Believe it or not, we're already careening towards end of summer. And if you've noticed that you're feeling a little more anxious than usual this season, you're not alone. The summer season can be a harbinger of fun, and that's exactly why it can make some of us a little more distressed.
Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app, LiveHealth Online, says that the expectations we all have about summer can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.
"The pressure to participate in everything is a real factor in our moods," she says. "This idea of FOMO and seeing the fun other people are having on social media, that just makes all of that worse. You think, I should have had so much fun by now, because there’s only so much left of summer."
But beyond that social factor, the heat of summer definitely impacts your mental health, too. Just like the cold winter weather can make people feel more withdrawn, summer weather can also disrupt your mood and make you crankier.
"In the winter you might go hibernate and your energy is dampened and the volume gets turned down on everything," Dr. Henderson says. "The heat can really ramp up the volume so it can be unsettling and agitating to people, it makes people really cranky."
More than that, if you're someone who frequently experiences anxiety and panic attacks, you might find that the summer heat has the same effect as some symptoms of panic.
"Symptoms like sweating, feeling faint or shaky, feeling nauseous, having heart palpitations — all these things can happen both due to heat and panic or anxiety," Dr. Henderson says. "For someone who might have a history of struggling with panic and anxiety, if you’re all of a sudden sweating because it’s 95 degrees outside, those physical symptoms can trigger really intense anxiety memories and heighten your anxiety and panic in the moment."
Plus, the extended amount of sunlight can mess with your sleep cycle and overall schedule. Dr. Henderson says that if you're sensitive to light, the sun being up for earlier and longer can make you wake up earlier, throwing off your rhythm.
There are plenty of reasons you might be feeling more anxious than usual this season — and if you're trying to get rid of some summer anxiety, she suggests trying to pinpoint what it is that's putting you on edge (and talking it out with a friend or therapist if you need to).
"Maybe it’s a little bit of everything but pinpointing what it is that disrupts your mood is an important part of making changes," Dr. Henderson says, adding that if the heat is what's getting you down, you might need to just stay inside one day with the shades drawn, Netflix on, and the air conditioner blasting.
"We often feel guilty about being inside when it’s nice out, but sometimes that’s what our bodies and minds need," she says.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please contact Samaritans on 116 123. All calls are free and will be answered in confidence.