The summer months are often painted as a time to relax and unwind, a time to soak up the sunshine and breathe a little easier. The reality is, working adults find summer to in fact be more stressful than the colder months. “We’re hardwired to think that summer is relaxing because we had it off as kids, but as adults, we still have full-time jobs, and when we do take time off, we often come back to hundreds of emails,” shares Romy Mushtaq, M.D., a neurologist and the chief wellness officer for Evolution Hospitality.

We feel more demand on our time from family and friends, but work commitments don’t decrease. Add that to the guilt we feel when we do say no in order to prioritize work and you’ve got a recipe for stress. Use the three tools below to breathe easier and center yourself this season.

Journal –
Keeping a daily journal has many stress-decreasing benefits. “Numerous scientific studies have shown that personal writing can help people better cope with stressful events, relieve anxiety, and boost immune cell activity,” offers Thomas Oppong, founder of AllTopStartups. One of these ways is by helping to prioritize. We all feel stressed when we have too much to do and aren’t sure how we’ll get it all done. Journaling can help you keep track of all the work and social obligations that summer brings, especially when clients and co-workers often take more time off and schedules are impacted. Determining the key things you must accomplish will make it more likely you’ll be able to join that early happy hour when your teammates come knocking.

Journaling also serves as a way to sort out your feelings because seeing your thoughts on paper will help you identify what is causing you stress. Maybe having your kids home all day is driving you crazy or your coworker has taken yet another long weekend and left you with extra work. Pay attention to the actions and situations that make you feel anxious or overwhelmed. Identifying these through writing will help you work through them and learn what triggers you.

Just Say No –
During the summer months everyone wants to jam in as much fun as they can, but in reality, it can cause more stress. Work isn’t calming down, and as family and friend obligations rise it can be a pinch. Cut yourself a break by saying no to certain social events. You can’t do everything, and it’s better to only choose a few things so that you can enjoy your time instead of worrying about what’s going on back at the office or at home. This goes for kids on summer vacation too. Cutting back on planned activities and camps will allow kids to combat their own boredom (an important skill to learn) and also save you endless carpooling and financial burdens.
Limiting your time on social media can also make it easier to say no. Seeing the endless trips and activities of friends can lead to comparison and a false view of what their lives are like. “That postcard-looking photo? It took 72 takes and four layers of filters to create,” reminds author Brigitte Carreiro. Decrease the number of things you say yes to and focus on staying present where you are instead of comparing yourself to others.

Maintain Your Health –
Healthy habits are often the first to go when we are feeling stressed. Those habits, however, are exactly what will help minimize stress and help us be our best. We all know the importance of sleep, but longer daylight hours and later social events can make getting the recommended eight hours a challenge. Try setting an alarm an hour before your desired bedtime so you can begin to unwind or leave an event if you’re still out. Nothing helps alleviate stress like a workout, so focus on staying active as well. Take your workouts outside and enjoy the Vitamin D boost.

Staying hydrated is also key to avoid headaches and keep your brain functioning well. Warmer weather and more time outside can lead to easier dehydration, so always keep a water bottle with you and focus on drinking half your body weight in ounces each day. You can also take advantage of summer produce and shop for fruit and vegetables at local farmers markets. Stocking up on healthy options will help you avoid temptation for those hot dogs and ice cream. Maintain your healthy practices in order to feel your best and keep a routine; this normalcy will decrease summer stress.

You Can Control Summer Stress!
The summer months go by quickly, and of course we all want to take advantage of them and have as much fun as we can. This mindset can lead to more stress, however, with increased demands on your time and resources. Combat summer stress by journaling, saying no to better manage your commitments, and maintaining healthy practices; your calendar and cortisol levels will thank you.

This guest post was authored by Sue Hawkes