Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summertime Blues?

Summer is supposed to be super-carefree and fun, right? Woo-hoooo!!! The livin' is easy....yes?

For me, summer has always been a mixed bag. As a kid, I always looked forward to the warm weather, long days, fun in the sun, and no school. I always had high hopes that this was going to be the best summer EVER! The reality was usually that I had some fun, got some rest, but also got bored, missed my school friends, felt trapped at home with my siblings, and eventually experienced that existentially "lost" feeling. I wasn't really a woo-hoooo kind of girl, even though sometimes I wished I were.

A few days ago, as I was driving by the recently-closed high school in my neighborhood, I noticed how abandoned it looked. The hills surrounding it, which had been green and teeming with wild flowers a few weeks ago, were now brown and dry-looking. The sky was that hazy gray-blue, and it was hot. "Ugh," I thought, "is this feeling what people call the summertime blues?" (Or were they talking about a summer concert series? I didn't know). And this was only mid-June, for heaven's sake. We weren't even into the dog days of summer, which are defined as "the hot, sultry period of summer between early July and early September---a period of stagnation."

I decided to look online for information that would validate my ambivalence about summer. One article from Health.com was particularly interesting. Anne Krueger's 12 Signs You Suffer from Summer Depression, states, "From vacation envy and arm-flab anxiety to actual summer-onset Seasonal Affective Disorder, here's what may be dragging you down..."

The following is a sampling of the issues she discusses in the article:

  1. Summer-onset SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that is based on problems with circadian rhythms and resulting agitation. (Note: winter-onset SAD results in lethargy).
  2. The "Expectation Gap." Building our hopes up about how awesome our summer's going to be.
  3. That over-amped feeling. Loud kids, loud music, crowded amusement parks, parties, fireworks, etc.
  4. Disturbed sleep patterns. Longer days, going to bed late.
  5. Inadequate "me" time, especially for parents whose kids are home all the time
  6. Annoyance for having to pick up the slack for others (who are on vacation or acting like they are).
  7. "Facebook Envy." Everybody posts their most fabulous fun pics, thus appearing to be having a better summer than you.
  8. "Body Image Blues." Increased body exposure can bring up insecurities, especially for women.
  9. Financial stress. Vacations, camp, childcare, family reunions, etc., can all add up.
  10. Aversion to outdoor activities or sun exposure. Not everyone enjoys swimming, snorkeling, camping, hiking, boating, softball, fishing, etc., and may feel like the the odd man out.
  11. "Time flies" syndrome. Summer rituals and passages (last day of school, going on an annual trip, etc.) can be a sharp reminder that your kids (or you) are getting older and that life is changing.
  12. Inclement summer weather. Rain, thunder storms, humidity, severe heat, or even cold weather, can keep you trapped indoors.
And a few more:  too much family togetherness, conflicts over where to vacation or how to spend time/money, absence of routine or structure, guilt about leaving kids home alone, jealousy about friends' or acquaintances' summer plans. etc.

The bottom line is that summer can be a wonderful, fun-filled time, but just as life has its ups and downs, so does summer. If you'd like to learn more, I suggest you read the full article, above, which offers helpful advice on how to deal with these issues. 

Take care and, um, have a good summer...