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Warmer weather, an influx of social events, and a more flexible work schedule may seem like the perfect recipe for a carefree summer. Yet, this expected summer joy isn’t an inherent truth for many people who experience mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. In fact, this expectation to enjoy summer can easily lead people to feel as if something is wrong with them if the sunnier hours don’t automatically make them happier.
Taking the steps to care for your mental health is just as important in the summer as it is in the colder months. If you’ve experienced the summer blues in the past, try out these strategies to put your mental health at the top of your priorities this summer.
Give yourself a new project or goal
The unstructured nature of summer can leave many feeling directionless, especially when they see others with extravagant summer plans. Give yourself something to focus on by starting a new project. This can be a home improvement project such as installing the new roof you’ve been meaning to get to for years. Not only will you feel a great sense of accomplishment once it’s finished, but a new asphalt shingle roof has a 62% return on investment. You’ll be simultaneously improving the current state of your home and your future finances.
Your summer goal could also be something more personally challenging. Try training for a race or joining a biking club this summer. It may be intimidating to step outside of your comfort zone at first, but accomplishing whatever you put your mind to can feel incredibly exhilarating. If you’re nervous to go out on a limb on your own, ask a friend to work towards the same goal with you.
Try to disconnect
Although it may not be an official ailment, FOMO can take a major toll on your mental health. Short for fear of missing out, most people experience FOMO as they’re scrolling through their social media feeds and seeing all of the seemingly wonderful activities their friends are doing. Even if you have plenty of fun events in your own calendar, constantly seeing what everyone else is doing encourages comparison and can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong. To get away from this endless stream, it’s important to disconnect.
Designate certain periods of the day in which you don’t check your Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Take this time to do whatever makes you happy, whether that’s walking your dog, getting lunch with your mom, or reading a good book. Cracking open a book can be especially good for your mind, as people are typically more engaged with printed material over digital. While you can often skim digital text in about 15 seconds, you force your brain to slow down and process printed text. With this strategy, you can escape FOMO and give your mind something else to focus on.
Find your method of meditation
Anxious minds tend to have thoughts running through them at all times. A common solution to calm these thoughts is practicing meditation. This can come in a different form for everyone. Some people love classic meditation. Others find a massage or acupuncture session, which usually takes between 45 and 60 minutes, more helpful. Physical activities like jogging or swimming can also be effective in clearing your mind.
A majority of these methods will benefit you physically as well as mentally. Choosing exercise will obviously give your body a workout, but even acupuncture has been effective in treating physical aches and pains. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who spends all day hunched over your desk at work, then back pain may be a constant source of stress. Pursuing a treatment like acupuncture can relax your mind and relieve your pain, which will, in turn, improve your mental state even more.
Plan a getaway
Having a vacation to look forward to can do wonders for your mental health. The act of planning it can even be so effective as to boost your overall happiness for up to eight weeks. And when you’re in that different environment or embarking on new adventures, your brain is more likely to give you a healthy dose of dopamine.
It’s also the perfect strategy to leave your daily stresses behind, even if your getaway is more of a staycation. Whether you jet off to a scenic beach or take a drive to the next town over, you won’t regret using your vacation time for something that makes you happy. With the average American commuter spending 42 hours in traffic every year, you’ve certainly earned the vacation time and the relaxation that comes with it.
The discussions of summer health tend to revolve around your physical wellbeing, but it’s important to remember your mental health too. Give these tips a try this year and you just may find yourself enjoying the summer months as much as you’ve always wanted to.