For some of us, spring break is already here. We are planning family vacations or day trips to see the Poppy Seeds near Antelope Valley. Next comes the Memorial Day long weekend, where we officially welcome the summer season. Yes, it’s relatively mild year-round here in Woodland Hills, so it feels warm year-round for some people. The interesting thing is that, once you’ve lived here for a while, the winter months begin to feel cold compared to summer, even when the rest of the country seems to be covered in snow. The increase in temperature that begins now and climbs through July, August, and September is a distinctly different experience than our winter months. No matter what visitors might think, we definitely have a summer season.
Summer often brings along fun memories of bonfires, camping trips, and daylight until 8 pm (or later!). Family reunions take place around bar-be-cues, people get married, and families take vacations. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you probably correlate the summer months with togetherness and adventure. Playing in the neighborhood with friends, sunset drives when you first got your driver’s license, and patio time with your girlfriends. It all exists in a sort of dreamy, heat-soaked mirage in our memories and our imaginations as we plan how we’ll spend this coming season.
While summer and those memories may seem “happy” on the surface, this season can also be a source of intense anxiety and overwhelm for some. With the warmer weather comes shorts, sleeveless tees, and bathing suits. Functions that require beachwear are the norm. Activities held outdoors in the heat all but demand lighter clothing. For anyone who feels self-conscious about their body’s size, shape, and/or weight, the hot months can feel a little bit like an endless attack on their confidence. Weddings occur during this season; being single can feel like a parade of reminders that you haven’t found your forever partner yet. As the sun takes longer to set in the evenings, the Golden Hour seems to stretch to two or three. Everything seems romantic, yet you have no one to share it with.
This summer, in particular, you may also find that you wish you could travel somewhere or even do a staycation, but the past two years have taxed your finances to the extreme. Adulthood, especially for millennials and younger, hasn’t come with the house, kids, and trips to the Grand Canyon that many of us envisioned growing up. The mass financial setbacks experienced by our generation barely allow us to miss a day of work, let alone take time off on purpose to spend money elsewhere.
Do you feel anxious and overwhelmed by the summer?
If you do, you’re not alone. Summertime can be anxiety-provoking for many people. As the weather warms up, we spend more time by the beach or in situations where our clothing options feel more revealing, one way or another. We attend functions that celebrate love or are populated by other couples. Our social network begins to post Stories and Albums from their travels.
We begin to imagine what a glorious life it would be if we could throw on a light linen dress, look effortlessly glamorous, and catch any sort of breeze that blew our way. For what feels like the millionth time, some of us might wish that our bodies were different in some way; “then everything would be easier.” This kind of thought process spikes around formal occasions, events where we’ll be photographed, or when the odds of running into our ex are high. The summer can feel like a daily high-stakes game of wanting to look one way but looking the other. It’s an awful way to spend a quarter of the year – a quarter of a life! But unfortunately, it’s very common among people of all demographics, especially women/AFAB people in our society. We imagine that that better life, the one we would have if our bodies were different, would include a committed partner and a fabulous, high-paying job. We envision the aesthetic, we dream of confidence and security, both emotional and financial. It can be easy to fall into detrimental all-or-nothing thinking about these things, where we mistakenly believe that if we don’t have one thing, we don’t have anything. Winter feels like a good time to get cozy and stay home with ourselves; in summer, it can feel like there’s nowhere to hide and “no excuse to be sad.”
3 Steps to Get Ready for the Summer of Your Dreams
1. Identify your triggers around the summertime:
Summertime feels overwhelming and anxiety-provoking because it triggers all the hidden and repressed insecurities we have about ourselves. Whether you are reminded by the lack of funds you have to travel, that you do not have a partner to see outdoor movies with, or that you don’t have the “right” body type for that fun swimsuit, you start to dread the summertime. The first step to dealing with any sort of issue or problem is acceptance. If you identify that you are triggered by a desire to travel that cannot be fulfilled, then you can accept that that is an issue and a reality. Only then can you begin to work toward a solution for the problem; you can’t fix something you don’t know is broken or that you’re denying is an issue.
You may find that these triggers have other meanings or strike you differently this summer than they might have in the past. For example, you may feel more upset about not having a romantic summer adventure partner if you’ve just gone through another failed talking stage – maybe with someone you really liked. If the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your relationships, your finances, or your body, you may have a chain of triggers related to those things this year. Make sure that when you are identifying triggers and processing your emotions around those situations, you are ready to do self-care as well. That might mean having a trusted friend on standby to chat or distract you with a movie night. It might mean that you go for a walk to clear your head or run a bath and listen to your favorite podcast. If that doesn’t work for you, give yourself permission not to identify all triggers at once. Take breaks, tackle one issue at a time, and do whatever you need to do so that you are moving forward without overwhelming yourself. You want to be able to uncover and deal with the problems, not just open them up and then let them sit there.
