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Summer Isn't for Everyone

A reflection on why summer can be a source of anxiety and pose mental health challenges:

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Ah, summer: the seemingly most joyous and exuberant time of the year- the season so esteemed that even Olaf from the Frozen franchise devoted an entire song to it. The warmest, most sought out months of the year boast the much-needed break from school, essays, and exams, ample time for vacationing, and pristine beach weather. In many regards, summer can be a ton of fun! However, just like some people like crust on sandwiches and others absolutely abhor it, the same goes for the hottest time of the year. This is not to say that summer cannot be an absolute blast if you surround yourself with a vibrant group of people and devote the extra free time to things you enjoy! This is to showcase the real-life challenges that summer presents for many people as we look towards the upcoming fall season and reflect:

1) The grind never stops, at least not for adults. This is something I notice more and more as I near the end of my college experience and begin looking towards the workforce and my future. For starters, I am one of my only friends who did not have an internship and instead chose to work locally. While there is nothing wrong with this and it was the most viable option for me at the time, so many of my friends were scattered across different cities for their work, leaving me feeling isolated and lonely during the summer months. Lacking quality time with the people I love to connect with really put a damper on my mental health this summer, especially having worked at a job that mainly attracts older adults. Fun fact, I couldn't muster up the motivation to write for months due to general burnout, and that is something that needs to be more normalized. Pro tip: turn off your LinkedIn notifications (or even temporarily delete the app) over the summer, it helps! Why is grind culture and having zero work-to-life balance so glamorized in our society? When someone finds the answer for that one, please message me and enlighten me.

2) The WEATHER. Unbearably hot temperatures are the breeding ground for chafing and other less than desirable skin irritations, stings, sunburns, and infections. As a camp counselor, I think I came home with at least 10 new bug bites each day and plenty of mysterious rashes that I still could not tell you the source of weeks later. For some with scarring, stretch marks/cellulite, and other skin conditions, throwing on a bathing suit might make for a completely nerve-racking experience (although you look absolutely divine, darling, as both and all of these feelings can coexist). Even so, the additional sunshine can be tough for some people, please remember to be compassionate.

3) Navigating difficult home life and family/relationship issues. For many people, living at home for three months straight can have its good, bad, and ugly moments. Heading home can be triggering and upsetting for those who may have a challenging relationship with their family members (specifically, but not limited to), children of divorce, those who battle mental health struggles, survivors, and LGBTQ+ people. If people were bullied or abused by someone from their home or town, they may fear seeing their perpetrator in public or having to face them during the summer months, being filled with massive bouts of anxiety. While developing a plan ahead of time can be helpful, even running the simplest of errands can be a recipe for disaster in trying to avoid those people. Being home can also remind us of these relationships that have ended and cause us to mourn them all over again- cue "Summertime Sadness" by Lana Del Rey.

4) No structure!! To me, a continual lack of structure equates to more time for overthinking, constant social media stalking/comparison, and a fear of not being productive enough. There is a pressure to always be doing something (and to constantly go out and spend money, FOMO is real!). Especially amongst many of us still working summer jobs on top of that, this can lead to us adopting unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Especially if you are someone who thrives under routine, the summer can feel like an endless time loop of anxiety trying to reestablish the consistency and balance they had during the year. These factors can all contribute to struggles with staying motivated, but simultaneously feeling unsatisfied with our productivity levels. Here's your reminder that productivity looks different for everybody, and that maybe for you, yours looks like aiming to connect with someone new each week, starting a new book, taking a walk around the block, or finishing a puzzle.

As many of us prepare to leave home and set down new roots, let us please be aware and mindful of our language when reflecting on the summer and meet conversations around this topic with some increased empathy and understanding. As for those who had a more challenging summer, please remember that feelings of sadness, grief, anger, insecurity, and overall discomfort can be coupled with feelings of enjoyment and gratitude. You are not alone and experiencing these emotions in tandem with one another does not minimize your experience or make it any less valid. And for my fellow fall enthusiasts, only 25 days until September 22nd (and 10 more weekends until Halloween!) Sweater weather, pumpkin picking, and apple-scented candle season is almost here, we got this!

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