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SUMMERTIME SADNESS: Why Some People Struggle in the Summer and What to Do About It

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Summer is supposed to be full of fun! Vacations at the beach, barbecues with friends, floating in the pool.. right? Not always. Many people find themselves struggling with their mental health during this time of year. But why? There are so many factors that can contribute to increased depression, anxiety and shame. The good news is, when we recognize the pattern and understand what is causing it, we are better able to help ourselves and seek support. Here are a few of the reasons that summer might have you feeling down and some tips to help you have the best summer possible! If you want extra support, make an appointment with me or your therapist!


Getting out and getting some sunshine can help us to feel good! But in Phoenix, the sun is a bit more complicated than that. In the summer the sun is SO intense that we often avoid it. Nobody wants to be burned, so we slather on tons of sunscreen. Also, with the sun comes the heat. We try to avoid the heat, so we often stay inside. Blocking out the sun and staying inside can deprive us of some of the important things that boost our mental health.. like vitamin D, time in nature, and leaving the house for activities. Try spending time outside when the sun and heat are less intense. Go on a walk in the morning or evening, plan time to go up North where it is a bit cooler, or take a dip in the pool!


Many people feel more isolated and lonely in the summer. Isolation can come from not having regular activities, like going to school or doing outdoor sports or recreation (or just avoiding the heat as mentioned above). So picture this.. you are on summer break, sitting at home, nothing to do, scrolling socials. Then you see "proof" that "everyone else" is doing awesome things and having an awesome time and you are lonely and sad and bored. Then you lay around in your sadness and add feel worse. What can we do instead? Schedule social activities in advance so you know everyone will be in town and you have something to look forward to. Pick a hobby that is not scrolling, that will make you feel better instead of worse. Have facetime calls with friends and family who aren't accessible.


Students and family/friends of students usually have a huge schedule shift when summer break comes. Sometimes school is replaced with a million other activities and babysitters and camps and playdates and trips.. which can be difficult to manage. Pair that with the schedule shift that affects everyone.. THE SUN (again). The sun comes up early and goes down late. For some people this is a welcome change, but for others the disruption to sleep patterns can be difficult. Try adding blackout curtains to the room you sleep in to make sure you can sleep well at the time you need to. You can also use a sunrise light to help you wake up with a sunrise whenever you want. If activity schedules are stressing you out, use a calendar! I love to color code different people or types of activities to easily see what is going on for the day. You can even try a shared calendar with others to help coordinate driving and responsibilities.. and to keep everyone on the same page.


Summer is FULL of marketing about "getting your body summer ready" and how to "get the perfect beach body" (yuck). It is hot. We typically want to wear clothes that cover us less. We often want to participate in activities that involve swimwear. It is no wonder we struggle with body image when we are constantly targeted by messages that make us feel bad about ourselves. This is a huge problem, a society problem, so it is no easy fix.. but there are steps that we can take to help ourselves feel more confident! If your clothes don't fit well, get some that do. Don't wait to have "the body I want" or tell yourself you shouldn't for whatever reason. You deserve to feel comfortable now. You deserve to feel confident now. You deserve to have clothes that fit now. There are also many resources that help to build better body image! Check out Burnout, Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, and anything Tiffany Roe.


Finances can be a struggle at any time of the year, but summer is one of the biggies. There tend to be a lot of activities going on, like vacations, parties, and camps. When we don't have the budget to do the things we would like to do, or if we cannot do these things for our friends/family, we can end up feeling defeated or ashamed. On top of that, if we are scrolling all day it will seem like everyone else we know is able to do and buy all the things. So what can we do about it? One thing is to prepare throughout the year if we can. Air conditioning typically costs more in the summer here (hot) and even gas prices tend to go up. If we can save a bit during the cooler months, it can help to cover these costs. We can also find free events around town and plan to go with friends! There are so many free or low-cost opportunities, and if you go with fun people you will usually have fun. Also check out resources you qualify for, like activities free for students, seniors, first-responders.. Lastly, ask your local library about passes that you can "check out" for things like museums and zoos!


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