The start of summer always feels so uplifting. The days are long, sunshine boosts our mood and it promises days filled with many wonderful outdoor activities. While we know that summer can be tricky for those who struggle with eating disorders, even those who struggle often report that summer makes them feel better and lifts their spirit. What I often notice in my line of work, however, is that with all the benefits that summer brings, it often has one major cost: Burn out. Burn out is what happens when we burn the candle at both ends and the stress from doing so physically, mentally and emotionally exhausts us. It has an impact on our overall wellbeing and makes typical engagements feel arduous and lack enjoyment. During the summer months, it is not uncommon for people to overschedule themselves in ways that can leave them feeling depleted and that can make focusing and working on recovery really difficult.
By the time July or August hit, people have been pushing themselves hard in many great, but not always healthy ways. Longer days means less downtime with a cup of tea; warm weather can often result in people being more active and not listening to their body’s need for rest. Summer is also a time when people often socialize more which is wonderful but can be draining, especially when so much of socializing is based around food – a big anxiety trigger for many struggling with an eating disorder. We know that as our anxiety climbs, our destructive eating disorder behaviors often climb alongside. One of the trickiest things about this time of year is often we can feel both motivated and pressured to take part in the many things going on, making it more difficult to say no to things that don’t necessarily serve us. So what do I recommend in order to make the most of your summer without feeling completely and utterly burnt out?
Schedule in some you time where the only person you need to focus on is yourself. Try to make this time rooted in self-care and not focused on disordered behaviors (including hard exercise). Create a daily or weekly block of time where you give yourself permission to slow down and do nothing, or to take that bath because it recharges you. Allow yourself to skip the beach BBQ if you know it is only going to overwhelm you and instead go to a park in your neighbourhood and read, or snuggle up in your blankets and take a nap. It can be hard to miss out on some of the things that are happening especially when they are things you enjoy, but neglecting yourself in the name of fun doesn’t make it less harmful. Instead, try to find a balance so that you can both enjoy your summer while also taking care of yourself. Recovery in so many ways is a full-time job and while it is important to sometimes put it to the side and go have some fun, it is also important to acknowledge what you need in order to feel and be well.
Summertime really is one of the best times of the year so let yourself get out and enjoy it. Carve out some downtime each day or week to maintain your sense of balance and to ensure you don’t deplete yourself.