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Summer gives me social anxiety. I feel like I'm always missing out on plans.

Francesca Specter   

Summer gives me social anxiety. I feel like I'm always missing out on plans.
  • When I was a kid, summer sounded like the best thing ever.
  • Now that I'm an adult, it gives me anxiety because there's so much to do.

In childhood, summer felt simple: six weeks $4, at minimum, felt like an endless stretch of blue skies, freedom, and opportunity, punctuated by a family holiday or a local play date. Yet, as an adult, it seems like an impossible dilemma.

Either I fear missing out on a socially-reinforced bucket list of hot weather cliches — like picnics, barbecues, and $4 — or instead suffer $4 that comes from trying to keep up with the Joneses.

While getting the balance is never easy, I'm finding it particularly hard this summer.

I've been feeling lonely

I recently returned to London after 18 months of digital nomadism, and I realized I'd fallen out of the loop with my usual crowd. "My weekends are booked up until October!" a close friend lamented, while another complained about the money she was spending on European destination weddings. Meanwhile, I silently judged myself for my comparatively empty social calendar.

Single and living alone, I know my life stage is one that renders me less socially committed than my married and/or parent friends — but while I normally take joy in solitude, lately, it's felt more akin to loneliness.

While there are clearly like-minded souls on $4, social media at large makes my feelings of loneliness and FOMO much worse. The weekend I arrived home to London, an ill-advised Instagram scroll assured me everyone I know is at a countryside wedding or a music festival with a crowd of friends I don't recognize.

$4 that we share double the amounts of social posts during summer compared to any other time of the year — which deals a double blow if you're already feeling lonely.

Summer loneliness is common

Smriti Joshi, a clinical psychologist working with mental health app $4, assures me that summer loneliness is a common experience. One reason is the disruption of routine that tends to happen — for instance, close friends or family may be on holiday at this time, or if they're parents, they may be more preoccupied with childcare during the school break. She also mentions the "comparison culture" that comes from using Instagram — something which may well be made worse by a greater number of posts. This, paired with the higher "social expectation" we put on the summer months, may well leave us feeling lonely.

And yet, the alternative is far from perfect. More recently, my solution, as a presently childfree 30-something, has involved sending out a flurry of texts, making back-to-back plans, and booking tickets to an aggressive summer lineup of outdoor gigs, al fresco dinners, and open-air boat events. Yet this has sent me into social overdrive and, sometimes, burnout.

A number of Joshi's clients experience social anxiety during the summer months. One reason is increased exposure to challenging social situations full of unfamiliar faces, like summer company parties or weddings. "If you already have social anxiety, this can be overwhelming — you feel like you want to withdraw," Joshi said. Another lesser-spoken-about factor, she adds, is the stress of body image concerns, which can be triggered by the expectation to wear less clothing in warmer weather.

There's also the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — yes, the condition most typically associated with the deepest depths of winter. "Some people have a physiological disposition to SAD in summer," Joshi said, "Experiencing irritability, frustration, and mood changes in response to light sensitivity and longer days and increased brightness and heat."

Even if you don't necessarily experience summer SAD, scientists have found that levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — $4 compared to winter. This is certainly news to those of us who equate sunshine with an aptly "sunny" mood.

Summer, like any other season, has its inherent ups and downs, and that's normal. Whether you're having the most socially-anxious summer of your life or experiencing what feels like unseasonal loneliness, you're not alone.

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