PSA: This is why you might feel more anxious in the summer
Just because it’s sunny doesn’t mean you’ll feel positive on the inside…
Summer: ’tis the season of park picnics, long evenings and buoyant moods… or so you may be led to believe. But if you feel less than radiant in the warmer months (and no, not just because of the pandemic), you’re not alone. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the mental health condition that negatively impacts people during the darker, colder months, can work both ways. Around 10%* of those with SAD find themselves struggling in summer too. Even if you don’t think SAD is the issue, there are plenty of other reasons to feel anxious and low at this time of year. Here’s why…
FEELING THE FOMO
Anxiety can arise from the fear of missing out. “As the temperature rises, so does the number of sun-drenched images on our feeds,” points out Katie Brown, head of psychological content at Psychological Technologies. This was true even last summer, after the first COVID-19 lockdown had eased. “Social media is a hotbed for comparing the messy realities of our own lives to the highlights of other people’s.” Cue feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
How to manage it: “Focus on what you’re grateful for in your own life, ask yourself what you really want and what matters to you, and remind yourself it’s not a competition,” advises Brown.
Whether it’s a picnic in the park, a day on the beach or a rosé-fuelled pub garden session, the invites come in thick and fast at this time of year. But what if, for you, this spells fear? “Summer is usually a time of more social engagements, and if you have social anxiety and constantly feel uncomfortable around others, this can be a nightmare,” says Chloe Brotheridge, a hypnotherapist and founder of the app The Anxiety Solution – Daily Calm. As pandemic restrictions ease and invites to social events return, you might feel this even more acutely. “We’re also more likely to be around alcohol in the summer months, and anyone who’s ever experienced ‘beer fear’ after a big weekend will know that it can be difficult to shake off,” Brotheridge adds.
How to manage it: “When it comes to social events, instead of imagining what could go wrong, start to imagine what could go right,” says Brotheridge. “Create a positive image in your mind of yourself feeling calm and confident at a party, and try to manifest those feelings into reality.”
Summer’s longer days could also be contributing to how you feel. Isabel Leming, senior technician at mental health clinic Smart TMS, says the onset of SAD symptoms may be a result of our body clocks being thrown off-kilter. The increase in heat and humidity may leave us dehydrated, and not getting enough water can lead to the body feeling stressed.
How to manage it: “Block out as much sunlight as you can when you’re trying to sleep,” recommends Leming. “Exercise also helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.”