5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Summer (Plus My Summer Reading List)

5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Summer (Plus My Summer Reading List)

While winter is technically the shortest season of the year, summer always feels short-lived. It’s been that way since we were kids and we got two months off from school – two short months that came and went so fast, you’d think “there’s no way school starts again so soon!”. It’s also the one season where everyone gets a little bit of FOMO – the fear of missing out on things. The good weather brings people outside, and fills parks and trails and beaches and lakes with more bodies than what was there all spring. We have learned to plan our lives around these two months of freedom and sunshine.

I’ve been asking friends what their plans are for summer and the answers always include the word “busy”. Birthdays, bachelorettes, weddings, baby showers, reunions, camping trips and vacations. Calendars are filling up fast, and everything feels like it’s being crammed into a tiny two-month window. If your calendar looks the same, my telling you there are just 78 days until Labour Day – or 11 weeks and 11 weekends – might fill you with a sense of panic. If that’s the case, I would encourage you to try to slow down and enjoy this beautiful season. Here are a few ways you can do that…

1. Schedule Less

There was a time when I had every free minute booked solid. On Monday, I could’ve told you what I was doing every single day and night for the next two weeks. Now, I’m almost the complete opposite. I usually have a few things planned each week – often a gym date, hike date and breakfast date – but that’s it. I’m a big fan of leaving lots of afternoons and evenings open, not because I don’t want to make plans or see people, but because it gives me the freedom to say “yes” to last-minute requests – if I feel like it. Because that’s the other side of this: it’s ok to say “no” too. You’re allowed to have a quiet day to yourself, or at least a few quiet hours. If your family’s commitments require that you fill up a calendar with plans, that’s ok, but make sure you pencil in some quiet time, too. Everyone needs a little R&R.

2. Soak Up the Extra Sunlight

…and I don’t mean by trying to get a tan in it (though it’s fine if that’s what you like to do). I mean take advantage of the extra daylight we get in the mornings and evenings. I’ve always been a morning person, so it’s not usually difficult to talk me into getting up early or exercising before I have coffee or start work. But what I love most about summer is I can do the same thing late into the evening. Sometimes I wake up and go for a walk around my neighbourhood first thing, sometimes I go after dinner and sometimes I do both. I’ve even walked to the beach to catch a few beautiful summer sunsets. Whether you choose to get outside in the morning or before bed, the fresh air will energize you and the movement will release any stress you might be feeling. (The Vitamin D is great, too!)

3. Eat Fresh Food

This may not have been obvious in my last post, but I don’t actually love to cook. I do make 95% of my meals at home (usually just go out for breakfast once/week) but what I cook is very simple – especially in the summer. There’s something about summer that makes me want to get out of the kitchen. Maybe it’s the thought of having to stand in front of a stove, while already trying to cope with the heat in a city where air conditioning isn’t part of the building code. Anyway, my daily menu changes drastically, as a result, and I typically eat mostly fresh produce in the summer. Besides eggs for breakfast, I live on Greek salad, green smoothies, peppers, carrots and fruit. And raspberries and blueberries are my favourite dessert. ‘Tis the season – we might as well enjoy nature’s treats!

4. Wander (at Your Own Pace)

You know how much I’ve been enjoying exploring more of my island, this year – seeing new places, hiking, etc. Adventure days have become some of the best days of my entire month. I love driving alongside a friend, talking about anything and everything for hours, taking in new sights, marvelling at the views and more. We’re never in a race to arrive or leave. That’s actually something I love most about hiking, in general: it’s not competitive. Sure, you could try to reach a summit within a certain amount of time, but what’s the fun in that? The point is simply to get to the top and see the view. Wherever you wander this summer – locally around your city, your province/state, your country or around the world – slow down, and soak up the sights and sounds.

5. Unplug and Do Nothing

Finally, the best way to slow down and enjoy summer is to simply unplug and do nothing. You don’t have to unplug for a week, to make it count – simply give yourself 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour each day to do whatever you want, without the buzzing of a phone or computer or television nearby. The best way to unplug is to get into a body of water, like a pool or a lake. I lived in water, when I was a kid; it was my favourite place to be, because it gave me the freedom to move around however I wanted to. You could also grab a blanket or towel and lay in the grass. Watch the clouds, count the birds that fly by, listen to music, have a picnic… Or you could do what I intend to do this summer, and that’s read more – outside, whenever possible.

