Mental health in summer can often get put on the back burner. Extra childcare responsibilities take up time, and family getaways, inclement weather, body image issues, and more need to be considered. However, mental health issues are exacerbated by things like not getting enough sunshine, short days, and gloomy weather. So, summer could actually be a great time to undertake some self-care.
The summer season can be a hard time, so keep reading to give your mental health a boost…
5 ways to work on your mental health in the summer
Mental health is a year-round concern for many of us, but the summer weather does offer some unique opportunities. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can boost your mental health in summer and all year long:
Talk to someone
The most important thing to do if you are struggling with poor mental health is to speak to someone. This might be notifying your support system, reaching out to your friends, contacting a mental health professional or making an appointment with your Doctor. Whatever you choose, remember that no one deserves to suffer in silence. Remember the people that love you will be there to take the pressure off and support you.
Sometimes, people unconsciously push their emotions down and put on a brave face. Other times it can come from having faulty beliefs like ‘I shouldn’t feel this way or ‘These thoughts are bad’. Talking to someone can give you a different perspective, help you to reframe the way you look at things, and take some of the pressure off.
Getting outdoors can improve your mental health in the summer
Most people that suffer from depression and mental health issues know what it’s like to spend days on end in the house. This is usually due to relentless bouts of mental pain and anxiety which lead to total exhaustion. However, getting outdoors can acts as a circuit breaker. So, if you can, try and set aside ten minutes each day to spend time in the garden. Alternatively, you could head to your nearest woodland – a lot of them have predetermined nature walks to help you decompress.
When we’re on our own, our minds tend to focus inwards, which makes the thoughts seem louder. Spending time outdoors can help you shift your attention toward the external world. This gives your mind a break and your body a chance to burn off some of that anxious energy.
When out in nature, allow your mind to take a break by shifting attention, consider:
- The sound of the trees rustling in the breeze
- The plants or animals you see
- The smells around you
The key is to allow yourself to be in the present moment.
If going for a walk seems too daunting, focus on the present moment and take it to step by step. The first step would be getting dressed and going downstairs. Next, put your shoes on and walk out the door. Finally, start walking down the road. Over time, you will see the resistance in your mind is nothing but a doubtful thought and that you can take time for yourself to enjoy nature and get some gentle exercise.
Tackle your sleep hygiene
When you’re suffering from depression and anxiety, your sleep can suffer. You could be getting either too much sleep or not enough, but it can trigger a negative, vicious cycle. These sleep disturbances can worsen your mental health.
Firstly, set up an alarm on your phone to remind you when to go to sleep and when to get up (including weekends), and stick to those times each day. This can be tricky at first, but allowing your circadian rhythm to stabilize and get into a routine can work wonders for mental health.
Additional sleep hygiene steps:
- Refraining using tech before bed as the blue light can interfere with your internal clock
- Ditching stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks at least four hours before bed
- Winding down before bed with a book, warm bath, or journaling
- Ensuring your bedroom is dark, cool, and free from distractions
If you’re still suffering from fatigue or insomnia after making the above adjustments, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any other causes.
Practicing mindfulness can boost your mental health in the summer
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but it’s often misunderstood. Mindfulness is not about pushing difficult thoughts away, avoiding emotions, or pretending you don’t feel bad when you do. It’s instead about taking a step back and noticing things as they are from a neutral stance. Once we allow our chattering minds to take the backseat, the body can do its job of processing emotions. And this can give your nervous system a chance to calm down.
Mindfulness is all about dropping down into the raw experience of the present moment, and you can practice at any time during the day. All it requires is that instead of fighting or ruminating in thought, you shift your focus to the ‘now’ without judging or trying to fix it.
Move your focus around and observe:
- Your breath as it rises and falls – can you deepen your breath and slow it down?
- Any sounds around you – what can you hear? How near or far are the sounds?
- How your body feels – are there dense areas of tension or pressure?
- Your emotions – can you name the emotions you feel, and where in the body are they?
- Your immediate environment – what can you see, smell or taste?
The key to this is to focus on the true and present experience of the moment. You cannot control thoughts, they will always come and go, but you can choose whether to engage in them or not. So, when practicing mindfulness, allow the thoughts to appear without adding judgment, just as you would watch clouds passing by the sky or ships across the ocean’s horizon.
Over time, the thoughts that previously had a great deal of pull on your emotions and mental state will lose their power, and you’ll be able to find yourself in a state of acceptance.
Whilst acceptance of the present moment might seem counter-intuitive, it signals to your mind that you are OK with what is. In turn, it can stop assigning importance to thoughts or feelings that used to trigger anxiety and panic. As your reactivity to thought reduces, you might also notice that your depression starts to dissipate considerably.
Be kind to yourself
When we are depressed, we often make it worse by associating negative feelings with a series of faulty beliefs or thoughts. It could be believing we’re a burden to others, that we should feel differently or that we are failing at life. Notice that these are just thoughts and that they don’t point to the truth of the situation.
Depression and anxiety are just as real as any other medical condition, and as such, you deserve equal support and time to recover. Many people suffering from depression are used to having a little voice inside their heads criticizing them all day. If you had a friend or relative that was suffering from depression, would you tell them they were a burden, that they were not enough, or that they were failing at life? No, so you do not need to do it to yourself.
Whilst those thoughts won’t immediately vanish, you can choose not to pay them attention. Instead, focus on treating yourself with patience and kindness – just as you would if someone came to you for help. And consider introducing a self-care routine to reconnect with yourself.
From addressing your sleep habits to practicing mindfulness, you now have several tools at your disposal to help you beat summertime depression. Which method will you try first?