The weeks from Memorial Day to Labor Day are typically filled with fun plans and busy events, but sometimes, those social pressures can spark an anxiety-inducing feeling that lingers. Call it summer FOMO or seasonal social anxiety — but that familiar sense of pressure to be social all summer long can be seriously stressful, and research proves it can negatively impact our mental health.
Here are science-backed tips to help you enjoy the sunshine without feeling overwhelmed by the anxiety that can come along with it:
Keep your plans limited
The common desire to cram as many plans into our summers can actually backfire, experts say, and when it comes to drawing a blueprint for the warmer months, we might be better off carving out time to unwind, clear our minds, and embrace some boredom. “Being bored is good for your mind, imagination, and productivity,” Sandi Mann Ph.D., a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, told Time. “There’s no other way of getting that stimulation, so you have to go into your head.” According to Mann, the key to avoiding social anxiety comes down to being selective about the plans you make, and making a conscious effort to protect your free time.
Spend time unplugged
The conversation around screen time is relevant all year long, but when we’re especially eager to spend time outside in summer, it’s particularly vital to get offline. Researchers have found that constant screen use can impact our mental health and make us feel less than — and with social media in the mix, those effects become amplified. The comparison trap that comes with constantly scrolling often feels out of our control, but the choice to put our phones away to be present with the people we’re with is our own.
Adopt a new ritual
Incorporating self-care rituals into your daily routine can help you relieve stress, feel more present throughout the day, and clear your mind before bed. Science shows that adopting small microsteps that take you out of your day-to-day worries can improve your mental well-being, and the beginning of the new season is the perfect time to take on a new one. Try five minutes of meditation in the morning, a moment of handwritten gratitude at night, or any other uplifting rituals that redirect your mind from the ongoing pressures of the social obligations of the summer months. You might even decide to keep one going into the Fall.
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