My Summer Reading (and Listening) List

Speaking of reading, I thought I’d share the list of books I plan to read this summer, including a few audiobooks I want to finish (or just listen to again for the umpteenth time). I also want to devour every episode of my new favourite podcast.

What I’ll be reading:

  1. Packing Light by Allison Fallon
  2. Girl in the Woods by Aspen Metis
  3. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
  4. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (won from Penguin Random House!)
  5. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  6. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
  7. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

What I’ll be listening to:

  1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I listen to this once/month, I swear!)
  2. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  3. Thrive by Arianna Huffington
  4. Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette (I am truly obsessed with this podcast.)

And I won’t be listening to it, per se, but Carrie and I are launching Season 2 of Budgets and Cents tomorrow! If you haven’t already subscribed, do that now and you’ll find not one but two episodes available for download in the morning. :)

What are some of your favourite ways to soak up summer? And what’s on your reading (or listening) list?

  • I’m trying to work less this summer, but that is hardly considering I am working on launching my course in the next few weeks. After this, though, I am going to take an even better break :)

  • Gardening! Very calming, almost a form of meditation, a significant way to distress. I have a little food patch (veg, herbs, berries, a few flowers) that is my favorite place to be in the summer. Plus very local, healthy food that I share with friends, neighbours, and family. A small 1m x 1m bed can produce salad ingredients from mid June until mid October (on the Canadian prairies), I imagine the west coast could be year round. Many neighbourhoods have community gardens as well. A bit of effort to get everything going, but then the work is pretty minimal – a bit of weeding, watering, staking-up, and the reward of harvesting/eating. Whatever is ready determines the menu. Even taking care of a planter full of flowers or herbs on a deck or balcony can be a relaxing pastime. For me, my garden is a retreat/getaway outside my door – no travel required. I definitely spend more time just watching and observing then actual work.

    Happy Summer,

    • Your thoughtful post made me want to start one of my own, Jake! Although I worry that I travel too much and wouldn’t find time to maintain it (or even pick it all when it was ready). I planted a mini container garden last year and everything died lol. Maybe I should start with flowers :)

      • Thanks! Excuse the typos (that’s de-stress & than , etc.) Good point, travel can definitely be a an issue, especially keeping things watered. I don’t have any sort of irrigation system, so something usually needs to be watered daily. We have really nice, but really short summers here in Calgary, so I mostly stay home from late May until the first hard frost (mid-September) – except for the occasion long weekend out of town and hiking day trips. I like to travel in the fall, winter and early spring (always the West Coast for green grass and daffodils) before/after gardening season – no garden to worry about, and I’m away when the weather is not great here.

        I really enjoy your blog, working my way through your older posts. It’s taking time for me, but I completely agree about being more intentional/thoughtful about the things we do, the money we spend/save, the food we eat, the possessions we have, and in general the resources we consume. That is the only way to focus on the important things.

  • Congrats on season two!

    We just spent a week in the woods without internet or cell phones–it was lovely! We’re now getting caught up, but I can’t wait to get away again.

    Reading list: The Power of Others by Henry Cloud, and for guilty pleasure just read The Kind Worth Killing, kind of a female Dexter. I also really liked No Baggage, A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering–I think you’d like it a lot.

    • Thanks, Julie! And your week in the woods sounds wonderful. I LOVED No Baggage by Clara Bensen – my fave book of the year, so far. Enjoy! :)

  • I love this, Cait. Eating fresh food is absolute favorite thing about the summer. Because of the climate, it’s super easy to grow all kinds of delicious produce down here. I swear I could eat fresh tomatoes with basil and balsamic vinegar every single day.

  • Why Not Me? is fantastic! She’s so funny and so inspiring. I’m doing all sorts of gardening. This year, I managed to grow everything from seed. Still not sure how it will turn out, but it’s been so fun (and a bit nerve-wracking!). Very excited to check out Season 2 of your podcast. I also just got into Revisionist History. Cheers to a simple summer delighting in the little things!

