It is easy to underestimate the impact of the summer on your mental health. After all, the birds chirp, the flowers bloom, and all is well, right? Nope. The pressures of summer expectations can bring on the summer blues. Coupling that with the physiological factors that impact mental health and the whole season can feel exhausting — but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With a bit of guidance and a few creative ideas, you can plan on enjoying a fun-filled summer and a well-balanced social life.
- Get organized — a cleaner, more organized home can significantly impact your health and mindset more than external elements like neighborhood and walkability score.
- Include fun activities — change up some family favorites with new activities like backyard games, indoor crafts, or science experiments.
- Include self-care — incorporate restorative activities into your summer plan.
- New tools — learn new ways for the whole family to improve their daily habits like exercise, mindfulness, and sleep.
Understanding Summer Blues
The pressure to make the most of the long days of summer can be overwhelming. While the obvious priority for many people living in the United States is to stay cool during the hot weather, there are other expectations to keep in mind.
- Family time — the kids are off school, family members have booked time off work, and friends have made plans to visit.
- Make the most of the long days — finish long-overdue projects, read all the books on the bestsellers list, train for a half marathon.
- Entertain — enjoy a barbecue, craft cocktails, and play bocce with friends in your backyard.
- Travel — take that road trip to a National Park or an amusement park.
- Relax — practice yoga, meditate, listen to podcasts on well-being.
But what if you don’t feel up to it? What if you have the summer blues? Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder is a major depressive disorder that affects 5% of Americans. The symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, and a general sense of malaise. People who have SAD experience agitation, restlessness, anxiety, disturbed sleep or difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, and weight loss during the summer months.
These symptoms can contribute to negative emotions during the summer months. Feeling like you can’t make the most of your time because you are anxious and overstimulated can make depression even worse.
DIY Your Home For Summer
Give your home a revitalization with a summer-themed makeover. Have a family meeting and get everyone to list the things they want to achieve this summer — science camp, music classes, team sports, hobbies, and family vacations. Once you have a plan together, you can set up your home, and your summer, for success.
Reorganize, Revitalize, Remodel
You can prepare your home for the summer inside and out with simple organizational tools, renovations, or remodeling projects.
- Prioritize seasonal items like watersports equipment and camping gear over winter items.
- Set up social areas in the backyard with games like croquet and bocce.
- Install a pool or jacuzzi to create a space for relaxation.
- Prepare for the heat — service your cooling system, adjust ceiling fans and turn off unused appliances.
Summer Backyard Makeover
Outdoor spaces such as backyards are considered one of the most desirable areas of the house. They also become the protagonists to give place to gatherings with family and friends. Renovating it so that it is reborn with all its potential is part of the plan to enjoy it to the fullest this outdoor season.
- Garden Care: At this time it is convenient to do some maintenance work to take better advantage of flowering. Cut the dry flowers of the species that bloom in summer so that the plants grow stronger and trim the buds of those that bloomed in spring.
- Summer irrigation: Watering is essential at this time of the year and, in most cases, it should be almost daily. Doing it over the late afternoon makes the irrigation more effective.
- New lighting: Lighting is essential in outdoor spaces to create a welcoming atmosphere, especially if it is an area where family and friends gather. Changing the bulbs, renewing the style of the lamps, adding some garlands with warm lights that accompany, are some of the ideas to renew the lighting of the garden.
- New decoration: Renewing the decoration of the garden is not always an easy task. Changing some details -no matter how small- can be more than enough to make it look like a new one.
Cultivate nature at home
Activities during the summer can be challenging when not traveling. Something of which you can take advantage of the summer is teaching kids the importance of nature inside and outside home, and to have a good relationship with it.
Getting indoor life in your house is a great way to bring light in, not only decorate. This can also help improve your mood during the day as they bring air circulation. Try to start with plants that don’t need a lot of maintenance. Some examples of indoor plants for beginners include Epipremnum Pinnatum (Money plant), Monstera Deliciosa (Window Leaf), Aloe Vera, Sansevieria Trifasciata (Snake Plant) and Mentha Suaveolens (Mint).
