When Lana del Rey crooned about “Summertime Sadness,” she wasn’t just talking about romantic frustration. Summertime depression* can creep up without warning, and it’s doubly frustrating because summer is the perfect time to relax and be happy. There are warmer days, vacations, beaches, endless parties and barbeques, and more time spent outside enjoying nature and friends. However, if you’re one of the countless people who are prone to mild melancholy in the summertime, read on to find out how to battle the blues and get back on the sunny side of the street.
Important note: In this article, we’re not referring to actual Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which does affect people during the summer months. If you have SAD, think you may have SAD, or think you may be suffering from depression, consult a medical professional for treatment.
- Post-vacation bummers: Your dream beach house week with your high school ride-or-die friends (five years in the making) has come and gone. Now you’re stuck in your same old routine, in your same old apartment, going to the same old job.
Why so sad? Vacations are an escape from our everyday lives. We look forward to them for months – sometimes years – and use the occasion to relax and indulge. When all the new, fun experiences come to an end, it hits us hard.
How to cope: The post-vacation blues are real. Try to perk your spirits up with a two-pronged approach. First, keep the memory of your trip alive by reminiscing with your vacation buddies, and making a fun craft like an online scrapbook of your trip, or a shadowbox with your souvenirs. Next, plan something – anything – to look forward to, and preferably something that ties into things you enjoyed during your trip. If your trip reminded you how much you miss just laying out on a beach, take advantage of the weekend to do just that. If you discovered a new favorite food, find it at a restaurant or trying making it at home. Every little reminder of your trip will turn into a sunny reminder of happy times.
- FOMO: You just can’t swing a real vacation this summer, and your social media feed is taunting you every day with an endless array of all the beautiful beaches, tropical cocktails, and amazing experiences that you’re missing out on.
Why so sad? It’s human nature to want to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to trips, and it’s also human nature to feel the sting of missing out.
How to cope: The only way to feel better about being stuck where you are is to make the best of it. It may sound like old-fashioned advice, but it’s the best way out of the FOMO rut. You may not have the PTO or funds to do a blow-out vacation, but what about a long weekend somewhere close? You’d be surprised how the closest and quickest of escapes will brighten your spirits. If that’s not an option, then take the opportunity to explore your immediate area. There are concerts, festivals, trivia and karaoke nights, shops, and restaurants galore beyond your front door — you just have to do a little research to find them.
- Money matters: You paid your bills, attended a baby shower, joined a friend for their birthday cocktail crawl, and went to a concert festival in one weekend. Now you’re living on the bare minimum until your next payday two weeks away.
Why so sad? It’s pretty simple: no money to do anything fun means no fun, right?
How to cope: It’s hard having to turn down invitation-after-invitation due to a lack of funds, so search out free (or dirt cheap) things to do in your area. There are happy hours, free events, and discounts to be found everywhere to make it easier to live and let loose while on a strict budget. If you’re really tight on funds, try doing things that make you feel better but cost nothing: clean your home, tackle some organizational projects that you’ve been putting off, and indulge in a self-care night of face masks and nail painting.
- Anticipation implosion: You were fixated on a reunion weekend getaway with some out-of-town besties for months, and planned every detail down to the minute make it perfect. But, one friend couldn’t make it due to a cancelled flight, your beach day was ruined by rain, and your other friend got sick. You feel like all that build up was for nothing.
Why so sad? Social media and society in general are constantly hitting us with the message that if something isn’t perfect (or perfectly imperfect), it’s a failure. Especially when a lot of time, money, and planning goes into a trip or special occasion, we become emotionally invested in things going off without a hitch. If it doesn’t blow us away, then it was all for nothing.
How to cope: This is a difficult one to learn, but try and manage your expectations. It’s difficult, but it’s something that will majorly lower your stress. Anticipate and accept that things may go wrong, and have a plan to cope — not only logistically, but for your mental health. Also, get used to the idea that just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. The beach day may have been ruined by rain, but it meant that everyone had a hilarious time hanging in the Air BnB and playing games. Focus on the positive results from the actual experience, as opposed to how your vision for the experience failed.
- “Beach Body” blues: You tried eating healthy and going to the gym, but you didn’t achieve the fitness goals you set for yourself. Now every trip to the beach and pool you feel guilty and self-conscious.
Why so sad? We’re all comparing ourselves to an impossible ideal. Beginning January 1st, we’re inundated with the notion that our primary goal for the next six months is to achieve peak body status, so that we can “earn” the right to wear a bikini on the beach. The pressure builds in advertisements and social media to look like a Victoria’s Secret model on the beach, and even when summer starts, magazines and websites give us hundreds of helpful tips on how to get in shape fast — there’s still time, they say! All this pressure amounts to one healthy serving of depression.
How to cope: While the body positive advice to “buy a bikini and put it on your body” in order to achieve a bikini body is sassy and straight-forward, battling through body issues is not always that easy. Try following body positive accounts on social media, and accept your beautiful body for what it is now, not what you want it to be.
- Sensory overload: Your social calendar for the next three weeks is giving you nightmares. Everything you have scheduled is ostensibly “fun,” but you’ll have zero alone time, and no time at all to get caught up on your seriously backlogged To-Do list.
Why so sad? Summer blues don’t always come from FOMO. Sometimes, you find yourself drained and depressed because you’re going too hard, with no time to recover and focus on self-care. We’re not just talking about overindulging with food or alcohol — spreading yourself too thin due to the endless array of fun things to do all summer long can take its toll as quickly as a hangover.
How to cope: You need to take a stand for your mental health by backing out of some plans. If there’s something in your schedule that you don’t absolutely have to attend, find a way to politely bail. Your wallet and your sanity will thank you. Allow yourself time to decompress and just be, and find peace within the moment. If you can, try practicing meditation to help you become centered in moments when you can’t cancel plans.
- Summer’s ending: You’ve had a wonderful summer, but you feel like you barely had time to enjoy it. Plus, your newsfeed is blowing up with the yearly fall frenzy, and you’re majorly upset that your favorite season is over.
Why so sad? Time flies when you’re having fun. This is especially true during summer, when Memorial Day becomes Labor Day in the blink of an eye. Also, social media bombards us with “I want to be a on a beach” mantras all winter long, and then before July is over, switches to “Can’t wait for PSLs and fall leaves.” It’s hard to appreciate a season when no one else is living in the moment.
How to cope: While there’s nothing that can stop time and bring summer back (unless you’ve invented a time machine!), there are things you can do to lessen the settling gloom of summer’s end. The most important thing to do is to plan some fun things that you’re genuinely looking forward to during the fall and early winter. It will give you something to look forward to and work towards. Also, while many consider Labor Day the unofficial end of summer, don’t lose sight of the fact that the season actually ends on September 21st. Use September to go hard doing the summer activities you love, so that when crisper weather arrives you might find yourself welcoming a change. September weather is still lovely, and places like the beaches and parks are quieter during the day as most kids are back in school. So, lay out, go on a hike, eat al fresco, and continue to stay up drinking margaritas with your friends .
Written by: Mallory Huron