    • Oh now I’m so excited to read it! A friend lent me Mindy and Aziz’s books and she loved them both. And thanks for the podcast reco! I just downloaded the first two eps to keep me company on my full day in the car tomorrow :)

  • Love it! I’m reading Big Magic right now but I’ll definitely need to check out some of these other books. I love these suggestions. One of my favorite ways is lots of hikes, bike rides and sunset watching.

    • Keep your copy of Big Magic close, Nathan! I think it’s one you’ll refer to again and again. :)

  • I actually love the busyness of summer! It does fly by and the weekends are often packed with activities, but I truly enjoy this. BBQs, weddings, outings with the kids, summer festivals, etc, bring them on! I get bored when nothing is happening. So, for me, winter feels really “blah”. We are getting ready for our Toronto vacation, lots of activities planned, can’t wait! I like living in a region where we get excited about summer, the sun, the warmth, all because we have to deal with harsh winters (I live in Quebec). It makes it more meaningful I guess. I can’t believe it’s almost July already!!
    As for books, I’m making my way through a huge pile of books that I got for free. Just finishing “the Christmas cookie club” (so-so). Before, I’ve read “secret daughter” (looooooved it!). I love reading. I guess this is the one thing I should do more of this summer: read under a tree.

    • Ok yes, if I lived in a place with a harsher climate, I might feel the same about summer… but I’d still encourage you to pause and take in some of your favourite moments. :) And good to know about Secret Daughter! It’s caught my eye before.

  • It’s funny that you mention soaking up the sunlight… Just last night I was sitting on my back deck reading until the sun set. I admit that I started in shorts and a t-shirt, and ended up very bundled up because the heat of the day left much earlier than the sun did… but it was so nice to just sit out there being quiet and relaxing.

    Thanks for sharing your reading list! I’ve added them to my lists on my library account, so when I’m looking for my next book to check out, I’ll be able to see if any of those are available. I have about 4 books on the go right now, all non-fiction, all partially read… ha ha! I should probably concentrate on one so that I can finish something before it is due back at the library!

    • Oh I’ve been there, girl! Many, many times, haha. When I’m in that place, I almost get too overwhelmed and stop reading altogether for a while… so just don’t do that! Finish one and go from there. Enjoy reading from your deck :)

  • I love Why Not Me! A super empowering book for woman hidden inside an unassuming comedy memoir. :-) And this is a great list of tips, though I think I’m falling *too much* into #1, not scheduling so many things. It’s been ages since we so much as scheduled a vacation, and that’s not good either — haha. So seeking some balance on that front this summer! Trying to go back in the opposite direction and get comfortable scheduling something!

    • That’s two votes for Mindy’s book! I’ll read that one next :) and interesting you’re a total non-planner now! In some ways, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, so long as you say “yes” to some things that come up… but a vacation needs to be booked stat.

  • I love the idea of unplugging for a little bit each day. Some quiet meditation or reflection can be very emotionally rewarding. Things are always moving so fast it is amazing to just ponder what nature is. I’ve been known to just get lost in thoughts about how amazing it is that bees pollinate flowers, the way making and hearing sounds are basically just a combination of air pressure and vibrations. I’m not trying to get all hippie dippie or anything – just saying its nice to sit back and take in the wonders around us for a little while.

    • I don’t think it’s hippie dippie at all! (Or maybe it is, and we can be hippies together, haha.) But truly, it’s just about recognizing how incredible this world is and the fact that we get to live here for a time… keep getting lost in thought. :)

  • I love weekends where I have absolutely nothing scheduled. I’m just now finishing that period in your late 20s where summers were completely booked with weddings and bridal showers, and it’s wonderful having my weekends back. I feel like I actually have the time to a) get caught up on things that fall through the cracks during the week and b) like you said, enjoy those last minute plans that pop up (like chilling by the pool with a book – Why Not Me? is on my list, too!). Here’s to soaking up all that extra sunlight while we can!

    • Yes, I’m right there with you, Brittney! The summers in 2013, 2014 and 2015 were booked solid with wedding-related events. Now I don’t think I’m attending a single wedding this year!? Not that I mind going to them, but it’s really nice to get all my weekends back, like you said. :)

  • Interesting ideas. You always have an interesting take on things and great advice. I think most people are on the opposite trend though:

    1) Schedule More Things to Do
    2) Stay indoors more
    3) Eat more fast food
    4) Never wander off the path (Might get Lyme Disease or Zika or something anyhow)
    5) Buy more electronics to get even more connected
    6) What is this “book” thing you speak of?

