Does the thought of getting your bathers out and lathering yourself with sunscreen dampen your mood? While most of us are aware that depression can occur for people as the season changes to winter (known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD), the impact of summer can be just as challenging for some people.
As the heat rises, warmer conditions can increase negative mood states such as feeling jittery, distressed or irritable. Summer can also bring with it a raft of expectations. Followers of online publication The Mighty reported that summer can be more challenging than winter because of “the heat”, “the expectation to have fun”, and “the pressure to have a summer body”. Not to mention how the season impacts sufferers of thermophobia (fear of heat) or other concerns such as bushfire, chronic health conditions and sunburn.
While there is evidence to suggest that getting out, basking in the sun, hitting the hiking trails and splashing around in the sea can improve our mood, at least one scientific study has found that there is no link between the weather and our mood.
If we think about it practically, the challenges we are facing in our lives don’t fade because the sun comes out.
What can we do if summer isn’t our thing?
Dr Jarrod White, Clinical Psychologist at The Mind Room, offers some strategies that may help us feel more balanced as the temperature rises:
- Remember that it is ok to say no to things that you do not feel up to. Sometimes the pressure of summer adds increased pressure to be social. We can easily convince ourselves that we need to feel guilty for staying inside, but it is important at all times to know our own limits. Saying no does not always require a justification, it is not selfish, it is often essential.
- Let go of the word ‘should’. See if this summer can be one where the word ‘should’ does little to impact your behaviour. Just because it is summer does not mean you ‘should’ feel a particular way, or that you ‘should’ be looking a certain way, or that you ‘should’ be acting a certain way. All the word should does is compare ourselves to others, which generally does not make us feel much better. When you notice that you are thinking in terms of ‘should’, recognise it, and instead check in with your feelings and desires. Instead ask yourself ‘is this what I want?’ or ‘is this what I feel like right now?’
- Find ways to soothe your body. With rising temperatures our bodies heat up more quickly. This can lead to us feeling irritable and at times more anxious. If feeling anxious, remind yourself that the heat may be playing a part and make time to cool your body. This might include finding some time in the shade, hanging out in an air conditioned place, eating some cool fruit, or drinking some cold water.
If you think you might need further help, book in to see one of our psychologists here at The Mind Room, call (03) 9495 6261 for more information.