A Weekly Strategy to Reduce Summer Anxiety
RAFT Team, July 11, 2022
You’re a month into summer. How are you feeling? If you’re having a difficult time with anxiety or guilt, you’re not alone. 73% of people report they have more anxiety during the summer. Culture tells you to make the most of every minute, so when you find yourself with a few moments to spare, you may feel guilty for not filling it with something productive. That mentality is the superhighway to summer anxiety, and most of us are on it.
So how do you set yourself up for an impactful, contented week through the summer months? The 7 tips below can be a good starting point. They aren’t intellectually difficult or time-consuming, but they will likely challenge your priorities and any preconceived notions of a “perfect summer.” Implement them, and you’ll experience mounds of happiness and a growing sense of relief.
1. Be okay with imperfection
You probably have a picture in your head of your ideal self: how you look, how you feel, what you do, and when you do it. This image staring back at you in your mental mirror is often shaped by our culture and advertising influences, barraging us with the type of people who are most successful, solely based on appearance and action, with nothing to do with heart or motive. Most of the time, these standards are unrealistic and more harmful than helpful.
Your goal can’t be perfection — you’ll forever fall short. Perfect job performance or a self-care every moment of every day is not possible. A more realistic goal is to create a meaningful life, in whatever capacity that means for you. Which means being okay with imperfection.
2. Step away
When you’re swirling in a wash of discontent or frustration, your key missing ingredient is likely perspective. When you notice negative emotions rising, take a moment to ask yourself why. Sometimes it’s warranted and will propel you to changing things quickly. Yet at other times, a pause for context enables you to achieve a more balanced perspective of where this difficult situation fits on the grand scale of your life.
Often, it helps to step away physically as well. Just the act of movement (bi-lateral stimulation) can help you process in a way that inspires more creative solutions.
3. Be kind to yourself
It’s not surprising that when you’re anxious and stressed, you look for someone to blame. Many times, that means YOU end up in the crosshairs.. You berate yourself for not having more energy, not being more productive, not completing all the things you think you should be doing. You’re your own worst bully. (Here are tips on how to stop doing that.)
But there’s a difference between not bullying yourself and being kind to yourself. And with all that is in you, be kind to yourself. You, of all people, deserve kindness. As your own closest confidant and observer, you know how kindness feeds your soul. Be generous. Be effusive. You should be your own biggest cheerleader. Smile back at the real you in the mirror.
4. Ask for help to reduce summer anxiety
You aren’t meant to function as an independent entity. Lean into your support network. (If you don’t have a strong one, learn how to build one here and how to adjust the one you have here.) If you can’t regularly meet in-person with them, start a group chat. Let it be an open space to vent, encourage, commiserate, and to build accountability and courage.
This transparency can help you all remember you’re in this life together, you all have struggles, and you all have wins every single day. Your emotional pendulum is normal. Your energy levels are always in flux. And together you can think up ways to become more balanced.
(If you don't like to ask for help or don't know how, learn 3 ways to ask for help.)
5. Take one small next step
Overwhelm paralyzes. It can make you believe it’s easier to give up, and almost always increases stress and summer anxiety. Make a deliberate choice to take one small step in a positive direction. If you aren’t sure of the right decision, make your best guess and get the momentum flowing.
6. Stop saying yes
Summer anxiety compounds when your to-do list carries over into the next day. Instead of living in that stress and reviewing what you missed, take some time to reflect on the day’s achievements. And then, as you discover your true capacity and not your hoped-for capacity, start putting less on that list. Once you experience the joy of realistic expectations, you’ll learn to only say “yes” to the things that really matter most to you. (If saying no is difficult for you, learn how to say no by saying yes differently.)
7. Reevaluate your priorities
To keep yourself on the path to a more contented summer, keep checking in with how you’re feeling. The more your priorities line up with who you are and what you can reasonably handle, the more contentment you’ll experience. Your stress and summer anxiety levels will decrease, and you might actually begin to enjoy your summer just a little bit more.