After quite a few long, dreary months, summer has arrived and we are here for it. Human bodies actually hibernate in the winter, which is why you might notice that you need more sleep during the winter months. Hibernation is behind us as the sun peeks through our windows earlier than usual, and we may feel that it's easier to get out of bed in these warmer months than it is in the winter.
Outside temps increase, we plan vacations with our families and friends, we attend wedding celebrations (or maybe you're celebrating your own this year!), and we're much more involved in anything to do with the outdoors. It's no wonder there's a running joke among therapists that "mental health issues disappear in the summer." It feels like it's true! Overall, our mental health tends to feel like it's at its peak in the summer. The increased levels of Vitamin D provided by the sun naturally improves our mood, leading to better mental health. When we spend time in the sun, it helps our bodies produce melatonin, which is the hormone that increases our quality of sleep at night.
Summer is an incredible time to invest in yourself and start self-care habits because you're more likely to continue with them once summer ends. Let's take a look at a few habits you can start this summer that will carry you through the colder months.
Healthy Summer Habits
Set Boundaries - We might feel pulled to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way in the summer. We're feeling good, and it's tempting to do all the things! Remember to listen to your body. Don't say yes to something out of obligation if you really don't want to do it. Since summertime is also when most families go on vacations, setting boundaries with your family members can be difficult to do, especially if you have parents who are toxic. You deserve to have a vacation you actually enjoy. If going on vacation with your parents has been challenging previously and you believe it's going to be challenging again this year, you have permission to say no. Vacations are designed to be relaxing and spent with people who are safe and who's company you enjoy. Boundaries are not for the other person. They're for you, to protect you.
Physical Activity - What better time to start a fitness routine than in the summer?! With many options to choose from for at-home workouts, you can work out in your house, on your front or back porch, in your yard, or even in your parking space if you live in an apartment complex. Hiking, swimming, and outdoor group fitness classes are other great options. When we combine working out with direct access to the sun, get ready for a massive energy boost! We're becoming one with our bodies and with nature. Give it a try this summer! You won't regret it.
Sleep Schedule - Sleep with the sun. In the winter, you may have noticed that you needed more sleep. When the sun would set around 6PM, you might have started to feel really tired. In addition to that, with the sun not rising until close to 7:30AM, it might have been really hard to get out of bed earlier than that. Mornings are typically a struggle in the winter for humans because we're also hibernating. With summer here, our days feel longer because the sun sets later and rises earlier. Give your body permission to sleep with the sun. Go to sleep shortly after the sun sets, and wake up shortly after the sun rises. Of course, there will be times this doesn't happen, and that's okay! Summer is filled with beautiful opportunities to stay out late with friends under a campfire, or walk on the beach at night. But for the most part, you'll feel most aligned and in tune with your body if you sleep with the sun for every season.
Use Your Vacation Time - Surprisingly, a lot of people don't use their allotted vacation time at their jobs. But that's what it's there for; for you to use so that you can reset, recharge, and relax. Make sure you take some vacation time this year. You deserve it. You weren't created to be able to maintain consistent productivity. Escaping the busy-ness of life allows you to focus on what actually matters in real life. If you don't have vacation time, try to schedule a long weekend getaway for yourself.
Therapy - For some people, their mental health struggles don't change much in the summer. You're not alone. Life is complex, and each of us experience our own unique set of challenges that bright, sunny weather doesn't always fix or help. If you're in therapy, consider still attending your scheduled appointments throughout the summer. If you're not in therapy but would like to start, consider reaching out to a therapist in your state who can support you as you navigate your own healing journey. And even if you're mentally doing well this summer, consider monthly check-ins with your therapist! Sometimes, things we didn't expect come up during the summer, and your therapist can serve as an additional support to you.
Summer is a great opportunity for us to invest in self-care habits that enrich our lives and bring out the best in ourselves. The warm sunshine, upcoming vacations and getaways with people we love, and ability to be outside increases our mood, our mental health, and our sleep.
However you're celebrating summer this year, we hope you remember to take care of yourself, use those vacation days if you have them & plan a weekend getaway if you don't, set boundaries with yourself and family members/friends, get outside in nature, stay in therapy or do check ins with your therapist if you're in a good mental space, and most of all, have a safe, happy, and healthy summer, from all of us here at Root Counseling.
At Root Counseling, we celebrate summer and all the goodness it brings for many of our clients, but we also understand that mental health struggles still exist for people. We're here to support you, wherever you're at in your healing journey. To schedule an appointment, you can visit our therapists here.