Outdoor plants activities are also really helpful for mood and motivation. Gardening is a great activity to learn and put in practice during summer. Getting your family involved with it can improve your relationship and also contribute to environment.
Among the best outdoor plants to start cultivating in your backyard are Black-eyed Susans, Daffodils, Day-lilies, Sunflowers and Coneflowers.
Establishing responsibilities to your children is a good way to teach independence. Giving them a plant to take care of is the perfect summer activity. You can do this by encouraging them to plant a bean and observe the plant grow together.
Another way to contribute to the environment is to start growing your own vegetables and fruits. It is a very relaxing activity which, in addition to taking you closer to nature, works with your patience and discipline. Explore the different types of gardens at home that can suit your needs. Bringing fresh and healthier food to your table should not be a problem!
Keeping the house cold during the summer
- High temperatures can cause a lot of discomfort at home, but there are many techniques to keep your home cool even in the hottest summer.
- Adjust ceiling fans: Knowing the direction your ceiling fan should turn can help save you money on your utility bills and create a much more comfortable environment for everyone at home. Your ceiling fan blades should be set to spin counterclockwise during the summer. When your ceiling fan spins quickly in this direction, it pushes air down and creates a cool breeze. Changing the direction of the ceiling fan blades helps to keep a room’s temperature consistent throughout the day and reduces the need for an air conditioner to run constantly.
- Change your lightbulbs: Some types of light bulbs can make your home feel hotter. It’s important to be mindful about the type of lighting we are using during summer times. A regular incandescent bulb can get as hot as 500 degrees Fahrenheit, try to use CFL or LED bulbs instead. CFL or LED bulbs not only save energy, but they can also save energy by letting the room cool down.
- Turn off unused appliances: Appliances generate a large amount of heat energy. Turning off unused televisions, computers and lights will help to keep your home at the ideal temperature.
- House plants: House plants help cooling by adding humidity to the room. Plants release moisture into the air through the process of transpiration, which is when moisture evaporates from the leaves.
From Summer Blues to Brighter Hues
The summer blues do not have to put a damper on your plans. Regulating sleep schedules, meal planning, and mindfulness practices can help you manage your summer depression.
Why So Glum, Chum?
Some well-known reasons people experience depression are genetics, excessive alcohol use, and stress, but other contributing factors you may not know about are:
- How you talk about your home can harm your mental health. People who use terms like unfinished projects or cluttered to describe their home had flatter cortisol levels than those who used words like restful and restorative.
- Disrupted sleep patterns can hurt mental health. Resetting your biological clock can reduce stress and help improve mental health.
- Insufficient vitamin D. Sunscreen and air pollution block UV rays critical for vitamin D production, even in places like San Diego and Los Angeles.
How do you go from surviving to thriving during the summer months? Mindset, cultural practices, diet, activity, and genetics all play a role in helping cope with SAD.
- Mindfulness-based interventions have proven effective across a wide range of clinical and non-clinical applications and have a moderate effect on mental health. Use mindfulness tools when experiencing anxiety, overthinking, and struggling to manage external or perceived expectations.
- Cultural practices can be meditation or spiritual-based prayer, practiced alone or in a group setting. They can also be social experiences like joining a book club or parenting group, going for tea with a friend, or heading to the local brewery for a cold pint.
- Prioritize your health by staying active, practicing good eating habits, and keeping hydrated. Schedule meals, healthy snacks, and hydration breaks. Make it fun by adding cucumber slices and mint sprigs or strawberries and lemon slices to sparkling water.
- Create space for open communication and watch for signs and symptoms of depression in family members. Be respectful of boundaries — if you are having a hard time, they may be too.
Summer Sun 101
Moderate sun exposure is essential for physical and mental health. However, an excess of UV radiation has harmful effects on skin health that can be serious. Understanding the risks of the sun, especially in the summer, is fundamental.
