Summer is typically a time when life feels a little slower. Kids are out of school, vacations are planned, and there is a lot more leisure and relaxation due to a looser schedule. While it is great for life to slow down, I have often found that many adolescents I meet with in therapy struggle with the lack of structure or purpose in these lazy, summer days. For those struggling with depression or anxiety, a lack of schedule can lead to deepening symptoms or feeling aimless.
It may seem unusual for mental health issues to increase in the summer with the nicer weather and the ability to take a trip or relax, but this can also allow for teens to have increased thinking time. It has been my experience that this time can often cause them to sit and think about their mental health struggles, rather than working through them. Summertime can feel lazy and unproductive. In order to beat this summer (mental health) slump, there are several practical tips that may be helpful:
*Create a loose schedule. Making a schedule can help to give purpose to each day. It may be as simple as waking up at the same time, doing certain chores around the house, or adding a workout routine.
*Get a job or volunteer. If your teen is old enough to have a job, this can allow for some structure as well as a way to earn some money. Volunteering is also a great way to encourage their passions and learn to help others.
*Family time. While most adolescents would rather be with friends, it is important to cultivate family time (i.e. vacations, game nights, movie, dinner, etc.) in order to encourage healthy communication and connection.
*Get creative. This may include finding a new hobby (i.e. sports, musical or riding lessons, etc.) or getting crafty. Pinterest is a great tool to find ways to be creative. Coloring or drawing is another helpful strategy as well.
*Get active. Staying active can include an exercise routine at home or at the gym. It can also be as simple as getting outdoors for a walk or playing a sport. Moving the body is good for the mind as well.
*Be social. Symptoms of anxiety or depression can keep adolescents from wanting to be social (in person). It is healthy to encourage your teen to spend time outside of the home or even inside the home with friends to stay socially connected.
These are just a few ideas that may be helpful in reducing depression or anxiety symptoms and giving teens some sense of normalcy. Keeping open communication with your child is vital in helping them with their mental health. It is important to create space to connect intentionally. Having some plans in place will provide better opportunities to connect and grow with your teen and beat the summer slump.