Posted on 17 May 2018
I hope you have enjoyed the lovely weather we have been having recently. I know I have, especially after such a long hard winter. There are many reasons why warmth and sunshine are good for us, more light lifts our mood, warmth on our skin relaxes our muscles. It is easier and more fun to get our bodies moving and get out and exercise. We see more people when we are out and about, and somehow there feels more of a sense of community. All this is good isn’t it?
When I am walking back home from my hypnotherapy for anxiety clinic in Henley-on-Thames I can see everyone strolling by the river and it makes me happy and I keep these scenes of sunshine in my mind when I am working with my clients. At this time of year, it can be useful to use the good weather to help clients. Here are two simple ways that better weather can be used to give our mental wellbeing a workout.
The chances for exercise are greater and more natural. You do not need to be stuck in a gym, you can go out for a trail run or a walk, or even try wild swimming. Just being outside in the fresh air can give a boost to most people, it is well-known that being in nature is often healing and restoring.
So good weather is good for us, right? Well, not for everyone. I am aware that for some people there can be another side of this. If you are feeling down, depressed or anxious, then seeing other people enjoying themselves outside in the sunshine can make these feelings worse not better. And I notice that many of my clients who are feeling this find it very difficult to talk about it. Some can even feel guilty and isolated.
If this is you then the first thing I would say is you are not alone. There is a recognised psychological condition called Summertime Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and it has been estimated that 10 percent of people who suffer from SAD suffer in the summer not in the winter. We are still discovering the reasons for this, but we already know that summer SAD is caused by disruption of circadian rhythms which in some people can cause symptoms very like anxiety, feeling jittery or hypervigilant, problems sleeping and eating are the most common. It is pretty obvious then, that if you already have a propensity towards anxiety, summer can make it worse as those feelings creep up.
So why does this happen? This article sets out what is going on. Light and heat have a big role here, of course, but there are other factors. These include:
Disruption of a healthy routine. I encourage most of my clients to follow a routine which helps them maintain a healthy mental and physical balance. This can be much harder to stick to when the weather heats up, as everyone wants to be out all the time. This is even more true in a country like Britain, where the weather is so changeable and there is a pressure to never miss a good day. And of course, if you have responsibility for children then school holidays can throw any routine out.
The key here is planning what you need and sticking to it. This means you need to feel confident enough to make sure you carve out enough space for you. This way, you can keep to the most important routines which you know benefit your mental wellbeing. If you are not sure what these routines are, or feel you have never given this aspect of your life the importance it deserves, or feel you cannot assert yourself in a way which means you get what you need, then do consider seeing a therapist who can teach you these skills.
Body image and self-esteem issues. As the temperature goes up the clothes come off. If you feel uncomfortable about you body for any reason, you may be overweight and feel ashamed or you may fear attracting admiration or sexual attraction, then this time can be very difficult for you. Whatever your reasons for wanting to cover up, I would advise you look upon these feelings as a spur to action, rather than as a block. You deserve to feel comfortable in the world, whatever the weather and if there are issues which are holding you back then now is a good time to get them sorted and enjoy the summer ahead of us.
A disconnect between expectation and reality. Everyone is expected to enjoy good weather and anticipation can be huge. This can disrupt your emotional stability and make you feel unsettled. Make sure you take quiet time to ensure you protect the mental peace you need. Stick to your values, not what you see in the magazines or on Facebook. Quiet time and simple pursuits, like a gentle walk in your local wood, can be as enjoyable as a day on the most fashionable Mediterranean beach. Value your own judgements and feelings and do what you enjoy doing.
I hope, if you suspect that you might suffer from summer depression, that you have found this article useful. Summer can be a wonderful time and if you feel you need some help to make it work for you then contact me today.
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