The Fourth of July: A More Relaxed Approach
The Fourth of July, known as Independence Day, celebrates the anniversary of when America became a country. In the years since the holiday has become a time to gather and embrace what it means to be American.
For many of us, this weekend is usually filled with parades, community events, and the grand finale of the evening: a spectacular fireworks show. Even those of us less likely to participate in the grander and more formal events are likely to host or attend cookouts or barbeques. At least, that’s how our Fourth of July celebrations looked before.
With many communities still in lockdown and events being canceled or held virtually, our celebration this year probably feels very different. But different can be a good thing. Especially if we are able to find ways of celebrating that include resting and recharging the brain.
Whether it’s the 4th of July or any holiday weekend, we rarely use the time off of work to actually rest or relax. Instead, we get up early to cook, or go to a parade, or join in a public celebration. Often, we end these weekends more tired than when we began.
In order to be resilient, it’s important that we rest our brain. We can use the extra downtime to take a nap and be sure to drink plenty of water, especially if alcoholic beverages will be part of the day. If parades are canceled, go on a hike with family, or have a small picnic in the backyard and invite extended family and friends to join online. There are plenty of ways we can engage and connect without taxing our bodies or our brains.
Since many events aren’t happening at all or can be enjoyed in our pajamas from the couch, we can enjoy a much more relaxed holiday weekend. Allowing ourselves to slow down is vital for our productivity and give us the ability to work at our fullest potential.
Recharge our battery
If we think of our brains as batteries, we can begin to understand the need to rest and recharge them from time to time. When we live life on the go, constantly pushing our bodies and brains to perform with little rest, we are performing on a battery that is running far from one hundred percent. And when we push ourselves through holiday weekends rather than taking the break to rest and relax, we strain our battery even further.
It can seem counterintuitive that having fun is draining. But it can be. Take planning a barbeque for example. It may seem different than completing a report for work and it’s something we may enjoy far more, but the tasks and stress of planning a menu, shopping for supplies, cooking, serving, and cleaning both before and after the event can be just as draining.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t host a barbeque or plan some other event, because the emotional rewards help minimize the stress, which can then reduce how drained we become. However, we need to be aware of how taxed our body and our brain are from our normal day-to-day lives, and adjust our holiday plans to include plenty of breaks, rest, and relaxation. This might mean asking for help or simply allowing our weekend to be a guilt-free, quieter affair.
Cue the rewards
For some of us, the Fourth of July is steeped in years of family traditions. It’s not about the fireworks, or the parades, or the barbeques. It might be a day of family reunions and camping trips, where generations of family members cement cherished memories. And canceling those may not be as relaxing as visiting from our homes.
Holidays, especially those where we form deep, emotional connections with, can become rooted in the reward system of our brain. Depriving ourselves of this connection can result in feeling despondent, sad, or anxious. If we aren’t able to fully immerse ourselves in the experience, we can still celebrate in smaller ways that engage our reward system and create this positive state of mind.
Decorations are strong visual cues, so going all out in our home decorations can help bring the holiday spirit to life. If camping or other outdoor events were what we were looking forward to, recreating the experience in our backyard, or even our living room can trigger that reward. Perhaps we can organize a neighborhood parade, with cars and bikes and families participating in their own unique and creative ways. These can all make us feel connected and engaged with our family, friends, and communities which then satisfies the reward systems in our brain. Get creative!
Holidays weekends are often a time where we look forward to activities and events to celebrate with friends and family. And this Fourth of July is no exception. However, it’s important to take extra time to rest and relax too. Our bodies and minds need to rejuvenate in order to operate at our peak efficiency. We should be mindful about how much we take on in order to facilitate our celebrations, remembering to find the right balance that allows us to participate while also recharging.
At the same time, if this holiday weekend feels more subdued and we find ourselves feeling cut off from the usual activities we would normally engage in, it’s important to recognize that loss and get creative in planning alternative ways to celebrate safely. Just as it’s vital to give our brain a rest, it’s also important to maintain our emotional well-being.