The body needs to synthesize vitamin D (also called “the sunshine vitamin”), which is essential to help the body absorb and fix calcium, a mineral necessary for bone development, muscle health, and the proper functioning of the immune system. On the other hand, the sun is a great mood booster. Natural light increases the production of serotonin, the happiness hormone. And longer days and warmer temperatures invite you to spend more time outdoors. These aspects become an excellent remedy to lift your mood and treat seasonal depression.
Nonetheless, be careful with sun exposure. You should always keep just the right amount of sun that your body needs. Failure to do so causes the melanin not to offer enough protection, which can have harmful consequences for the skin’s health.
Staycations, Backyard Cookouts, and Farmgate Tours
The staycation is an excellent way to spend your summer catching up with friends, strengthening family relationships, and being a tourist in your own town.
- Water activities like pool parties and slip-n-slide kickball can be hours of fun. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water — make cleaning up after part of the fun.
- Plan events like a backyard cookout, a beer tasting, or a wine and cheese party. Support local businesses by purchasing from your local craft brewery, winery, and farm markets.
- Party activity ideas like outdoor movie nights or epic board game adventures can be fun for children and adults.
- Camp in your backyard — a fun idea for a sleepover or when the kids need a break from parents. Have the kids set up their own tents, plan and pack their meals for overnight, and give them an exit strategy if it gets a little scary.
Hosting the Perfect Barbecue
It’s the hot season and there’s no better way to enjoy a summer evening with your friends or family than with a barbecue. Whether it’s meat or vegetable or mixed, it will be a great way to get together and reduce the summer blues. When it comes to meat there are a lot of good options to choose from. Steak, sirloin and ribeye are the most common ingredients that can be accompanied with grilled onions, vegetables and some bread. Keep in mind that the preparation takes time so snacks, such as potatoes or fruit, should be a must.
- Prepare the grill ahead of time and make sure you have enough charcoal for the roast.
- Cut everything you will need during the preparation: onions, vegetables and meat preparation.
- Decorate your backyard and chill beers or whatever you want to drink during the evening.
- Enjoy and disconnect talking with your loved ones.
Seasonal beer and wine tasting
Whether it’s for the barbecue, a pool party or an evening of movies in your backyard, with the high temperatures enjoying local beer or wine are a great idea. First you will want to research how to host the best beer tasting party from an expert resource on craft beer such as The Beer Connoisseur magazine & online. A pilsner, made with bottom-fermenting lager yeast or wheat beers can be a good option. If you have a special glass for beer at home, putting it in the freezer for a couple of hours will make it even cooler. As for wines, there are many options for this season, either a Riesling, rosé, Pinot Noir will not fail for any kind of plan.
Cheeses and hams, perfect summer appetizers
We know that it is a tradition in France to enjoy an evening of aperitifs and why not apply it to us this summer. Invite your friends and enjoy an evening of hams and cheeses with a good wine. Some cheeses can be very strong, so if your visitors are beginners they can start by tasting a brie or camembert cheese, accompanied by a baguette and if they put a little bit of honey it will give an incredible flavor.
Make the most of your Outdoor Space
If it is not possible to get out of the house this summer, what better than a night camping with our children or friends in the backyard. Set up your tent, decorate it with some lights and get ready to spend a fun night watching movies, eating popcorn and talking horror or suspense stories to make the night more exciting. If it’s with friends, a boarding game in the tent is a good option or enjoy a pizza while watching the stars of the night.
Pool Party Time
If you have a pool at home or even an inflatable one, a pool party will make everyone’s summer. Prepare some drinks, set up a net for water games for friends and play your best music. You can also do various activities such as a water balloon war, play water volleyball or just enjoy good conversations with your loved ones.
Another popular option these days is to play beer pong, which consists of two teams of either 1 or 2 people each and place several glasses on both sides of a long table. The first team to get all the balls in is the winner and as the balls are pocketed, they must drink the beer.
Forge Friendships in Fresh Air and Forests
Take advantage of the sun while you can. The UVB radiation from the sun converts into vitamin D3 in our bodies. Our bodies use 100% of the Vitamin D from the sun. It remains in our system for longer than when we supplement with an ingested form. If you plan on being in the sun for an extended time, use precautions. Overexposure can have deadly effects. Cover up exposed areas, wear a hat, and watch for heat exhaustion and heat stroke signs.
