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Flexibility Makes You Fit for Summer Fun

Key coping skills fit perfectly into a suitcase.

Key points

  • Time spent near water and in green spaces promotes well-being and lowers stress.
  • Yoga games promote movement and centeredness, providing a mood boost or time out.
  • Losing oneself in a character’s world can lowers stress and heart rate, showing books are like portable magic.

Sunscreen, bug spray, water bottle and towels get tucked into your beach bag, right? These items keep you from getting fried, bit or dehydrated. Towels provide comfort, warmth if you step out of the pool into chilly air.

As families assemble these things, they may forget key coping skills and set out with other things destined to make them miserable. Here’s how to make your time more fulfilling, and less frazzled.

What to Leave Behind

Pack fewer video games and streaming app content that doesn’t meet your family values. What? Can’t live without the iPad to entertain kids in the car? It’s not the device but the content wielding the most influence.

“If you wouldn’t take a foul-mouthed or mean character from your child’s favorite sitcom on a two-week vacation, then delete the app that provides it oxygen,” says Dr. Tim Murphy, author of The Angry Child. “Set up a media diet of curiosity, confidence, kindness. When kids view disrespect, you’ll see more of what they pay attention to.”

Next, clean up resentments or incidents that could be talked through via apologies and under­standing. Dr. Murphy calls this the last stage of anger—the cleanup. Without cleanup, that negativity leads to the buildup, with sparks, explosions or implosions that alter vacation fun.

Pack Aids for Fun and Flexibility

“When you wander near lakes, rivers, oceans, or streams, you receive great stress-relieving health benefits,” writes Gina Simmons Schneider, Ph.D., in Frazzlebrain. “Even brief walks near blue spaces improve mental health and well-being and lower stress.” Green spaces, gardens, forests and trails invite movement and get those feel-good, natural hormones flowing to improve mood as well.

Antidotes to feeling frazzled include games, yoga, books or a combination of all three. You Are Strong and Worthy by Harmony Willow Hansen is a must-have, hardcover book that offers confidence-boosting affirmations along with yoga poses to promote mental and physical flexibility. “You are worthy of love,” “I am always learning and growing," “Do what you love,” and “You get to decide your own path” are only but a few of the positive thoughts in this book, published by Workman Publishing/Hachette, that features people of all colors and shapes. Make this a souvenir for your grown-up self before you zip up that carry-on bag.

Yoga not only builds physical core strength and aids balance, but it also makes one’s body and mind limber. “Yoga is really effective because it’s so tangible,” Jessica Mei Gershen, a certified yoga instructor, told the Harvard Health newsletter.1 We gain awareness, confidence, gratitude and compassion, which help in all aspects of life, she says.

If you don’t know much about this popular exercise and meditative relaxation, yoga supports memory and concentration, promotes self-esteem and this aids better academic performance.2 Therapists know that yoga and meditation lends itself to feeling more centered and in control of one’s body and emotions, and thus, it’s a self-care technique often recommended.

Yogi Fun Kids Yoga Cards Kit should be stashed in the suitcase. Pull out this small vacation surprise on rainy days as it will propel movement and relaxation for kids. Adults can enjoy when they, too, need a time out from unplanned frustrations. The cards depict yoga poses and the benefits of rhyme. Instructions for several games provide four fun ways to use this.

Yogi Fun & Workman Publishing, used with permission
Source: Yogi Fun & Workman Publishing, used with permission

If your child knows yoga, try the Yogi Dice, even smaller to tuck into luggage. This, too, can be made into various challenges. Very young children will enjoy the puzzle building of the Yoga Train, a set of cards with poses that involve several kinesthetic activities.

Beach Books: A Staple of Relaxation

A study from the University of Sussex reports that by losing oneself in a character’s world, reading a novel or a memoir for instance, readers can reduce stress by up to 68 percent.3 How is that possible?

Researchers at this UK institution found that while reading, the subjects’ heart rates lowered, and muscle tension was reported to lessen also. Reading fully engages one’s mind, forcing people to imagine possibilities and have empathy because they are getting behind the heroine or hero of a story.

Reading transports people into other settings. It’s a way to vicariously enjoy new surroundings, even those you cannot visit. It sends readers’ minds into a state similar, in some cases, to meditation. It also stimulates brain cells, which flexes one’s brain. Since stress can lead to a poor night’s sleep, lowering it by reading has been shown to aid in more restorative sleep.

Past posts I’ve penned extolled the bonding that reading brings to children, the romance it can spark when shared as a couple, as well as how reading aids cognition. A Rush University study published results of a study that showed that avid readers experienced 30 percent less memory loss and showed the least physical signs of dementia.4

Novelist Stephen King wrote in his memoir, “Books are a uniquely portable magic,”5 no matter if it’s fantasy, women’s fiction, suspense novels or thrillers. With how novels and non-fiction exercise our minds, and yoga flexes our bodies and promotes relaxation, self-care vacation surprises deserve to be stashed in the layers of your suitcase. Bon voyage!

Copyright © 2023 by Loriann Oberlin, MS






5. King, S. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (New York: Scribner, 2010)

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