Summer 2020 Anxiety
Article by Olivia Evans
Summer anxiety is something I have been experiencing since I was about fifteen. My freshman year of high school is right around the time I actively gave up my free time during the school year– not only being given more school assignments, but also taking more time on my assignments in preparation for college. When summer came around the changing season left an unexplainable and tortuous feeling in my stomach, a feeling of anxiety I would come to know so well. I found myself staring at the wall for hours, feeling awful and having nothing to attribute the feeling to. I’d desperately cling to anything that would give my life purpose, or distract me, but in the morning, I’d wake up and feel hopeless at the thought of doing all over again.
While summer is often deemed a time of relaxation, happiness, and good vibes, this is not the case for many people. Summer depression is a well-known phenomenon (well explained in girl in red’s song summer depression) and the tangential summer anxiety is not uncommon. In fact, those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder often experience intense anxiety with the arrival of summer months. Think: if you feel more bummed than usual in January, you’re likely to feel more on edge in June. Summertime anxiety is a physical response to humidity and heat. Causes can also be attributed to the lack of structure and changes many people experience during the summer months. For college students, summer can mean a return to your hometown and a loss of independence. As years passed, I learned to cope with the arrival of this feeling each year. I even got better at handling it– scheduling my days ahead of time, taking up more hobbies and jobs and simply facing the anxiety. Then 2020 happened. And ‘summer’ anxiety seemed like a laughable hurdle to jump over.
When my university announced we’d be going online, I clung to the hope of returning to campus half-way through our Spring term– I was able to cope fairly well as I kept a ‘it’s only temporary’ mantra on repeat in my head. On the first day of virtual classes, our university president acknowledged that the idea of returning to campus was simply not possible. While I understand now that this hope was comical, it was heartbreaking to admit to myself that I wouldn’t get to participate in some of the best parts of my academic year– taking a fun field reporting journalism class I had put off to make my spring quarter extra fun, spending quality time with senior friends that have become some of the most important parts of my college experience thus far, and returning to ‘normalcy’. I spent the month of April as many people did: spending a lot of time on the internet and grieving what I thought Spring 2020 was going to be. But I also worried my anxious feelings would linger for longer than I had planned.
As the days turned into weeks, I found myself looking for new ways to cope with the anxiety that I was facing day after day, which soon became debilitating. As someone who spends a lot of time on the self care side of the internet, I can find these comprehensive lists of what to do when you're feeling anxious a little empty (something can be so infuriating about a cute little doodle that says ‘take a walk’ when you feel like your brain is simultaneously exploding with thoughts and incredibly empty) , so I have compiled a list of things I do when I’m feeling a particular way and how I feel afterward.
Running is usually the most blanket cure for my anxiety. On days I feel like my heart is beating a little too fast and have trouble sitting still- I run until I feel too tired to continue, blasting a six hour long running playlist I have accumulated over the last few years. On days that my thoughts seem to travel in the most depressing trains- I run without music. While it can help to blast music, sometimes songs can clutter my thoughts even more, or remind me of something I’d rather forget. Afterward, I feel like I can breathe again, and I can't think of much more than "I'm tired."
2. Watching a familiar show
I’ve been criticized by many for returning to the same shows over and over again, but Parks and Recreation, Gilmore girls and The Office are some shows I can turn on and instantly feel comforted. Lately, I’ve realized that I’ll put these shows on only to go on my phone– but a particularly helpful way to combat my anxious feelings is to put my phone away and do nothing but watch the show– even if I’ve seen it multiple times. I find myself able to calm down now after just one episode, rather than wasting the entire day doing nothing else but watching t.v. It’s also fun to look for new parts I hadn’t noticed or remembered. Last week, my roommates and I binged Gilmore girls and even though I have seen the series too many times to count, it was calming and at some points, felt new.
3. Social Media cleanse
This goes without saying, but social media can be toxic. I’ve gone back and forth about deleting social media altogether. However, because of the necessary resurgence of Black Lives Matter movement in June, I have found social media a more important asset in educating and spreading news– so I have waned off deleting it. I do take a break at least once a week. I delete the apps off my phone and spend the day doing other things. I find, usually, I don’t miss much.
4. Take a cold shower
Cold showers are a necessity, especially in the summer months. There’s a scene in Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story, where the protagonist discusses the life-changing event of taking your first cold shower that has always stuck with me. I find even just blasting cold water for a few seconds can help bring me out of an anxious spiral. Nothing is more grounding and it is a proven way to help with anxiety. The cold in general can help relieve the stress you hold onto in your body. It’s also helpful for me to take drives with the windows down or anything that feels cold.
5. Spend time with people, anyone.
This is a really hard thing to do when I feel anxious, but I find it usually helps me the most. Oftentimes, it feels comfortable to isolate myself when I feel particularly anxious. I don’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone, because I’m worried I will seem disinterested or rude because of my anxious feelings. However, it helps to push through these feelings and sit in another person’s company. As I live with three roommates, it is helpful to sit in a common area and be with them. If no one is around, it is helpful to go into public somewhere. In the time of Coronavirus, I recommend a community park– or another place where it is easy to see people from a comfortable distance.
Summer 2020 is somewhat of a perfect formula for intense anxiety– extreme heat, a global pandemic and an inability to foresee the near future. As someone always privy to anxiety, this summer has been a difficult one thus far, however the aforementioned coping mechanisms and time spent with my roommates or extra-long FaceTime calls with friends and family have been helpful along the way.
Olivia Evans is a Low Caliber co-founder. She is currently studying journalism and film. You can find her trying to be artsy on her low quality Instagram @oliviaevans13