Create green spaces inside and out. Studies have shown that interacting with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress. Gardening and growing food also have a positive impact. Therapeutic horticulture is used as an adjunct treatment in people struggling with disordered eating habits because it gives them a sense of control over what they are eating.
Ready, Set, Travel
When you are ready to travel, plan for success. Start with your home. Do you have a go-to person to check up on your home or a favorite house sitter for your pets? Provide emergency contact information to your closest neighbors and let them know how long you will be gone.
Have a safety plan that includes what to do if you get separated, your wallet is stolen, or your luggage is lost.
There are many travel options — eco vacations, adventurous travel, and paradise destinations. Before you book your trip check out these tips that could help make your summer vacation a success:
- Check in with your family — if no one wants to see the Hoover Dam, no matter how much you plan, maybe don’t go.
- Budget — flights, car rentals, accommodations, and travel insurance can eat up a travel budget and leave little spending cash for fun dinners and souvenirs.
- Make a pro and con list: popular destinations can be crowded but exciting, while taking the path untraveled can be adventurous yet leave you stranded.
Choose the Perfect Summer Location
Taking in consideration the personality of potential destinations can make a difference in the success of your vacation. The price will determine which location to choose. Destination, language, climate and time available are essential factors for choosing the perfect spot. Beyond the travel tastes of each person, the best way to choose the perfect destination for your summer vacation is to identify what type of traveler you are.
- Road trip: Taking a road trip gives you the opportunity to visit multiple destinations, different attractions in a wider area, by car or public transportation.
- Adventure: Adventure tourism, also called alternative tourism, consists of the exploration of places with certain perceived risks that require special skills or a certain physical condition to practice some type of extreme sport. This could include a visit to a safari or to do In addition, it can be done over adventure activities in the land, water or air. If your desire is to disconnect from routine, adventure tourism is a great option to get to know other cultures, practice an extreme sport or spend hours in the middle of nature in a safari.
- Relaxation travel: Resorts, all-inclusive hotels or spas are the most popular. They focus on a single destination, which has a beautiful landscape, where you can rest, see a show, do some activity organized by the hotel. Another option for this type of trip is to rent a vacation home or take advantage of an existing space if you already own one.
- Cultural visit: Cultural travel allows you to discover the gastronomy, monuments, museums and cultural attractions of your location.
- Cruises: This type of vacation is slowly growing as there is more competition and travel is becoming more affordable. Summer cruise trips are a great alternative to live experiences that suit the tastes of the whole family.
- Theme Park: Trips to theme parks are the most fun family trips you can take. There are fun alternatives for all ages. Where the little ones enjoy and the older ones bring out their inner child.
Home Away From Home
A change of pace could be just what the family needs, but an all-inclusive paradise destination may not be in your budget. Long-term home rentals or home exchanges offer an economical way to explore new places.
If you have a family lake cottage or timeshare, take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the change of environment. Do not forget the essentials — high chairs, favorite bed sheets, and kitchen items give a sense of familiarity to the adventure.
When sharing the space with loved ones outside of your day-to-day circle, consider the strain that can take on any family dynamic and plan to avoid problems. This can be as simple as setting up alone zones where people can find quiet and privacy or structured meal times.
A trip to the family cabin can also be a great time to perform some maintenance on the property.
- Check for infestations and take steps to eradicate them.
- Clean the eaves and areas around the foundation of leaves and debris that may have come down during winter storms.
- Check for signs of water damage and plumbing issues.
If you find the upkeep is more than you can tackle, hire a property manager or consider a housekeeper. Think about installing a security system to protect your family while you are there and your investment while you are away.
Whether your summer plans include a staycation or an extended vacation away, you can use this guide to help you plan, prepare, and get organized for a great summer. Beat the summer blues with healthy tools, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with friends and family, and perhaps learn a new skill or two.