Summer Might Actually be More Stressful Than Winter. Seriously!
If you find summer stressful, you’re not alone.
People tend to think about summer as a season for fun, relaxation and as an escape from the dreary cold days of winter.
But there is some interesting research that confirms what so many of my clients tell me; summertime is stressful!
In fact, it actually might be more stressful than wintertime.
This study, done with female medical students, found that cortisol (the “stress hormone”) was higher in the summer than in the winter. They had the women take saliva samples every 2 hours over a 24 hour period on two separate days in the winter and two separate days in the summer.
While winter was expected to be the more stressful season, the participants’ cortisol levels were highest during the summer dates.
Researchers were not exactly sure why the outcome was so counter-intuitive and they were surprised by the results.
Do you find summer more stressful?
5 Reasons Why Summer Can Be More Stressful
1. If you are a parent, demands on your time and energy can be higher than during the school year. You are out of your regular routine. Childcare can be tricky to co-ordinate (or maybe your kid hates the summer camp you signed them up for). Parenting guilt can run high.
It’s not uncommon for moms, especially in the summer, to beat themselves up and feel like they are failing their kids because they don’t have the time or energy to be creative and fun.
2. If you’re more introverted, like 25-40% of the population, feeling the pressure to have a super busy summer social calendar can be exhausting.
If you’re the kind of person who needs time alone to recharge and prefer connecting in smaller groups over deeper conversations (hello, INFJ!) a busy summer social calendar might feel stressful for you.
Friends might be wondering why you’re reluctant to plan or attend gatherings and you can easily end up feeling guilty (or just wondering what is wrong with you, since no one else seem to feel this way).
3. Late nights, patio drinks, and BBQ food can wreak havoc on your system. While it sounds amazing in theory, being overtired and full of junk is never a recipe for feeling recharged and refreshed.
4. FOMO. Before the days of social media, we could blissfully relax without thinking we were missing out. Now thanks to Instagram and Facebook, we have real time images of all the things that are going on without us.
Whether it is extended family that has gone camping without you or a girls night out when you are home in your PJs, seeing that we have been excluded can hurt. It’s easy to get caught up wondering why we were not invited along.
5. Insecurities about our bodies and physical appearance seem to peak in the summer. There is so much pressure to be ‘beach body ready’ and to find cute summer outfits. It is tough not to get caught up in self criticism and feeling the pressure to look like a different version of ourselves.
Here are a few things you can do to help with summer stress;
1.Make a plan. Whether that is a plan to spend time in solitude, take your kids park or visit with friends and family, cultivating some direction for your day can be so helpful. Here are some helpful ways to ditch mom guilt and have some fun with your kids.
2. Give yourself permission to say no. Not everyone is wired the same way. What is workable for someone else, might not be for you. That’s OK!
Being able to say ‘yes’ to things that matter most to you and say ‘no’ or ‘not today’ to things that might contribute to feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, plays an important part in finding greater balance in your life.
3. Instead of busyness and rushing around trying to please others and meet their expectations, what about experimenting with mindfulness and being more in the moment.
What would it be like for you to intentionally be more present as you are going about your day.
I’ve been experimenting this summer with 10 minutes of silence.
Find a quiet place.
Sip your coffee slowly and really notice the taste.
Take in any smells around you. Do the flowers have a scent?
Sit on the grass and notice the texture and sensation of the grass on your skin.
Notice any thoughts that come into your awareness. Without judgement, let them go and turn back to your mindful focus.
Notice what difference this makes.
If stillness is a challenge for you, start with shorter periods of time.
If this still feels uncomfortable, which can be especially true for people with a history or trauma, try mindful movement like walking or stretching. Pay attention and engage all your senses while you do some movement.
4. Learn to find greater compassion for yourself. It’s perfectly natural that if you see people having fun without you that it would being up feelings or envy, sadness or loneliness. Why not try experimenting with self-compassion?
One way to begin to develop greater compassion and kindness for yourself is through a loving-kindness meditation. Here are 18 Reasons why this practice can be helpful, including reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms, and improving self-compassion and positive emotions.