5 tips on how to cope with summer when you have anxiety
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Don't let summer get you down. The
run up to summer is always the same for me. All my friends get more and more excited to lay in the sunshine, planning beach days and prepping their skin for their inevitable sun-kissed glow. It seems that ever since I can remember, everyone around me spent their whole year excitedly anticipating the summer months, yet I was the total opposite. I have always spent the whole year dreading the inevitable heat, beach body pressure, seemingly constant daylight and pressure to be doing fun summer activities every day.
In recent years I’ve come to the realisation that summer presents the perfect storm of situations that either trigger or perpetuate my anxiety. I’m by no means alone in feeling like this. Whilst it’s true that for most people anxiety levels are generally lower in the summer, for a small group of sufferers summertime spells trouble for their anxiety.
For me, I associate summer with the feeling of body shame I’ve carried with me since being diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia in my early teens. I used to feel my body bubble with nerves as I thought about spending all summer in teeny bikinis, constantly worrying about too much hair, too many lumps and bumps and not enough tan lines and curves in the right places. I still feel that sinking sense of dread when I think about spending most of the day feeling way too hot and sweaty, which makes my anxiety go through the roof, whilst I sit next to the fan longing for a jumper and hot chocolate season. Then there’s the pressure to be outside ‘making the most of the sunshine’.
For most people who have suffered with mental illness in the summer, you’ll know the sinking feeling of guilt and confusion at why you’re not out at festivals, at the beach or in sunny beer gardens drinking Aperol spritzers like everyone on Instagram. It’s much harder to take a mental health day in summer when everyone expects you to be outside.
For fellow summer anxiety feelers, I’ve compiled a handful of tips to help us through these long summer days, just until the leaves start to fall and we can feel human again.
1. Don’t Believe Everything You See on Instagram
Pressure creates a major stress and can trigger anxiety for so many people. It’s hard to focus on your mind, body and wellbeing when you’re surrounded by posts and pictures of people living their best lives on holiday or doing exciting summer activities all day, every day. Something that I’ve come to realise over the years is that social media is, for most people, a highlight reel. And most of us fall victim to doing this too.
You’re far more likely to take a picture of yourself at the beach bar with your friends in Spain and post it on Instagram than you are to post a selfie of you first thing in the morning, drenched in your own sweat with a mighty hangover and unflattering sunburn lines. We all use social media to post pictures that show us on our best days and in the best light, and we need to recognise that other people do this too.
When you see photos of seemingly perfect people in seemingly perfect moments, you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, and often we don’t know what’s been edited. So if you’re feeling guilty because your life doesn’t look like your Facebook feed right now, take a step back, realise that it’s just a highlight reel, and focus on doing what you need to do to make you feel comfortable and calm.
2. Decide what summer means to you
At the end of the day, summer is just a big old cliché. Most people are just hoping that their summers will look like the summers in the adverts and in the films. But unfortunately, real life doesn’t usually look like Love Island or the Virgin Holidays brochure, and that’s totally fine.
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