Summer is almost here, and with it comes warm weather, summer vacation and more time to spend with friends and family. It isn’t all sunshine and flowers, though. Summertime can have a detrimental effect on your mental health as well, and many of the summer-specific threats aren’t as obvious as you might think.
So, what should you look out for?
1. The Bikini Body
Warmer weather means that it’s time to start heading back to the beach or pool. It’s also time to pick out a new bathing suit. Do you go with a practical one-piece or get a bit of extra sun with a bikini? It doesn’t sound like a stressful decision, but thanks to societal pressure to have that perfect “bikini body,” it can be.
This time of year can even encourage the development of eating disorders in the effort to get that perfect swimsuit body.
Be wary of anyone trying to tell you that you aren’t the right shape to wear a bikini. And the most important thing to remember about the bikini body? The best way to get one is to have a body and put a bikini on it.
2. Social Media and the Fear of Missing out
Summer also means that grade school and college students are out for summer vacation, so your social media feeds are probably swiftly filling up with pictures of your friends and acquaintances doing all sorts of cool things. Instagram is probably the best app for this — and it’s the worst app for your summertime mental health.
A survey of social media users found that every single popular social media site — including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram — was associated with increased depression and anxiety, as well as poor body image, bullying and the fear of missing out, or “FOMO.”
Try to spend less time on social media during your vacations. Sure, you’re going to want to post pictures of your own adventures, but if you’re worried about your mental health, keep the social media use to a minimum.
3. Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder
Summer brings warmer weather, and that can be a great thing — it means you can get out of the house more, enjoy more outdoor activities and shake off some of those winter blues. Exercise is one of the best things you can do to help maintain your mental health and it’s a lot easier to do when it’s not freezing cold!
However, it’s not always a good thing. While seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is usually associated with cold weather, some people experience this type of depression during the warm summer months. Instead of eating a lot and sleeping, summer SAD sufferers tend to lose their appetite and are unable to sleep.
If you feel like you’re dealing with the summertime version of SAD, talk to your doctor or a therapist. Be persistent – summer SAD is rare, making up only 10 percent of all SAD cases. If you suffer from it, you may not even have the resources available to recognize it at first. This is why it’s always important to take time to check in on yourself and consider where you’re at with your mental state.
4. Summer Jobs and Other Stressors
Summertime is full of fun in the sun, but it’s also filled with hidden stressors that can have a negative effect on your mental health. Trying to find a summer job, keeping up with friends, dealing with summer college classes or even just the quest to find the perfect bathing suit can all end up becoming stress-inducing nightmares.
If you find yourself extremely stressed or overwhelmed with all your summer activities, don’t feel bad about cutting back on some of the things you have planned. Your mental health is more important than any pool party!
Summertime is a time for fun but remember to always keep your mental health in mind in everything that you do. Learn to recognize even the most hidden threats to your mental health and you’ll end up better prepared to avoid them.