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The summer months bring in a lot of mixed feelings for people. Some look forward to finally being able to shed the winter layers while others become intimated by the same. Social media often has a huge impact on how we view ourselves and the social comparisons we make. The concept of the “summer body” is an ideal that has been societally created and gets reinforced through social media. Models with size zero bodies, in bikinis and skin-revealing summer clothing, set the norm for how people should be looking during these hot days.
These socially propagated ideals may lead to individuals withdrawing from social interactions, fearing body shaming, and may even lead to dysregulations in eating and sleep patterns.
The winter season has often been linked with seasonal depressional - due to decreased exposure to natural light, isolation, etc. - leading to people falsely believing that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is only linked to the summer. Contrary to popular belief, SAD is of two kinds - one that follows the winter pattern, and the other that follows the summer pattern.
Symptoms of SAD
Some symptoms visible in people suffering from the summer pattern of SAD include:
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden acts of aggression
- Disruptions in sleeping pattern
- Weight loss
- Loss of motivation and energy
Further, the heat may preclude them from leaving their houses until absolutely necessary. It becomes easy for an individual to fall into unhealthy patterns of days without exercising, unhealthy eating habits, social isolation, and lack of time spent in natural light. All of these affect their mental well-being.
Easy Ways to Care for Our Mental Health during the Summer Days
Exposure to Natural Light
During winter months, light exposure therapy is used to treat a seasonal affective disorder by introducing the individual to an artificial source of light that mimics the sun, for a set duration of time.
We can make use of the same concept in the summer months by ensuring that we spend atleast 30 minutes in the early morning sun, either sitting on the balcony or going for an early morning run. Sunlight is a key contributing factor to a better summer and mental health.
Healthy Sleep Schedule
Disruptions in our circadian rhythm can upset the hormonal balance of our bodies. Thus, one of the smallest steps that we can take toward better mental health is establishing a sleep pattern that gives us ample rest, refreshes us, and readies us for the next day.
Staying Physically Active
Staying physically active during the summer days can seem like a bit of a task. The smallest exertions can be draining and fatigue may come over easily. At times like these, it is important to remember to hydrate and incorporate physical activity spread across one’s day so that it does not become overwhelming.
Limiting Time on Social Media
What we see on social media often results in us setting unrealistic ideals for ourselves, we get disappointed with ourselves when we are unable to meet those ideals and our self-esteem and self-confidence may also suffer a blow. At times like this, it becomes important to remember that not everything we see on ‘reels’ is real. One way to keep oneself from falling prey to irrational societal standards is to limit the amount of time we spend on social media platforms, separating our online lives from our offline ones.
Mindfulness is a concept that has gained popularity in recent times. It involves enhancing one’s awareness of their thoughts, actions, feelings, and surroundings while acknowledging and accepting them. There are no ‘wrong’ emotions or feelings. Accepting and acknowledging one’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations help one move towards a calmer state of being and enable them to work on areas they desire to change.
The word ‘diet’ has many misconceptions linked to it. Many believe that to be on a diet is to restrict one’s food intake and spend hours and sometimes days without proper nutrition. In the long run, this has more negative than positive effects on the life of these individuals. In reality, a healthy diet entails balanced meals and proper timings, eaten on a regular basis. What consists of a balanced meal may differ from person to person based on their individual bodily needs.
Remembering to Ask for Help
It is important to remember that when one is feeling overwhelmed or unable to deal with a situation alone, one can always reach out to others around them or organizations for help.
These are just some things to do for good mental health during the summer. A summer-ready body need not necessarily be one that is identical to one that we see on magazines, billboards, commercials, or social media. A summer-ready body is one that is capable of meetings the needs of the body during demanding sultry days.