My experience with summertime seasonal depression

In the same way as my birthday always makes me anxious, the summer - with its expectations of fun - can send my mental health into a downward spiral. For as long as I can remember the months of June, July and August have coincided with an increase in my anxieties.

I grew up in Cornwall, and this year is the first full summer I’ve spent away from home. As a result, I find myself looking back to those days on the beach filled with nostalgia and gushing about how lucky I am to have grown up there.

Yet tell my 13-year-old self this and not only would she be surprised to hear that I am now living and working in London but that I am remembering my teenage summers fondly. When you are young, those six weeks away from school may as well be forever. The days stretch out in front of you and there is often nothing to fill them with, giving your mind time to wander.

And for an anxious mind like mine, this time to wander isn’t always a positive thing.

As a young teenager with social anxiety and a genuine, though somewhat irrational, fear of Facebook group chats, making plans with friends was a daunting task - "What if they don’t like me? Maybe no one will reply? What if I sound stupid?"

Pair this with a beach full of holidaymakers and a simple day in the sun becomes a recipe for a panic attack.

Nowadays, however, the summer comes with a different set of challenges.

I know I’m not alone when I say that having a routine helps me manage my mental health. For this reason - while the longer days are a welcome sight after the doom and gloom of winter - I have found the extra hours of sunlight can be a trigger.

As someone who is very introverted, winter provides a sort of comfort blanket - an excuse to leave after work early or spend a Sunday at home reading. But with the onset of summer, these excuses often run dry. As a result, social activities eat away at the limited, and much-needed, alone time I have.

Additionally, with longer hours comes more plans, and with more plans comes less sleep, a factor that can severely impact my mental wellbeing and outlook on life. Finding time to re-charge and re-connect with myself is therefore something I find far easier in the winter.

Summer can also be a big trigger when it comes to body image issues. Over the last few years, I have been working hard to focus on how my body feels instead of how it looks. Despite this, and constant reminders I give myself that "It doesn’t matter if last year’s summer dress doesn’t fit" - having a clear measure of the fact that I have gained weight can, unfortunately, send me into a very familiar cycle of restrictive dieting.

Pair this with the same recycled Instagram content claiming that you must "be summer ready" and the warmer months become a minefield to be navigated with care.

This is a reminder then - to myself and the Kindred. readers - that while the Instagram feeds of others might convince you that you need to be out and enjoying yourself every day this summer, it is equally important to take some time for yourself, focus on your own mental health and wellbeing, and give yourself the rest you deserve.