how to look after your mental health in the summer

Summer doesn't have to be cruel.

by Bethany Rose Lamont
10 July 2018, 7:30am

Our internal worlds shift with the seasons. Sure, a sunny day can make you feel like you’re in a beautiful Björk video, in the same way a rainy one can make you feel like shit. But it’s more complex than that, it always is.

Summer can fuck with your mental health. There’s this pressure to magically transform yourself from a broke blob to an aspirational Instagram aesthetic. It’s all so gross and stressful! The change to your routine. The pressure to party. The questionable clothing rules. And so much more.

With that in mind, here’s our step by step guide to staying healthy and happy (or at least trying to!!) during this weird season.

I Will Survive
Mental health resources on social media tend to start and end with a few celebrities tweeting out a number for a suicide hotline, but there’s so much more than that. Yes, I know, our NHS is in crisis, trust me I do. But please don’t think there isn’t help for you if you are hurting.

I’d encourage you to create a survival plan if you have previously struggled with suicide. Save crisis support lines such as this one, this one or this one on your phone, make note of crisis centres you can drop into if you are scared you going to hurt yourself, call mental health support lines prior to your low point, so you can ask experts what resources are actually out there beyond endless NHS waiting lists, alert loved ones that you feel you are in danger, or could be in danger in the future.

Much like how you must safety proof your house for an incoming natural disaster, with mental illness it’s important to plan in advance. I can’t tell you what will save you, but I can tell you to try. Because we need you.

During my last suicide struggle in June, I felt there was nothing to save me as I could not access therapy through our NHS and had already told two medical professionals of my plan to end my life only to be met with a shrug. What was left to help me? Who was there to save me? Feeling like roadkill I just wanted to roll over and die. But humans are strange and scrappy creatures, we can improvise, we can survive, you will make it out of this alive.

Safer Sex as Self Care
The summer is a great opportunity to check in with your body. It’s an especially good time to find out your HIV status. Sounds a little intense, right? But seriously, the worst thing I can say about sexual health clinics, is that they’re kind of boring. So bring a good friend or a good book, but try not to bring your shame to this space. I know that’s hard, I really do. But knowing your status in regards to HIV, hepatitis and more, is a small part of knowing yourself. Safer sex is self care and sometimes self care can be a little scary. But take the time to drop in and find out. It’s okay. You’re okay.

When we see sexual health as a part of physical health, and sexual health testing as a simple medical check in rather than a moral judgement, we can build a better kinder world to love others, and most importantly love ourselves.

Safer Substance Use as Self Care
A simple equation for you: Summer equals festivals and festivals equals drugs. Whether that’s seeing glitter makeup and bum bag fashion as a not so secret signifier for coke and MDMA, tie dyed t-shirts and patchworked pants as a signpost for hallucinogens, or even just the bad memory of a teenage boy trying to sell you oregano masquerading as weed, while some dad rock band is playing in the background.

However, before we enter these summer spaces, I think it’s a good call to ask ourselves a few simple questions:

  • If I’m struggling with depression or low mood right now am I really in the right place for dealing with the inevitable comedown?
  • Has there been any previous correlations with mental highs and lows and my own impulsive drug use?
  • Is there a drug purity testing facility I can make use of so I actually know what I’m taking? The Loop offer drug safety tests at many UK festivals and are a brilliant organisation to make use of.
  • If I have previously struggled with psychosis is exploring hallucinatory drugs such as LSD or mushrooms the best idea?
  • What kind of weed am I actually smoking if it’s always makes me sketchy and paranoid?
  • If I’m off my face, are my friends going to look after me, or am I just going to find myself in a field somewhere with my wallet missing?

All drug use, whether that’s coke, alcohol, or even caffeine, is a personal choice. I’m not here to tell you what to do. But I do believe that through education and open conversation we can have better, safer experiences with or without substance use.

Body Image
Eating disorders and body image issues don’t have an off switch, but these disordered thought patterns can be especially loud during the sunny, sticky summer. In a space of bikini body idealism I often find myself seeking out thinspo and starving myself silly. There isn’t an easy answer for this, as eating disorders are so often an ongoing struggle. But identifying patterns of punishing meal skipping, or even just realising which fitspo/clean eating hashtags are making you feel like shit, is a good start to acknowledging that this is a real struggle so many of us face. Here I’d encourage you to make use of the many excellent eating disorder recovery resources available to help you access the support you need.

Bills, Bills, Bills

So many of us are struggling to make rent at the best of times, and money, or rather lack of money, remains a taboo conversation. We don’t like to admit that our society is an unequal one, and it’s awkward and embarrassing to admit to your richer friends that you simply can’t afford to do all the cool things they can. There’s more to this than learning to say no and being straightforward with your explanation that you can’t afford a £30 entry rooftop party when you don’t even have the pennies for bus fare.

Of course, that’s a good start, it really is, but financial struggles aren’t just a question of stigma they’re a material reality. There’s some invaluable resources out there if debt, work and other money issues are keeping you up at night, a few to look into would be:

  • The Trussell Trust, which provides emergency food supplies for those in crisis.
  • Shelter, for those experiencing housing instability and insecurity.Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who can support you in a range of material struggles, from problems at work to worries about money.

It’s Okay to be Alone
Summer, and her ugly sister socialising, may be upon us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own rules. The most important one being: it’s okay to be alone. You don’t need to attend every party or club night, perform a perfect life on Instagram, or use your one week off to force yourself to read Tolstoy in a self-punishing sense of pseudo-intellectualism. You can go to the movies alone, take yourself out for a trip, whatever you need to make it through.

You don’t need to enjoy every moment of summer, or even any part of this stifling season, but with a little planning and preparation you can ensure that your mental health and material environment is a little safer during these often maddening months. Roll on autumn tbh.

If you or someone you love is struggling with their mental health, there is help for you. This resource list by the mental health publication Mental Movement is a great introduction to the support out there so you can get the help you need and deserve. Read more here .

mental health
body image