1445310_55564606For many of us, summer is the time we feel the most upbeat. For those with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the long days packed with sunshine can offer blessed relief from depression and low energy.

Outdoor walks and other activities and a more relaxed approach to time are things both of us really look forward to and enjoy.

But for some, the summertime is emotionally difficult. The very things that make summer appealing to one person, make it seem negative to another. You can end up with the blahs or even the blues. Here are a few, plus some quick fixes:

Problem: Full-time students can feel that the slow-down in their schedules leaves wide swathes of time with little to do. Summer jobs may not be as intellectually challenging or socially fulfilling as school.

Quick Fixes: Our number one recommendation is do volunteer work. In the summer there can be exciting opportunities. You can volunteer to assist at a special needs camp, teach a craft to seniors, or work with animals at your local zoo. Teens can try VolunteenNation for ideas.

Summer exchange programs and summer classes might be a good way to help you structure your days. Also, if you know what classes you’ll be taking next year, why not get the syllabus if possible and begin doing the reading? You’ll be better prepared for tests and may even improve your grade point average.

Still, you need a break, so be sure to get in some recreation. Joining an amateur softball team or frisbee league are inexpensive (even free) and you’ll have the chance to exercise as well as socialize.

Problem: Those without the ability to get away, such as people with demanding jobs or those whose finances won’t permit them, can feel like they never get a break. It seems like everyone else is getting away.

Quick Fixes: Our number one recommendation is definitely volunteering. It sounds counter-intuitive, but tithing your work hours (10 percent of your work hours, 4 hours per week if you work 40 hours)  or leisure time (10 percent of your leisure time) weekly can actually dispel stress, tension and emptiness.

Our other suggestion is the opposite of the kind of structured recreation we recommend for underbooked students. Instead, try something like gardening, hiking, or picnicking, plugging into the non-competitive aspects can be even better.

Problem: If you are dealing with sadness or depression, in summer it can seem like everyone is happier and enjoying life, except you. Therapists may be leaving on vacations, and you can feel more alone. It can be difficult for you to reach out to others for help.

Quick Fixes: The most important fix for anyone with depression or other emotional challenges, is making a plan for summer with your therapist. Have him or her help you identify what your summer goals are, how to stay on track in therapy and beyond, and how to make specific plans to move forward. Talk to them about specific issues you encounter related to summer, too. Since your treatment plan is updated all the time anyway, having a special summer update is easy to do and extremely valuable.

If you are dealing with depression, summer offers many opportunities to get outside or stay inside and connect with your spiritual side. In Talking and Walking and Loving Your Good Points we discuss walking meditation and prayer. Just as it can sometimes be easier to talk to a friend when you are walking side by side (it’s not as intense as sitting across from each other) it can be easier to talk to your Creator and/or get to know yourself when you are walking, especially in a natural setting.

And more reasons to walk: Forget sunbathing, how about forest bathing? Walking in a forest has been shown to relieve anxiety, depression, and even some physical health concerns.

In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it: shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health. (Article from NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation)

 

P.S. Obviously, non of these suggestions are substitutions for advice from your therapist.