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As the sun shines high in the sky and the days stretch to allow for more fun, summer brings joy and excitement to many. However, amid the season's excitement, it is essential to acknowledge the impact it can have on mental health. The long days and warm weather create opportunities for adventure and rest, but they can also present unique challenges to our mental well-being. Factors like higher temperatures, changing routines, and social pressures can strain our mental health, making it crucial to recognize the significance of self-care and support during this season. As a family of facilities for mental health, Banyan is exploring the multifaceted aspects of mental health in summer, shedding light on the importance of mindfulness and compassion towards us and others as we navigate the season.
Pros and Cons of Summer Break for Mental Health
Although summer is always associated with positivity, there are two sides to the relationship between summer and mental health. Summer can have both positive and negative effects on mental well-being, and the impact may vary from person to person.
Some of the ways summer can negatively affect mental health include:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): While SAD is commonly associated with winter (i.e., winter blues), some individuals experience another version of this condition known as "summer depression." This is the result of longer daylight hours and increased heat, which can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to restlessness or irritability.
- Heat-related stress: Elevated temperatures can lead to physical discomfort and dehydration, which may worsen feelings of anxiety and agitation. Heat waves can also be dangerous and uncomfortable, further affecting mental health.
- Social pressures: Summer often involves gatherings, parties, and vacations, which can come with social pressure and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). One’s expectations of participating in all social activities can cause burnout and stress in some people.
- Struggles with body image: The "beach body" ideal perpetuated during summer can trigger insecurities and feelings of self-consciousness, which may contribute to low self-esteem and negative self-perception.
- Disrupted schedules: While students often look forward to summer break, the season often disrupts regular schedules, which can lead to feelings of disorientation and loss of routine. This lack of structure may impact individuals who rely on a routine for managing their mental health.
- Financial strain: Summer vacations and activities can be costly (especially if you want to do as much as possible), leading to financial stress and anxiety for those who can’t afford these things.
On the upside, summer can improve mental health in several ways:
- Boosted mood: Increased exposure to sunlight triggers the release of the hormone serotonin, which boosts mood and promotes feelings of happiness and well-being.
- More time outdoors: Summer provides opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and barbecues, which can improve mood and reduce stress.
- Increased time spent with loved ones: Because school is out, individuals can get together with their loved ones during the summer, which can contribute to improved mood and overall sense of well-being.
- Increased Vitamin D levels: Sun exposure contributes to vitamin D production, which is essential for physical and mental well-being.
- Vacation and relaxation: Summer vacations offer a chance to relax and take a break from daily stressors, contributing to a sense of rejuvenation and improved mental health.
It is important to recognize the potential positives and negatives of mental health in summer and take proactive steps to manage stress, prioritize self-care, and seek mental health treatment when needed. This is especially important for individuals who rely on structured schedules to manage their mental health and may struggle more during the leisure months of summer.
Tips for Improving Mental Health in Summer
Because every season of life can bring challenges, we are sharing some of our top summer mental health tips to help you get the most out of summer and navigate the season with positivity and mindfulness:
- Embrace body positivity: The summer often brings around the “beach body” mentality, which can negatively impact your self-esteem and self-confidence. Instead, be intentional about focusing on self-acceptance and body positivity. Remember that everyone’s body is unique and worthy of love and respect.
- Limit screen time: Social media can sometimes amplify feelings of FOMO, contribute to comparison, cause unrealistic expectations, and feed into body image problems. Consider limiting your social media to reduce stress and maintain a healthy perspective.
- Maintain a stable routine: While summer can be a time of relaxation and leisure, do not neglect your routine. Stick to consistent sleep patterns and incorporate regular exercise, both of which can positively impact your mental state.
- Participate in outdoor activities: Take advantage of the nice weather and engage in outdoor activities you enjoy, such as walking, hiking, or cycling. Spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to improve your mood.
- Plan downtime: As summer often involves social gatherings and vacations, remember to fit breaks into your schedule. It's okay to take a break and enjoy the quiet moments of the season. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming yourself.
- Practice mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness practices, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, to stay grounded and reduce stress during the season.
- Practice sun safety: While sunlight can be beneficial for mental health, excessive sun exposure can be harmful. Remember to wear sunscreen, use protective clothing, stay hydrated, and seek shade during peak hours to avoid sunburn and heat-related issues.
- Seek support if you need it: If you are experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns, immediately reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for support.
- Set realistic expectations: Avoid giving in to social pressures or comparing yourself to others during summer activities. Remember that not everything posted on social media is legitimate or realistic. Therefore, we encourage you to set realistic expectations for yourself and prioritize doing things that bring you joy and fulfillment.
- Stay connected with loved ones: Maintain social connections with friends and loved ones, as engaging in positive social interactions can greatly benefit your mental well-being.
- Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water and to stay hydrated in hot weather. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and irritability, and it can be dangerous in extreme cases.
Remember, taking care of your mental health is crucial year-round, and applying these tips to your summer routine can lead to a more enjoyable and mentally well-balanced season.
Asking for Help With Mental Health
No matter what time of the year it is, Banyan Mental Health is always ready to offer support. With outpatient and residential mental health facilities located nationwide, we offer treatment for disorders like depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, and more to everyone.