Summer Mental Health Care: Now’s The Perfect Time For Treatment
Mental illnesses don’t just go away because summer is here, and for those who struggle with mental health disorders, this time of year can be especially difficult. There are a number of reasons why summertime can be such a struggle for those who have problems like anxiety or depression, and here, we take a closer look at why summer represents the ideal time to get some treatment.
Why Is The Summer So Difficult To Cope With?
Whatever the time of year, mental health problems are hard to cope with. However, during the winter when it can be cold, dark and unpleasant it feels more “normal” somehow to be miserable and depressed. When the sun comes out, though, there is suddenly more pressure to have fun and to feel great about life. Yet for those with a mental disorder, it’s impossible to just “switch off” their problems and start enjoying themselves without any issues.
While those who experience depression during the colder months often hold out the hope that once the weather warms up they will suddenly feel better, all too often when the summer finally comes around, nothing has changed. They still feel depressed. Not only can this be horribly dispiriting, other people often make the problem worse by belittling the problem, telling them to go outdoors and enjoy the sun as it could help them forget their problems. This only serves to make sufferers feel worse than ever, trapping them in a vicious cycle.
Here are just a few of the reasons why summer is such a challenging time for those suffering from anxiety or depression.
Summer Is Supposed To Be Fun
The world in general equates summertime with socializing, fun and happiness. When the sun shines, we’re all expected to suddenly have cookouts with our friends or family, sunbathe on the beach, go swimming or spend time in the great outdoors. For those with a mental health disorder, the pressure that this expectation places on them can feel overwhelming. Watching other people enjoying themselves without a care in the world can increase feelings of depression, and when other family members are keen to get outside and enjoy the good weather to the max, feelings that you’re letting others down only compound the problem.
Many people who suffer from mental health problems don’t feel capable of coping with the many social situations that summer involves. Tthis can lead to increasing isolation and loneliness – something which won’t improve the situation.
Heat – A Problem In Its Own Right
For some people, just the heat of the summer can be an insurmountable problem that compounds mental health problems. Feeling uncomfortable on a daily basis can be difficult to live with and can increase feelings of depression and isolation as sufferers retreat to indoor spaces where they can find the relief of air conditioning. Hiding inside your bedroom for several hours a day to escape the heat won’t do anything to improve your mental well-being.
A Change Of Routine
For some people, the summer signals a major change in routine. For students and those who work in the education system, the summer brings an extended period of chaos with no structure to each day. This can cause significant problems for anyone who struggles with mental health disorders for which structure is key to good well-being. Without any definite plan for each day, issues like binge eating, oversleeping and obsessive behaviors can get out of hand. With no reason to get out of bed each day, it can become all too easy to fall into a major depressive episode.
You may have heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mental health disorder which arises during the winter months due to a lack of natural sunlight. However, reverse SAD also appears to be a common problem, with sufferers becoming more depressed during the summer months.
Showing Your Body
For many people with mental health disorders, summer brings a very particular problem which is hard to cope with – showing your body. When the sun comes out and the mercury rises, it’s impossible to hide away under several layers of clothing. The heat demands that you wear more revealing clothing simply to stay cool and this can be a major issue for anyone who has body dysmorphic disorder or anxiety about the way that they look. It’s also a huge problem for anyone with an eating disorder who doesn’t want to reveal their physique and for those who have scars from self-harming. The fear and paranoia that other people could be staring at them can make summer the worst time of the year and can lead to further isolation and anxiety.
Less Contact With Supportive People
For those who are on vacation, being away from school or the workplace can mean that their usual support system has suddenly disappeared. Even for those whose life carries on as normal during the summer months, the chances are that friends and family members will be away for at least some of that time, making it harder to cope without the usual network that can be relied on to offer help in a crisis.
For many adults, the summer doesn’t mean a vacation. Instead, it means being trapped indoors at work while others enjoy the beautiful weather outside. This can trigger a depressive episode in those who are predisposed to mental health problems. Having nothing to look forward to can lead to substance abuse disorders too, as sufferers seek to replace the excitement that they feel that they are missing out on.
How To Cope With The Summer If You Have A Mental Health Disorder
If you’re dreading the summer, it’s important to take steps to protect your mental health during this potentially challenging time of the year. Here are some tips to help you to cope with the difficulties that you may face during the warmer months.
