May 4, 2018

Mindfully Managing the Summer Blues

Summer is supposed to be fun, right? Warm weather, BBQs, trips to the beach, plenty of sunshine, time with family- what's not to love? Well, plenty. In fact, research shows that rates of suicide and depression actually go up during the spring and summer. Summer is tough because it can feel like everyone is out having a great time. Social media makes it even more difficult when your feed gets filled with pictures of everyone's latest, amazing vacation. Some people might feel overwhelmed by the pressure to be social and have fun during the summer while others feel left out or like they aren't doing enough. Money can also make summer difficult. Some jobs naturally slow down during the summer and there is the pressure to spend money on big vacations. Also, increased sunshine, while wonderful, might mean more hours of wanting to be awake and active and less hours resting and sleeping.

Below are some tips to make your summer more meaningful and relaxing.

1. Manage expectations

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of summer and think it will finally be the time that you get all of those books read, go on all of those amazing vacations, and love every second of it. Realistically, August will hit, leaving you feeling exhausted and disappointed because half the things you hoped for didn't happen. I'm not saying to not get excited about things, you definitely should! But be mindful and realistic about what you want to do over the summer and focus on those things. When I lived in Brooklyn, I would dream of driving to the beach every weekend because it was a very quick and easy trip. I was lucky if I made it to the beach once and then would find I would get angry at myself for not getting there more. If instead I had been a little more realistic and planned just one or two beach trips, I would have been much more satisfied.

2. Stop the comparisons

Summer is also a great time to stare at everyone's seemingly amazing body and wonder why yours doesn't quite work the same way. It's also a great time to compare everyone else's vacations to yours (or your lack of) and feel disappointed that you don't have more money or more time or a better job with better vacation benefits. Be mindful when your brain starts to go down the comparison spiral. Notice what you are saying to yourself, thank your brain for its thoughts, and direct your thinking back to something else. This might look like "I notice that I'm comparing myself to Susie and her trip to Dubai. Thanks brain, but that thought isn't really helpful right now. I'm going to go do an activity or practice some mindfulness and gratitude activities." It might feel silly to talk to your thoughts, but oftentimes that's enough to stop the spiral or at least shorten it.

3. Say no to trips and events

It can feel like the world comes alive in the spring and summer and like there are a million events, parties, weddings, and vacations you want to participate in. Be intentional about what you say yes to and practice saying no. I know we all have that fear of missing out, but it's hard to enjoy something when you spend the whole time exhausted or feeling a little resentful about all of the money you spent. If you're saying no to a wedding, find some time to FaceTime and catch up with the couple. With vacations and other events, pick the ones that will genuinely bring you the most joy and the least stress. Set a budget at the beginning of the summer and plan accordingly. It's easier to say no when you have specific numbers to reference.

4. Get some sleep

As great as all the extra sunshine is, it might disrupt your sleep schedule. The sun sets at almost 9pm in Georgia during the summer. I'm all about staying up and enjoying the extra light but I find myself staying up way later than I usually do and getting less sleep. I have to remind myself that just because it isn't dark, doesn't mean I shouldn't start winding down. Be mindful of how the light might change your sleep schedule and adjust accordingly.

5. As always, practice mindfulness!

Make sure to take plenty of pauses during these spring and summer months to stop and enjoy things. Mindfulness is all about noticing what's going on in the present moment without judgment or expectation. Take a moment to stare up at the clouds and watch them float by. Pay attention to the breeze in the trees. Notice how the sun feels on your face. And of course, take a moment to watch the fireflies and enjoy their light.

Summer can be wonderful but sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to make our summer perfect. Be intentional with your time, your energy, and your money. Be kind to yourself if you don't get to do everything you wanted and practice gratitude for the things you did get to do.

And if you need extra support, read more about therapy for depression here.

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