When the weather starts to really heat up, the days are longer, and the thick weight of humidity settles over everything, you know summer has arrived. I've always loved summer (though not quite as much as autumn), but there are times when it's so hot that everything starts to feel hazy, when it's so humid that everything just feels heavy, and when the lengthy days make me long for the carefree summers of my youth. It's usually about now — near the beginning of July — when I start to experience what I call the "summer slump."
The summer slump encompasses everything from: feeling guilty when the weather is glorious but I don't want to (or can't) go outdoors; to experiencing envy when envisioning all the children and teachers who have three months off; to being tired and sluggish from the heat: to experiencing waves of nostalgia for summertimes past (perhaps the reason for the success of Lana Del Rey's song "Summertime Sadness").
The summer slump is when you know you should be enjoying the sunny, warm weather (that weather you long for all winter!), but for whatever reason, you'd just rather not. It's a mixture of lethargy, boredom, and restless that makes you simultaneously want to frolic amid the bees and blossoms outside and don sunglasses indoors beneath an air-conditioning vent. It's the pressure of trying to enjoy a season that might have been just a bit more enjoyable when it meant three months away from the classroom. Do I sound like a summertime version of Scrooge yet?
Clearly the summer slump is hitting me hard this year and it comes with a lot of negative thinking — something I'd like to avoid in my quest for a more positive, more present life. Instead of just waiting it out or wasting time longing for autumn as I often do, I've given some thought to some positive, proactive choices I can make to overcome the summer slump and actually make the most of the rest of the season. If you, too, are slumping in the midst of summer, here are some ideas for recapturing that summertime feeling.
STOP ROMANTICIZING THE PAST.
I often find myself slipping into a summer slump when I spend time thinking about how lovely it was to be younger in summer. In my mind, summers past were filled with endless days spent reading, lounging poolside and soaking up the sun, darting through trees as fireflies blinked in the darkness. The memories are coated in a layer of carefree bliss. In reality, when I was young, summer meant a lot of boredom coupled with a trapped feeling that came with having no routine. When I was in high school and college, the boredom (slightly tempered by summer jobs) lead to trouble — mistakes and messes and whole days wasted in a hungover haze. It's funny how our minds so often romanticize the past, isn't it? My mind seems particularly keen to do it when it comes to summertime memories. And when I think about past summers as picture perfect months, the summer slump gains strength. Instead, it's important to be realistic about the past (in summer and always). There were certainly some amazing summer moments, but overall, summer is just the same as the rest of the year: filled with highs and lows, excitement and boredom, contentment and restlessness.
LET GO OF SUMMER EXPECTATIONS.
For me, summer comes with some sort of pressure to go, do, see, experience. Perhaps it comes from those school days when you'd return from months away and have to write about what you did over the summer (or, at the very least, answer questions about where you vacationed, if you did anything cool, etc.). Even as an adult, it's still a common question. People often ask, "Any exciting plans for the summer? Going anywhere fun?" In the winter, you can stay in your home all day every day and no one says a thing about it, but in summer, you're expected to do things, to go places. Sometimes going places and doing things just isn't going to happen (either because we don't want it, can't afford it, or don't have time for it) and that's when it gets tough not to feel a bit of summer slump when you have to reply with, "No, no exciting plans. Not really going anywhere either." I'm all for summertime adventures, but not every can or wants to have them. One key for getting away from summer slump is letting go of these expectations. Decide that every season is going to be awesome and take some of the pressure off summer.
FIND A WAY TO CHILL OUT.
One of the reasons I find myself in a bit of a slump mid-summer is the heat. In some places, I'm sure it's a lovely time of year, but here in the suburbs of Washington DC, it gets hot. And not only is it hot, but it's often unbearably humid as well (which is worse than the heat in my opinion). When I'm overheated, I get incredibly cranky and tired, which makes it very difficult to stay positive and enjoy the present. The summer slump quickly takes over when I'm too hot and all I can think is, "I miss winter." To avoid this sluggish haze of too much warmth, it's important to find ways to stay cool. Staying cool physically is essential for staying cool mentally. The best ways I've come across for staying cool are:
- staying indoors during midday hours,
- indulging in chilled treats (popsicles!),
- drinking lots and lots of cold water,
- turning off lights / appliances not in use,
- going for a swim in the pool or ocean,
- wearing light, comfortable clothing,
- taking a nice, long, cool shower, and
- trying any of these crazy ideas.
There are tons of ways to stay cool during the summer months, and sometimes it requires making an effort to keep yourself from overheating, but the cooler you keep yourself on the outside, the cooler you'll stay on the inside, making it a lot easier to combat the summer slump.
EMBRACE THE WAY YOU FEEL.
It's okay to not be obsessed with summer every single moment that it's happening. In the spirit of Glamour magazine's "Hey, It's Ok!" segment, let me remind you (and myself!) of a few things it's perfectly okay to do this summer. It's okay... to glare at the sunny, blue sky and wish it would rain so you wouldn't be so darn hot. It's okay... to stay inside for a day even if it people keep saying, "but it's such a nice summer day!" It's okay... to choose a black t-shirt and jeans over a flower-print dress. It's okay... to use the air conditioner and a fan. It's okay... to not go on vacation (and not feel an ounce of guilt about it!). It's okay... to read novels set in winter and wish you were in them. It's okay... to think children catching fireflies is pretty cruel. It's okay... to actually stick your head in the freezer. It's okay... to get excited about back-to-school commercials (even if you don't go to school). I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea. It's all about acceptance. If you're in a bit of a summer slump, you don't have to completely push those feelings aside. Instead, allow yourself to feel how you feel. You might not love every moment about summer, and that's okay. Accept how you feel, and then...
AWAKE THE SUMMERTIME SPIRIT.
If you're in a slump, the "summertime spirit" probably isn't what you want to embrace, but I think there's something to be said for embracing your feelings (as mentioned in the previous point) and then pushing yourself (slightly) out of your comfort zone. The key here is to figure out what summertime really means to you, to consider your fondest memories of summer and strive to reconnect with them. Your summertime spirit might be in diving into a lake on a hot day at camp or reading for hours at the beach or taking in outdoor music shows or whatever first comes to mind when you think: summer. Imagine yourself in the depths of winter — dreading going outdoors because it's so cold and hating the layers you have to put on every time you leave the house — and consider what that version of you would want to be doing in summer. You'll probably recall that, during the winter months, you had some sort of positive summer thought, like "I can't wait to wear flip-flops again!" or "I just want to lay by the pool all afternoon!" Take those thoughts and try to reconnect with them in the present. Do the things your winter-self would have wanted you to do. (And, while you're at it, maybe jot down a few things you'll want to do in the winter so you can enjoy that season when it comes around...)
GET LOST IN AN INSPIRING READ.
Being the book nerd that I am, I believe almost all things can be fixed with the power of some inspiring words. When you find yourself in a summer slump (or a slump of any kind), it can be so helpful to pick up a good book and dive into the words you find there. Maybe try reading a summer-themed book so you can soak up the author's words about the summer. (Some of my favorites include: A Hundred Summers, The Jellyfish Season, The Great Gatsby, Just a Summer Romance, The Summer We Read Gatsby, The Last Summer (of You and Me), Summer Sisters, and Maine.) Sometimes, in the midst of a summer slump, it helps to remind yourself why summer is something many of us crave all year long. And if those summer-themed books don't do it for you, just try reading something that inspires and uplifts you. A really great, inspiring read can be a great way to overcome any kind of slump. (Need an inspiring, interactive read? Check out the Live Happily Ever After Now workbook — available only until tomorrow, July 1!)