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The Myth of the Carefree Summer

By Debra Kissen

Embracing a Meaningful Summer on Your Own Terms

As the days grow longer and the temperatures rise, the idea of a carefree summer often looms large in our minds. We envision a season of relaxation, fun, and freedom from the stressors of the rest of the year. However, the reality of summer can often be quite different. In many ways, summer can be just as busy and stressful, if not more so, than other times of the year. At Light On Anxiety, we want to shed light on this myth and offer practical tips to help you create a meaningful, engaged summer on your own terms.

The Reality of Summer Stress

1. Lack of Structure: While the absence of school and regular routines can be liberating, it can also lead to a lack of structure that many find unsettling. The predictable schedules of the school year provide a framework that helps manage time and activities efficiently. In contrast, summer’s open-endedness can create a sense of chaos.

2. Changes in Schedules: Vacations, summer camps, and varying work hours can disrupt daily routines. Adjusting to these changes can be stressful, particularly for those who thrive on consistency.

3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Social media often portrays an idealized version of summer, filled with picturesque vacations and endless fun. This can create a sense of inadequacy and pressure, leading to anxiety about not making the most of the season.

4. Sleep Pattern Disruptions: Longer daylight hours and the temptation to stay up late can interfere with sleep routines. Poor sleep quality can exacerbate stress and anxiety.

5. Body Image Issues: Bathing suit season can trigger body image concerns and self-consciousness, detracting from the enjoyment of summer activities.

6. Relaxation-Induced Anxiety: The expectation to relax and have fun can paradoxically lead to anxiety. The pressure to feel relaxed at the beach or on vacation can make it difficult to actually unwind, creating a cycle of stress.

It’s important to note that these feelings are common. Studies have shown that anxiety and depression rates can increase by up to 25% during holiday periods, including summer. This is a reminder that if you’re struggling, you are not alone.

Embracing a Meaningful Summer

Instead of striving for the elusive “best summer ever,” focus on creating a meaningful, enriched, and engaged summer experience. Here are our top 10 tips to help you live your summer to the fullest on your own terms:

Top 10 Tips for a Fulfilling Summer

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Acknowledge that not every moment will be perfect. Aim for meaningful experiences rather than perfection.
  2. Create a Flexible Routine: Establish a loose structure to your days to provide a sense of stability while allowing for spontaneity.
  3. Limit Social Media: Reduce time spent on social media to avoid comparisons and FOMO. Focus on your own experiences instead.
  4. Prioritize Sleep: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to support your mental and physical well-being.
  5. Practice Body Positivity: Embrace your body and focus on how it allows you to enjoy summer activities rather than how it looks.
  6. Engage in Mindful Activities: Incorporate mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, or simply being present in the moment.
  7. Plan Meaningful Activities: Choose activities that align with your values and interests, whether it’s spending time with loved ones, pursuing a hobby, or volunteering.
  8. Set Boundaries: Learn to say no to activities that do not serve your well-being. Prioritize what truly matters to you.
  9. Stay Active: Physical activity can boost mood and reduce stress. Find enjoyable ways to stay active, whether it’s swimming, hiking, or playing sports.
  10. Seek Support: If summer stress becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. Talking to a therapist can provide valuable coping strategies.

By letting go of the pressure to have a perfect summer and focusing on what brings you joy and fulfillment, you can create a summer that is genuinely enriching. Remember, the best summer is one that feels right for you.

Dr. Debra Kissen is CEO of Light On Anxiety CBT Treatment Center. Dr. Kissen specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)...

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