2. Work towards self-acceptance:
Once you have accepted your triggers, you will also need to accept yourself as a person who would have those triggers and explore why you do. When you explore your triggers around the summer, you may notice that these factors, such as being single or not being “skinny” as measured by society, are triggers because of the way you feel about yourself. Meaning, if you are single this summer and feel like you don’t have a partner to share the summer activities with, this will act as a trigger because being single is linked to your underlying negative view of yourself. For example, most often, people who struggle with their relationship status falsely believe that being single means they are less-than or that they are unattractive or unlovable. Try to determine when you absorbed this message, and where along the way you learned or saw more that seemed to affirm it. Just because you accept that you have a trigger doesn’t mean that it stems from a truth about yourself. And even if it does, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
For example, you may accept that you are triggered about your body and whether or not you feel comfortable and confident in it. You may then accept that your body doesn’t fit the narrow beauty standards that are so prevalent in our society. From there, you can decide not to care or redefine beauty for yourself. Imagine that you are looking at your body from the outside; find people on social media who look like you and pay attention to them. You will probably find that you are much less harsh or critical of them and their appearance than you are of yourself. Body image is an ongoing struggle for so many people; you are not alone in a need and desire to improve your relationship with your body.
These days, it can feel discouraging and disheartening to work hard and barely get by. Especially in a city like Los Angeles, where we see diverse ends of the income spectrum, we might sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by people who are jet-setting, getting pampered, planning lavish parties, and creating beautiful aesthetics in their homes. We might look around at our modest livings and feel as though we should have more and that we have failed in some way if we do not. Accepting that your current financial situation is real means coming to terms with what you don’t have and what you do. I’m not going to say, “Just be grateful that you have a roof over your head”; that’s not what we’re talking about. And frankly, with the rental costs in Woodland Hills, that roof is probably costing you more than you think is fair. I will say that there are free things to do in a city like ours, more than enough things to create a fun itinerary if you’re willing to do the work.
To get ready for the summer, the goal is to accept yourself as you are in all aspects of your life.
3. Let your summer activities be driven by your values:
It is much easier to avoid getting caught up in comparisons if we determine our wishes based on our own selves. We also tend to make decisions based on fears, such as fear of rejection or fears of embarrassment. Prioritizing our values and making a determined effort to pursue what we want, rather than just avoiding what we don’t want, gives us a purpose that can boost our morale and make things seem better than we’d originally thought.
Think about things that you value and want more of in your life. Set aside what you’ve experienced so far, or what you’ve told yourself about your options so far. Focus simply on what you truly value. For example, you might value quality time with your friends. When you choose to focus on what is most important to you, it is easy to plan a beach day with the girls. Because the beach is public property, the only costs involved might be parking or commuting, a picnic if you want to bring one, and however much you spend on a beach blanket and umbrella if you use those. It might be tempting to feel insecure about your body, but with close friends and fun to be had, you have the opportunity to focus on what your friendships mean to you as opposed to putting your energy into avoiding wearing beach clothes. You might take a moment to wish you could go to the beach with a partner, but you can remind yourself that the relationships you have with your friends are also important to you. That is not to say that you don’t have the right to wish for a partner; it is a totally normal thing to want!
Focusing on your values isn’t about pretending that your other hopes and dreams don’t matter, but rather about evaluating which of the things you deem important are already yours for the celebrating. Anything else, such as things others value, or the way others prioritize, isn’t your concern. Do what makes you happy; it is not up to other people to determine what that is or “should be.”
It is all well and good to imagine feeling more confident in your swimwear, less lonely as a single, or more abundant in your livelihood. I know it’s not always easy and that there may be ups and downs in coming to acceptance of your situation, whatever it may be. I also know that just because you accept something doesn’t mean you can immediately feel good about it. That’s okay. The important thing is to continue revisiting your list of priorities; take time to provide yourself with space and care so that you can reflect on your feelings. Be mindful of the thoughts and feelings that come up, but try not to hold judgment about those thoughts and feelings. Try to have fun and be creative with coming up with summer plans, including planning how you’ll redirect if you start to get down on yourself. You might use kind words, a photograph, or a quote by someone you admire about confidence! Whatever will help you stay present and savor the happy moments is a great place to start.
Other Services at Embracing You Therapy
Here at Embracing You Therapy Group, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions, and we invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
At our mental health practice in Woodland Hills, CA, we offer individual therapy and couple’s therapy. Both Dr. Menije, Ani Seferyan, AMFT, Cindy Sayani, AMFT, and Ani Seferyan, AMFT offer virtual therapy to treat mental health concerns including panic attacks, OCD, phobias, and stress; Mood disorders including depression; Relationship issues, both in couples therapy and with individual clients; Perinatal mental health issues such as postpartum depression, Codependency, and Addiction.
Let’s learn what drives your unique perspective on anxiety and stress. Then, let’s find the tools-your unique tools that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.