How To Beat Anxiety In The Summertime
As the seasons change, so do we. We may have more time for fun in the sun, but some, especially adolescents and notably college bound teens, often feel down or anxious as these seasonal changes occur.
Why? Well there are a number of reasons.
- Specifically, college kids and teens can be affected when unstructured days replace their usual school routines. Home for the summer, they often put all of their hopes into the downtime, and expect to have a “great summer”, free from expectations and pressure. This can leave them anxious and constantly thinking about “what’s next?” Think “FOMO”….Fear of Missing Out. But fear not, as there are ways to beat anxiety in the summertime that can help you to manage and enjoy your summer.
- Another factor is often lethargy in and of itself…which tends to lead to depression and/or anxiety in teens prone towards it. An unstructured summer following a busy spring is a jolt to the system.
- A third trigger can hit the college bound youth. Fear of the unknown coupled with the sadness that can be felt at the thought of leaving high school, their friends, family, their environment, can often play a bigger role than the excitement they may have felt a few months earlier at the prospect of their “adventure to come”.
- For high school graduates who are not headed to college for whatever reason, depression and anxiety can hover heavily. The idea that the world, especially “their world” is going on without them, the feelings of being left alone, of not being part of the “next step” can often throw teens into a state of depression that they feel helpless of digging out of.
- Lastly, although technology can be great for connection and to catch up with friends, it can also have negative effects. Social media, gaming, and other internet vices can keep someone from human interactions. Teens in particular, spend a lot of time on the “screen”, which can impose a risk on someone’s mental health. Talk about exacerbating a problem. Screen time is prime for allowing kids an easy way out, which in the end, may be way less helpful than we’d like it to be.
1. Anxiety disorders and teens
Anxiety Disorders are really common and can take many forms. They affect 40 million adults and one in eight children in a given year in the U.S. What characterizes an anxiety disorder is the state of having excessive and unrealistic worry about everyday things that lasts at least six months. As this can mentally cripple someone from enjoying activities and or a social life, it is important to know that anxiety disorders can co-occur with other disorders, such as depression, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and in children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Having an anxiety disorder is not characterized by something such as the normal emotion of being anxious before an exam, or a first date, but rather a mental illness which is long-term and debilitating.
Despite the fact that certain ages or demographics can bring on different struggles, anxiety disorders can happen to anyone for any reason. While life events can exacerbate anxiety, some people may be more predisposed to it than others.
Nami suggests that people with anxiety disorders tend to have both emotional and physical symptoms. Environments that cause traumatic experiences like death, violence, abuse and more can cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder. Scientists even suggest that genetics play a role for developing anxiety disorders if there are a higher amount of relatives with similar disorders.
More or less if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you may have an anxiety disorder. Symptoms and experiences can include:
- Overwhelming feelings of panic and fear
- Uncontrollable obsessive thoughts
- Painful, intrusive memories
- Recurring nightmares
- Physical symptoms such as feeling sick to your stomach, “butterflies” in your stomach, heart pounding, startling easily, and muscle tension.
Although these are your typical anxiety disorder symptoms, they are not limited to the list above. Anxiety disorders can be unique and different from one another. As mentioned earlier they can even co-occur with other mental illnesses. In addition, even the seasons can cause anxiety and other mental health related illnesses. When the seasons change, mental illnesses and feelings can amplify. Summertime sadness is a real thing as others may say that winter blues is also a thing.
Mood disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) can happen at different points of the year. Many may think that this only happens in the winter time, however, this is not always the case. Symptoms of SAD or MDD can happen during any season. Specifically, the beginning of the summer is where many can develop these disorders. May is a busy month where schools and jobs are at their peak times. The months that follow can throw off one’s momentum. It’s as though people don’t know how to unplug after being in routine for a few months at a time. These mental conditions can be similar in symptoms despite the season.
Some may experience these SAD/MDD symptoms:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased restlessness
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of interest in usual activities and decreased socialization
Since we are experiencing longer days and more sunlight this extra time can give those with anxiety disorders more time to worry and become consumed with their thoughts. Literally.
Suicidal thoughts can be a major concern because of symptoms of mood swings, feelings of hopelessness and co-occurrence risks of depression that can onset these thoughts and actions. It is wise to seek professional help if you start thinking about suicide or have symptoms that can lead to suicide. Learning more about suicidal thoughts, symptoms, help and prevention tips can help open a door for proper diagnosis, treatment options and recovery for you or someone you know.