    • Ha, you might be right, Eric! At least with #1, #3 and #5 (from what I’ve seen of people). What we all need is to disconnect a little more, get some quiet time and just be grateful for all we have. :)

  • Great list! Tig Notaro’s “I’m Just a Person” was on my list, but I read it on Sunday. I started Annie Dillard’s “An American Childhood” because the first paragraph of the preface spoke to me so strongly. Other books for my summer reading list include:

    1. New Slow City by William Powers
    2. Blue Clay People by William Powers
    3. Mating by Norman Rush
    4. A memoir about a bicycling adventure
    5. Proxies by Brian Blanchfield

    I plan on eating cleaner, fresher food in July, while I’m working on my creative project. I also intend to do a museum day in a different city and a hike in a state park that’s 2.5 hours from my house.

    And, oh, the house. I keep reminding myself that the house is my adventure this year. I want to get settled in so I can read in comfort. I’ve started drinking my first cup of coffee outside with my dogs, just taking in the yard and lifting my face to the sun.

    • Umm what is this memoir about the bicycling adventure!? Tell me more! And your mornings sound wonderful, Amanda :) when I come back next (hopefully later this summer) I want to meet your pups!

  • I hate that word “busy.” I make it my mission to never use that word. It’s just so icky. Aside from kind of craving a short term goal (that I don’t know what it is), I’m definitely being cautious about what I say yes to. I also hate the word obligation. I love my full time job, but it eats up a lot of my hours, so the rest of the hours I need to be very deliberate with how I spend my time. I loved Mindy’s book and loved Thrive (I LOOOOVE my sleep!) as well. I’m reading On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life and it’s amazing!

    • I’m right there with you, friend. In fact, I’ve totally rebelled against the idea of being busy this year (which I’m going to write about next week). Good to hear you’re being intentional about what you say yes to. And three votes for Mindy’s book! I am so excited to read it, and listen to Thrive. :)

  • Love the summer for slowing things down – eating fresh, local fruit and veg, family get togethers, wandering and enjoying some books. Thanks to everyone for the book/podcast suggestions – good timing!

  • My husband and I work most of the summer but usually take two weeks off (not necessarily together). My husband works longer hours in the summer months ad has Fridays off as well. So I have taken an occasional Friday off to make it a long weekend. We try not be too busy, but we also don’t want to waste the warm summer months. I have started a list of things to do besides going to our camper and so we have lots to choose from. Many of these are weather permitting of course. I enjoy catching up on my reading while we are camping and have many books to choose from over the summer. Its so nice to relax and not have to rush to be somewhere or have to be on a schedule.

    • Isn’t that the best part of getting away, Shelly? Not being rushed or feeling tied to a schedule every day. Soak it all up, my friend! And let me know what some of your fave books end up being :)

  • Cait–on your recommendation I’m reading Big Magic. I’m only on page 20 and it’s already something I can so profoundly relate to, I had to come comment. It’s actually freaking me out a bit! Thank you for the suggestion!

  • I like the unplug and do nothing. That is what I plan to do this summer. Last summer was so hectic and with so many commitments, I literally blinked and it was gone. Not this summer. I plan on soaking in the sun, doing as little as possible except work, focus on blogging and read so fiction and non fiction books. No heavy commitments this summer..no way!

  • We decided against any big vacations this summer, and hardly any camp for the kids. Partly for saving money, but mostly to wind down after a busy year. I’m really looking forward to relaxing and for my kids to have more of a lazy summer like I used to have as a kid. It’s just too exhausting to be scheduled all the time, to never be able to just see where the day takes you. Vacation is amazing, but you always need a vacation after a vacation with kids! Bike-riding, stoop drinking, arts and crafts and being a tourist in our own city are where it’s at this summer!

  • So glad you’re reading Finding Audrey – one of my favourite reads of 2015.

    Wish summer wasn’t so far away for us aussies – but I’m getting some good winter reading done!

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