For many, summer is one of the most exciting times of the year; warmer weather, sunshine, and more vacation time. While all that can create some of your favorite memories, sometimes summer doesn’t live up to your expectations, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Time seems to go by in the blink of an eye, responsibilities pile up that can keep people from living the carefree life it may appear others are living, creating a feeling of missing out and falling behind.
Summer can also have an effect on your physical health, with extreme heat exacerbating symptoms of current conditions, and negatively impact sleep and energy levels, all of which play a role in your mental health.
Always On The Go
Summer is a busy time filled with holidays, activities, vacations, camps, and family gatherings. While fun, the packed schedules can lead to being even more on the go than usual, interfering with your sense of routine and downtime. The constant stimulation can keep people disconnected from themselves by not internally checking in and self-regulating as much, leading to a build-up of underlying emotions and feelings to process.
The Social Media Effect- the grass is not in fact greener (it's probably just a filter anyway)
Social media can have you playing the comparison game, as you watch what seems like everyone else doing and experiencing more. This can leave you feeling like you aren't keeping up and maybe even falling behind in life. Perfectly curated content and the right set of filters can have you green with envy and forgetting that you are missing all the messy realities of life that are happening behind the scenes. No one's life is as perfect as it seems. More often than not, even the most perfect and happy-looking people are fighting battles and dealing with challenges that you have no idea are happening.
Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO as the kids call it)
Summer in your mind can often feel like one big party, usually a carryover nostalgia from summer vacations as a kid. No matter how much time passes, most people are just kids at heart hoping to squeeze every ounce of fun out of summer break. That can leave you afraid to have any downtime because you don't want to miss out on any of it. What if that one night we stay in is THE BEST night of the summer? That fear of missing out will have you saying yes when what you really want and need is to say no, leaving you feeling exhausted and disconnected from yourself.
The Sunday Scaries of Summer
On Sunday, as a kid you can probably remember feeling sad for the fun to end and dreading the thought of going back to school the next day. That probably still happens for you now when you think about going to work! For many, August feels like one big Sunday evening, leaving you mentally preparing for the fun to end and go back to life as usual. It's a universal feeling no matter your age– no one likes the party to end. However, that dread of summer ending, combined with the social media effect, FOMO, and the high levels of heat can all create feelings of anxiety and even depression or worsen existing mental health conditions.
Ways to Manage and Minimize the Summer Blues
Mindfulness- Mindfulness is always a great way to stay present and aware of what you are actually feeling and why. When you take the time to understand and process your emotions and thoughts you can work towards decreasing the intensity and duration of depression and anxiety symptoms.
Gratitude- Focusing on the things you are grateful for, no matter how small, especially during times you may be struggling emotionally, helps refocus your attention. It’s important to feel your feelings but you don’t want to hyper-fixate. Sometimes when you start feeling down it can spiral, making it difficult to see the positives. Practicing gratitude will help remind you there are still good things in your life. As the quote goes, ‘Every day may not be good… but there's something good in every day.’
Journal Your Feelings- Writing about your day and your feelings of the day can help you sort through them and identify patterns, which helps you process them and move forward. Oftentimes, it’s when you don't take the time to understand your feelings that you get stuck in them.
Stay Active and in Nature When You Can- The summer heat can make it hard to be outdoors but staying active and in nature is a great way to work through negative feelings and self-regulate. Try working out early in the morning or go on evening walks or hikes to avoid the heat. Swimming at a pool or lake is another great way to mix nature and exercise.
Try to Establish a Ritual or Routine- Being thrown off your routines can be hard on your mind over long periods of time. While during the summer months, things may stray from your general routine, try to establish a new normal if you can. At the very least, create a small habit or ritual. Read before bed, journal at night, add a meditation practice even if it's 5 minutes a day. Eat dinner with your family every Sunday or even nightly if possible. Routine helps create a feeling of balance and security that gives you the ease to process your emotions and see what needs to be addressed.
So as summer winds down, don’t beat yourself up about the things you didn’t do. You still have some time to come up with a couple things that are important to you and your family and enjoy them to the fullest. You can still have fun in the fall too!