Although it may sound trite to say that staying busy will help keep your mind off your problems, in fact trying to keep your brain as occupied as possible is one of the best ways to stop yourself from dwelling on issues and allowing small problems to escalate into insurmountable ones.
For young people, setting aside time to meet with their friends and to socialize with other people their own age is important during the long summer vacation, while finding a summer job is an even better solution to protecting mental health. Not only will young people be able to earn their own money, they will be helping to set themselves up for a positive future and will be able to guard against boredom which could learn to further mental health disorders.
Exercise is known as one of the most effective ways to combat depression and anxiety, and what better time of the year to get moving than during the summer. For those who have no structure in their day at this time of year, planning in a daily workout session can create a reason to get out of bed, and the endorphins which are released after exercise can really give your mental health a welcome boost. Outdoor boot camps, hiking, cycling, swimming or simply going for a walk or a jog in the sunshine are all great ways to naturally beat the negative thought patterns that occur so often at this time of year.
Plan Something To Look Forward To
For those whose depression is exacerbated by feelings that summer is a time that keeps them trapped in the office while everyone else is enjoying themselves, planning something to look forward to is a helpful way to overcome negative thoughts. While planning a vacation may be out of the question, arranging enjoyable weekend activities such as a day at a local theme park can help to raise your spirits and give you something to focus on to help you from falling into the depths of depression.
Spend Time Outdoors
Although you may not feel like going outside during the summer, either because you don’t want people to look at you in your summer clothes or because you don’t want to feel pressured to socialize, it’s still important to find some opportunities to expose yourself to fresh air and sunlight. Both of these things increase your body’s natural serotonin levels, reducing your anxiety. Even though you may not feel like it, being outdoors in the sunshine helps to promote a feeling of well-being and mental calm. There’s no need to be around other people if you don’t want to. Take some time to sit quietly in your back yard to read a book or do some gardening and you may find that you feel a little better afterwards.
Practice Meditation And Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment. It is something which has proved to be very helpful for those suffering from mental health problems like anxiety. By taking just a few minutes daily to focus on the sounds, sights and smells around you, you can center yourself and reduce the noise inside your head, stopping ruminating thoughts in their tracks.
Make Effective Use Of Your Vacation Time
If you’re on vacation this summer, make it a time to relax and destress as much as possible. Rather than feeling pressured to give other people the best vacation of their life, take the time to care for yourself. It doesn’t need to be anything major – read the book you’ve always meant to read but never had time, spend an hour just relaxing on a sunbed, enjoy a cocktail with a friend… doing something that makes you happy, even for just a short time, is a worthwhile use of your summer.
Why Get Help For Mental Health Problems During The Summer?
For many people suffering from mental health problems, the summer is the first time that they recognize that they have a problem in the first place. As already mentioned, lots of people take it for granted that they’ll naturally feel miserable and down during the winter months, but when those feelings persist into the summer, it becomes apparent that something more is going on than simply Seasonal Affective Disorder.
For others, summer is the time when they finally have sufficient time on their hands to address their problems. During the remainder of the year, they are often rushing around at work or at school and simply don’t have the opportunity to tackle their mental health issues head-on. When the summer vacation arrives, it becomes clear that action needs to be taken to improve their mental well-being, and with enough time available to go to the doctor and sign up for counseling, it’s the right time to seek treatment.
Getting help during the summer is also imperative to avoid problems from worsening when winter comes back around again. The negative feelings that you’re experiencing at this time of year will probably only get worse with time, and when the cold, dark days of winter return you may find that you sink into an even more serious depressive state. The more depressed you feel, the more difficult it can be to seek help, so it’s always sensible to visit your doctor as soon as you notice a problem rather than waiting to see if your negative feelings will go away naturally on their own.
If you’re worried about your mental health this summer, you shouldn’t hesitate to get some support from your physician. Mental health disorders are extremely common in people of all ages, and there is no shame in seeking help for the way that you feel. If you’re dreading this summer because of the way that this season makes you feel, don’t be afraid to call your doctor. With the right treatment, you can make a full recovery in time, and hopefully by the time that next summer comes around, you’ll be able to really make the most of this time of year.