2. What you can do about summertime anxiety
Many people struggle with finding the best way to deal with their anxiety, especially in the summertime. As teens grow anxious about going away for summer camp or if your home from college it can be tough to manage these feelings and anxiety tendencies. It is important to know that if you are a parent and you are sending your teen to camp try getting them into one that has more structured activities so they’ll know what they will be doing. This can greatly help ease someone with an anxiety disorder that hates sudden change. If you’re old enough not to go to camp and or returning home from school, here are some things you can do to help manage your anxiety.
Get a job.
Getting a job in the summertime has more benefits than you know. If all of your friends are working or traveling and doing fun things that cost money, maybe it’s time to get a job so you can do these things too. Having a job will also put more money in your pocket for the summer and even into the next semester of school. Most importantly getting a job can also provide structure. At least you’ll know your work schedule so that you can better manage your time and summer fun versus sitting at home and pondering what to do next or to fill the time.
Get more exercise
Making the time to exercise more during the summer can not only help distract someone from anxious thoughts, but it can also boost self confidence and overall health. Feeling good about oneself can help to combat thoughts of anxiety and self doubt. If someone is having anxiety about events or struggles in their life, exercise can serve as a helpful distraction.
For people who are affected by anxiety, too many thoughts can be suffocating. During meditation, people can channel these thoughts in a peaceful environment, rather than a hectic one. Taking time out of the day to sit, relax and reflex can be extremely therapeutic for those affected by anxiety disorders.
Clean out your closet. Really
The months of May and June can be frantic, when teens and college kids are doing final school assignments and the transition to summer still leaves them with a suitcase full of winter and spring clothes. Cleaning out your closet can be symbolic and helpful to more than just your organizational skills, but to your psyche! Try cleaning out your closet to see what fits and what doesn’t. Put away your winter clothes and don’t worry about them. Make space for new clothes. Maybe you grew taller and need new jeans or maybe you want to go with brighter colors for a change. Do this for you and try it out. Decluttering is a Zen behavior that can declutter more than your closet. Marie Kondo it!
As the sun shines a little longer in the day teens and college students abandon their sleep schedules for late nights and restless days. A lack of sleep can cause one with an anxiety disorder to have trouble staying asleep and can also escalate symptoms of anxiety. That is why it is best to stick to a structured sleeping pattern so that one is not totally abandoning their school sleep schedule.
Create fun projects for yourself
The best project you’ll ever work on is you. Sometimes we get caught up going on family vacations and planning for other festivities that we forget to do something for ourselves. Maybe it’s time to pick up a hobby for the summer. Do something that you can go back to later. Here are some examples:
- Taking on another language
- Taking up a new sport or physical activity
- Reading an interesting book
- Learning how to cook (this will come in handy for you when you graduate)
- Learning a new instrument
Do activities that are in the cold
You’re probably wondering how that can even be possible in the summertime as it’s hot and sticky out. However, people who have anxiety disorders can easily be agitated in the heat and or sun. The hot summer days that can cause someone to experience anxiety-inducing situations are normally looking for places to cool off and stay away from the heat. Activities in the cold that can occupy someone’s time in the summer can include:
- Going to the movie theaters
- Having a movie night at home with family and or friends, but with A/C
- Going go karting, bowling, indoor mini golfing (anyplace that has indoor A/C)
- Go swimming if you want to cool off
Seeking Help From Silver Hill Hospital
“If left untreated, anxiety and panic attacks can paralyze a person to the point that they avoid their normal daily activities or anxiety-inducing situations” – Silver Hill Hospital Care Team
Don’t feel overwhelmed this summer. There are countless ways to battle anxiety if you wish to seek more options and guidance from licensed professionals. Getting a proper diagnosis is the first step to better understanding the disorder as it can take on many forms and can even co-occur with other mental illnesses.
For those in need of support, we offer a valuable treatment program for anxiety with our proven method of using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) at Silver Hill Hospital. Both adults and adolescents can benefit from this highly-structured form of behavioral therapy as It can provide the skills necessary to regulate emotions, control destructive behaviors and improve interpersonal relations.