When summer rolls around, people often look forward to the warm weather, longer days, holidays, and fun activities. However, for some, summer brings feelings of anxiety and depression, and heightens mental health challenges. When people think about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it is often associated with the winter as the days get shorter and sunlight becomes limited. However, SAD can also affect people in the summer months as well. Summer Anxiety is a form of SAD that occurs during those summer months. Symptoms of SAD include, but are not limited to, the following during the summer:
- Feeling on edge and/or moody
- Increased feelings of sadness or depression
- Feeling physically jittery, muscle tightness, and palpitations.
- Experiencing an increase in panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping and/or a poor sleep schedule
- Increase in rumination, worrying, and/or obsessing
- Dreading holidays and other activities associated with summer to an atypical amount
Although the reasons for Summer Anxiety are not fully known, experts believe it can be due to a variety of different reasons. Too much sunlight during the summer can throw off people’s circadian rhythms and lead to negative mental health effects. Summer Anxiety may also be a negative response to the summertime heat.Also, the change of routine and lack of structure during the summer may affect mental health negatively. Summer can also bring with it a lot of pressure, such as the pressure to have fun, travel, and make the most of the warm weather. Social media can trigger these feelings by highlighting what everyone else is doing and negatively affect your feelings about your own summer. If you struggle with the summer and Summer Anxiety here are some tips on things you can do to help try and cope with the summer months.
Try to stick to a strict schedule/routine
Make sure you wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday to maintain your circadian rhythm. Ensuring you have a proper sleep schedule and are getting enough sleep every night can have a very positive effect on your wellbeing. Also, try eating at about the same times everyday. Also make an effort to work out or be active everyday. This will increase your mood by releasing serotonin and endorphins in your brain. If you can’t work out everyday, make it a goal to do so for the majority of the days in the week. Even just being active everyday, such as walking around, will have positive effects.
Even though you may feel pressure from others to make the most of every minute of the summer, remember that it is okay to take the time you need to rest, relax, and recover. Try to make sure you include downtime into your schedule throughout the summer for this and to not overwork or stress yourself. Consider using your vacation time over the summer to relax and recover instead of pressuring yourself to get everything done around the house or go on a stressful vacation. Wellness days are a great use of your time off if you need to take the time to work on your mental health and wellbeing.
Plan things to look forwards to
Everyone has a different idea of what a fun day looks like, or even the perfect summer. It’s okay to not want to do what your friends want during the summer, not everyone enjoys the same thing! Instead, plan activities that you look forward to doing. Focusing on these things throughout the summer can have positive effects on your health and wellbeing, instead of forcing yourself to all of the summer shenanigans that only cause you stress and anxiety. By planning things you will look forward to, they will reward and reinforce your efforts and positive mood. You are also more likely to be willing to try something new when you have something to look forward to or that comforts you. So try developing a balance of if you have activities you aren’t excited about and things that you will look forward to to balance it out. Remember it’s okay if those things are not necessarily someone else’s ideal summer activity. They could be anything from a restaurant or food dish, getting out of town, a wellness day, or anything else. Make sure to prioritise your wellbeing and things you will actually be excited about.
Avoid spending too much time in the heat
Even though the sunlight has lots of benefits such as serotonin and Vitamin D, getting too much sunlight or spending too much time in the heat may be having negative effects on your wellbeing and catalysing your negative emotions. Try to avoid spending too much time in the heat by doing more indoor activities where you can hide from it and enjoy the chill of the air conditioner. Still make an effort to get outside some to gain the benefits of the sunlight and not feel trapped inside. Try going outside early or late in the day also to avoid the temperature highs and instead enjoy the slightly cooler air.
When you are struggling with your mental health you can often feel very alone, especially in the summer when everyone seems to have such busy schedules. If you are struggling with summer anxiety, maintain those connections with friends and family by reaching out and making an effort to surround yourself with those people. Social interactions can help boost your overall mood and increase feelings of self worth and belonging. They also provide support and allow us to share and create experiences. Consider getting together with others to do an activity you will look forward to or try hanging out early or late in the day to avoid the heat!
Ask for help
When you are struggling one of the best things you can do for yourself is ask for help when you most need it. It’s not a bad thing to need help. You may need help taking care of your kids if you have any who are off from school during the summer. You may also want extra help cooking and cleaning around the house so you can focus on your mental health and not have any additional stresses. Finally, schedule sessions with a therapist who will be able to offer you support, tools to cope, and a safe space to open up about your feelings, anxieties, and struggles.
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Author: Sydney Perks, Content Contributor at InsideOut