Whether as a child you spent your summers by the beach or at camp, as a season, it is usually associated with sunshine, being outdoors, and just having a good time. Childhood summers were the epitome of carefree living.
We do not usually think of summer as a time of sadness. Most of us are more familiar with its counterpart, The Winter Blues, brought about by the shorter days and the colder weather.
As we grow older summertime starts to take on new meanings, some of which are not so enjoyable. But even children and teens can experience summertime sadness. If growing up your birthday happened to be during the summer months then you might instantly relate to this.
During summertime, depression and anxiety, are often brought about specifically by those things that are supposed to make summer enjoyable.
1. Work has slowed down. Great, right?
As the pace of work slows down during the summer, the mind is free to wonder. The weeks leading up to summer vacation often bring about a time of reflection on the accomplishments of this last academic/work year. Some of us might use this time of reflection to rejoice in the successes and accomplishments of the last year and plan for the upcoming one, others run through all the goals that have not been accomplished and end up feeling powerless to do anything about them. In the absence of structure, some of us are especially adept at occupying our minds with self-defeating and self-deprecating thoughts that leave us feeling paralyzed with shame, fear, and helplessness.
If reflection is not your thing, then work slowing down might just bring about boredom. For some, boredom can be quite challenging to deal with. In the absence of real structure, feelings of emptiness set in and can be experienced as a drifting in and out of days. As a result of all the free time, overindulgence flourishes, which while enjoyable at times, takes its toll on the body and mind. Recovery can bring about mood dips accompanied by anxiety and uncomfortable physical effects.
2. It’s beach season!
Have you lost enough weight? Is your body bikini-ready?
Summer is a time when we are encouraged to go out and show much more of our bodies than usual. It is also a time of being bombarded with images of what we are supposed to look like. It is a time when we are expected to bear all but at the same time look flawless in the skimpiest of clothing pieces, making us feel more vulnerable than at any other time.
We might try and fight it and remind ourselves that we are good enough the way we are but some of it seeps through!
Summer is a time when dieting and exercising surge, eating disorders and body-image issues flare up. It becomes harder and harder to enjoy the benefits of movement: the health, the wellness, and the endorphins. We buy into the social pressure and engage in body-shaming ourselves and perhaps others too.
3. Summer is a time of togetherness.
But what if for a reason or another you are feeling left out? Maybe you are stuck at work or maybe you are just somewhere else. Fear of missing out can be quite isolating. I don’t need to tell you that loneliness is one of the most difficult emotional wounds to heal. Instagram doesn’t help much: the rose tinted window onto a world, you are not a part of at that moment.
There is a pressure to keep up with others and to have as much fun as everyone else. Perhaps you over exert yourself in an attempt to be with others and not feel left out, partying and being plugged in all the time.
The body keeps the score and perhaps through the downs and the anxieties, it’s asking you to slow down.
If you are prone to summertime sadness then a few basic strategies might make all the difference:
1. Hold onto some structure
It doesn’t have to be work related but create a few boundaries for yourself that protect you from feelings of drifting and meaninglessness. In the same way that kids go to summer camp to maintain structure and gain new experiences. Think of your adult version of summer camp.
2. Limit your exposure to social media, or at least be mindful of its impact on you
Be mindful of your thoughts as you flip through images on mainstream or social media. Notice if they have an effect on you, whether it affects your body image, your sense of worth, or even your feelings of loneliness and isolation. Remind yourself to be kind to yourself.
3.Allow yourself some time to recover from the heat, sun, and overindulgence
Fun times can be fun but the body and mind need to recover to avoid burnout.
4. Connect with those who matter to you
Make time to connect with people you feel good being with.Feeling connected can remedy feelings of loneliness and isolation.
5. Find movement that feels good
Rather than exercising for weight loss or body sculpting, engage in activities that make you feel good in your body. Shift the focus from how your body looks to how it feels.
So, enjoy your summer but address problems as they occur. The warmer weather does not automatically prevent problems, conflicts, and illnesses. Just because its summertime does not mean that problems cannot exist.
If these tips are not enough to help you through the downs and the anxieties, then speak to a professional in your area to help you through your difficulties.