Summer is allegedly on it’s way! For many people, the mere whisper of the word conjures up images of sun-drenched days in far off places, lazy afternoons by the pool, and evenings filled with laughter.

For others, the long-awaited escape from the daily grind can also bring an unwanted visitor, in the form of stress.

It might seem counterintuitive. After all, shouldn't the things we crave the most bring the most joy? The truth, however, lies in the intricate balance between our emotional and intellectual minds.

You see, the primitive emotional part of our brains is all about keeping us safe. It operates in a simple, binary way – threat or no threat. It is often called the fight/flight side of the brain.

Unfortunately, for this vigilant part of us, change, even the good kind like a summer vacation, is a red flag. It disrupts our familiar routines, the very things that make us feel secure.

Martin Furber says don't let stress ruin your summer breakMartin Furber says don't let stress ruin your summer break

Meanwhile, our intellectual mind recognises the positives of a summer break. It sees the opportunity for relaxation, rejuvenation, and connection. The problem is, when faced with a perceived threat (aka summer holiday in the eyes of our emotional mind), the intellectual part of the brain often gets sidelined.

So, what can we do to bridge the gap between our two minds and ensure a truly well-being-focused summer? Here are a few tips:

  • Acknowledge the Stress: Denial is the enemy of progress. Recognise even positive change can stir up anxiety. Validate your feelings and remind yourself these are primal instincts trying to keep you safe.
  • Plan and Prepare: Our intellectual mind thrives on structure. Make a loose plan for your holiday –having a basic outline can help alleviate some of the anxiety of the unknown.
  • Focus on the Present: The emotional mind lives in the present moment, fixated on immediate threats. Mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing can help anchor you in the present.

Remember, a summer holiday can be a wonderful opportunity to recharge and reconnect. By understanding our internal tug-of-war we can bridge the gap and ensure a truly well-being-filled summer season.

It’s two years this week, since I started to write this column. I’d like to thank the various people and organisations who have supported me. If you run any type of group or activity to help people with their mental health locally, then do get in touch, so I can let people know about it. If there are any particular aspects of mental health and well-being you would like me to cover, drop me a line.

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England