Catherine Comiskey, LCSW
Lessons of Summer: Cultivating more play and more rest
Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Imagine your childhood self - you’ve been through a year of structured and demanding classes, perhaps followed by a slew of extracurricular activities and homework in the afternoons and evenings. It’s been a long year, but finally, summer has arrived. It’s an intentional time set aside that encourages play and rest. It’s a time for renewal and recharging. You have unstructured time that gives space for you to become just bored enough to tap into your wonderfully creative imagination.
Unfortunately, for many adults, we lose this chunk of time off. Instead, we learn that we have to hustle and grind. In fact, for many, productivity begins to be a measure of self-worth and is something to be worn as a badge of honor. Of course, being productive and contributing members of society helps to create meaning and purpose in our lives, however when productivity equates to our value as humans, we are likely to lose balance with other important facets of life including play and rest. As research suggests, life satisfaction is often less based on productivity than it is based on our personal lives. It's clear that finding balance in our personal lives is crucial for our well-being.
The next time you find yourself around children notice what they do with unstructured and unplanned time. Their imaginations and sense of creativity take hold and they play.
Psychiatrist and play expert Stuart Brown, MD describes play as “voluntary and pleasurable; it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. The act itself is more important than the outcome.” Play is individualized. What may be play for me, may not look like play for you. I may find that play occurs easiest with children or animals, whereas you may enjoy playing sports or activities. Play helps invigorate us; it cultivates a sense of possibility, connection and overall engagement with life. Other benefits of play include a decrease in stress, an increase in flexible and creative thinking, and an increase in empathy and general happiness.
Tips to incorporating play into your life:
Set aside unstructured and unplanned time
Allow yourself to experience the unexpected
Join in play with a friend or partner
Play ideas: movement, sing and dance, play with your children or pets, daydream
Reflection questions to consider:
When was the last time you played?
What does “play” mean to you?
What are your beliefs around play?
It’s hard to find time to play if we aren’t well rested. Our relationships, hobbies and physical health also take a toll when we don't allow ourselves to fully sink into rest. Unfortunately, our culture is one that prioritizes productivity over rest leaving us in sleep debt. We believe that rest is a luxury, and that exhaustion is a badge of honor that proves our worthiness. Brené Brown describes the same shame beliefs that tell us we are too busy to play, are often the same beliefs that interfere with rest:
“One more hour of work! You can catch up on your sleep this weekend.”
“Napping is for slackers.”
“Push through. You can handle it.”
Tips to encourage rest:
Proper sleep hygiene
Give yourself 7-9 hours of sleep per night
Incorporate periods of rest through your days; whether through a nap, reading, stretching, meditation or your favorite TV show.
Reflection questions to consider:
What leaves you feeling rested?
What were the beliefs in your family regarding rest?
Are there fears or anxieties that surface when you try to rest?
As we transition into the summer, let's be reminded that we all deserve and benefit from play and rest.
- Catherine Comiskey, LCSW