Despite the excitement that hot days finally arriving can originally bring, not everyone glides through the summer months feeling great.
Summer can bring an underestimated amount of stress that can trigger cycles of low moods and anxiety. Left unchecked, this can roll right into a case of summer depression.
What summertime stressors should you watch out for, and how can you best handle them to unsure sunny days ahead, both weather and mood wise?
Summertime mood killers and how to handle them
1. Comparing yourself to others.
If you are sitting in your hot city flat roasting away while looking at snapshots of your friends others next to their new pool or vacation home, you might start to criticise yourself or tell yourself you are a failure. This can trigger poor self-esteem and its resulting low moods.
Action Tip: Social media is now proven to lower moods. So monitor your time on it. Learn how to practice present moment awareness, and try gratitude, where you make time each day to notice the things that are actually going okay for you.
2. Lack of routine.
Especially for those with children, schedules that kept you moving forward and feeling organised go out the window, along with regular meal times and sleeping schedules. While for some people the freedom this brings is exhilarating, for others it can cause stress and anxiety, or make them feel so disorganised they start criticising themselves.
Action Tip: While a weekly schedule might not be realistic, try making a new schedule nightly for just the following day, integrating as much information as you have available. It will do wonders for any sleep problems.
3. Less time to yourself.
The kids off school. Your older ones perhaps back from university for the summer. And your spouse booking time off. Whereas during the rest of the year you were by yourself some of the day, you are now constantly surrounded by people. For extroverts this might be heaven, but for some the constant company can drain them or leave them overwhelmed.
Action Tip: Delegate. Let others help with household chores, meal preparation, and organising days out. Then use the time this creates to spend some time alone. Consider a daily mindfulness meditation practise where you go within – the one place nobody else can follow you.
4. Challenged boundaries.
For those of us who struggle to set boundaries on a good day, summer can present more challenges than usual. It’s not just the kids begging for permission to do things, it’s the invites to parties and events you don’t actually want to go to but feel to guilty saying no to.
Action Tip: Read our article on how to be better at saying no.
5. Body confidence issues.
For obvious reasons it’s the season when body issues are at their worst, for both women and men.
Action Tip: Bibliotherapy is a great place to begin – there are many books on the market about how to begin the journey of feeling more at home in your skin. If your body image issue has your self worth so low it’s stopping you from going out and living your life, do consider low self-esteem counselling.
6. Unhealthy eating patterns.
Forget the myth that summer is when we all naturally slim down. Instead, many of us slide into unhealthy eating habits.
It’s too easy to claim that the heat makes cooking unbearable and call for a take away. And then there are the many barbecues, backyard parties, and trips for ice cream, or the ‘doesn’t count on vacation’ mentality if you take a trip away.
It is also a season where binge eating becomes almost socially acceptable, with many not eating much in the day but overdoing it when things cool down.
Action Tip: Keep a food diary or use a tracker app like My Fitness Pal that lets you buddy up with other users (social support is great when it comes to staying on track with healthy choices). If you feel like an old eating disorder is being triggered, seek a support group or see a counsellor who specialises in eating disorders.
7. Changes in self care.
Summer might conjure up images of long bike rides and hikes, but for many of us it instead fizzles into a lot of sitting around, drinking more alcohol than usual, and again, hitting that ice cream.
Does self care really matter? It is now recognised as so connected to psychological health that the NHS has pages devoted to it – so absolutely.
Action Tip: Set small and achievable goals daily around self-care. Schedule in a self-care activity weekly you can do with the family, such as hiking. And also schedule in a few hours weekly just for yourself.
8. Money worries.
With the kids wanting distractions, you can feel pressured to spend more money in the summer. Add in a vacation away and the budget can be blown. Money can also cause tension in your relationship with your partner if one of you is more lax with spending than the other. And if it all ends in being in the red, debt is actually a common trigger of depression.
Action Tip: Don’t underestimate the importance of talking with your partner about money. Learn the signs of debt depression – if you recognise yourself in them, don’t hesitate to seek help.
9. Vacation stress.
If your summer months involve a trip away, this brings its own set of stressors. You, your partner, and your children might all have a different idea of where to vacation, causing fights. And the logistics and expenses can leave you worried or suffering anxiety, especially if you are a perfectionist or control freak.
Tip: It’s the C word again -learn how to communicate even when under stress. Let everyone be a part of organising the trip so you don’t feel entirely responsible. There is also always the thought of splitting up on different holidays if not everyone agrees – the time apart can actually be good for a relationship and mean one-on-one time for parents with children that rarely get it.
10. Birthday blues.
If you have a summer birthday and aren’t comfortable with ageing, this can be enough to trigger a slump or a midlife crisis. Summer is connected to youth and beauty, so summertime birthdays can be particularly difficult on this front.
Action Tip: Try the power of a good, quick dose of negative thinking combined with journalling. Sit down and write out all the thoughts and feelings you really have about ageing – you can rip it up when done and nobody has to see it.
Also take time to look at the negative side of being young, too, to gain some perspective. Was your youth actually rather full of acne, loneliness, and fights with your parents?
How do I know if I am actually depressed?
If you feel that your life is being dominated by your moods and you are struggling to keep interest in your hobbies, work, and social life, you might be depressed (read our comprehensive Guide to Depression for a list of symptoms).
It’s also actually possible to have seasonal affective disorder, a form of major depressive disorder, in summer. It’s estimated that up to 60,000 people in the UK alone suffer this ‘reverse SAD’ each year.
If thinking over the last few summers you can see a pattern – that you find yourself feeling a bit low as spring turns into summer and feeling increasingly miserable as the hot months progress – you might have summer-induced seasonal affective disorder.
Should you get help for summer depression?
Depression can sometimes be a gift, in that it brings to the surface all the things that have been annoying us or not really going right for us.
Even if at other times of the year you might be able to manage your annoyance, working with a therapist when such issues rise up can help you identify and deal with what is bothering you for once and for all.
And if it’s mild depression, choosing to take the support of a counsellor or psychotherapist now might mean that you avoid it turning into more serious depression in the future.
Have we missed a common summer stressor that can lead to low moods or even depression? Remind us by commenting below.