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5 Ways to Maintain Your Mental Health During the Summer

Illustration of a group of Black young adults dancing at a summer party
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I have always had positive thoughts and feelings regarding the Summer season. I love the sunshine, the return of my favorite seasonal fruits, the return of outdoor activities, light, airy clothing, etc. I'm just in a better mood during the summer. Generally, much of our positive association with Summer relates to how we grew up. From June to September (or maybe from May to August) Summer was directly tied to freedom from school. We associate Summer with a time of rest, freedom, and fun with our friends and family. This can explain why it can feel a little more frustrating than usual if you're working in an office all day or if your schedule looks like anything but the one we had as kids. Our minds know that we should be looking for rest and fun and makes it that much more difficult to stay focused.

Even though many of us have those positive feelings towards Summer, it has its downside such as blazing heat, mosquitoes, and (depending on your region and the time frame) cicadas. But, more than that, there is still a degree of mental health care we need to be mindful of during the summer.

Mental Health and Summertime

Generally, people don't associate summertime with mental health issues like Depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly called S.A.D.) plays a huge role in our habit of correlating cold/cloudy weather with sadness or drowsiness. However, the keyword is "seasonal". While S.A.D. is mainly associated with the shift in mood as the weather gets colder and days get shorter, it is still possible to experience these same symptoms during the summer months.

Summer brings on a natural change in schedule. If you're someone with children in secondary school, there comes the stress of keeping them occupied every day while you still have to go to work.

A man works reads at his desk begrudgingly
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In comes a second reason for depressive symptoms in the summer: financial woes. Children go from spending most of their day at school to spending most of their day at home, which calls for more food being in the house than usual. Summer programs, camps, and babysitters are not free. You may find yourself having to put more effort into budgeting so that you can keep the kids occupied. And while a lot of us like to vacation during the summer, it can actually cause more mental and financial stress for others.

There are also more personal hurdles, like body image issues, that can make summertime less enjoyable. Being embarrassed to wear a swimsuit, shorts, tank tops, etc. can be stressful but it's too hot to wear much of anything else depending on your region. This leads to people staying inside a lot more, almost as if it were wintertime.

For a lot of people, depression and stress don't necessarily go away just because the weather is nicer.

Summer Practices to Maintain Mental Wellness

  1. Get Some Sun

No, the sun is not the answer to all of our problems but it supplies us with a great need: Vitamin D. S.A.D. is more prominent during the fall and winter because we miss out on sun exposure, a huge source of Vitamin D. It's the reason why I opt to take Vitamin D supplements a lot more from October through March. While you can obviously take Vitamin D supplements all year round, getting some time in the sun basically gives you a surge of Vitamin D so you won't have to take as much (unless otherwise directed by a physician). Your exposure to the sun doesn't have to be an all-day thing. It is suggested that anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes of sun exposure is enough to maintain healthy blood levels (or longer for those of us who are rich in melanin).

A young woman in a sundress sits under an umbrella on the beach, drink in hand.
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2. Maintain a Healthy Sleep Schedule

This is one that I have been trying to work on for years and (for the most part) I do a decent job. Believe me, I understand that getting proper sleep can be tough, but it is also one of the key factors in mental health hygiene. It can be tough, but I think it is always worth the effort to get as much sleep as possible. Try to stop using mobile devices at least 15 minutes before you head to bed. If you're not a fan of lying down and waiting for sleep, try occupying your time with reading a book or updating a journal. Drinking chamomile tea in the evening can also help with winding down. If all else fails, look into sleep supplements (I prefer a melatonin gummy vitamin).

3. Stay Active

When people hear "stay active", I think they tend to believe that they should be partaking in high-intensity exercises. But activity is just movement; it can HIIT, but it can also be walking, dancing, playing with your kids, playing with your dog, etc. Idle activities like sitting around and binge-watching can sound enticing but can have negative consequences on our mental state. 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day can go a long way physically and mentally.

A group of friends sit outside their tents, gathered around a cooking grill
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4. Avoid Social Withdrawal

I've noticed that I tend to be more social during the summer months, and I assume it has a lot to do with my increased willingness to be outside. I encourage everyone to follow suit! Summer heat is exhausting and for a lot of us, the idea of staying inside with the AC blasting all day sounds lovely. While I can't disagree that days inside sound nice, we can't expect improvement in our mental health if we don't socialize with the people we value the most. Personally, when I think of summer I think of cookouts, celebrations, my family reunion, and other social gatherings to look forward to. If large parties or concerts aren't your thing, make time for small gatherings or one-on-one time with your friends!

5. Explore and Make Memories

This could be in the form of a vacation, staycation, or just a simple outing. However you want to do it, just make sure you go out and do something! Vacations don't have to be extravagant or expensive, the whole point is to give yourself time to relax and time to participate in activities that you enjoy. Look up some activities or events that are happening in your area, pick a few that pique your interest, and go! Also, and this is important, take pictures! I like having fun summer memories that I can look back on later (especially during the winter when I'm not-so-patiently waiting for summer to come back).

Illustration of people gathered around and taking pictures at a public park.
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Here's something we all know: Life is too short not to find time for joy and fulfillment. I learned that the times I "didn't feel like going out" and "didn't feel like seeing anyone" were the times when I absolutely had to go out. I learned that I can't wait until I'm 100% happy with my body to wear the outfits I want to wear or take pictures with my husband and friends when we go do something fun. I hope that this summer you can find time for the things that bring you joy, find time for sunshine, and find time for community and fellowship.

Thanks for reading!



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