Associate practicing in Lake Lure. Her focus is positive psychology with a holistic approach addressing emotional, relational, mental, physical and spiritual health. She can be reached at 704-858-2926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.