Tips to Survive Summer Isolation

I know seasonal depression is supposed to strike in the winter, when it’s cold and dark. For me, it’s always been a summer affliction. It’s due to a number of reasons, like lack of structure in my day, too much free time, and not seeing my friends much. I’ve hated the summer ever since I began to get depressed in my freshman year of high school, but over the years I've found a few coping mechanisms that have helped me have a much better time over the summer.  

 

Get a job.

Obviously, much easier said than done. But if you can swing it, a full-time job with consistent hours each week was really important for me last semester in adding some much-needed structure to my days. It gives me something to do, helps me feel productive, and there’s the added benefit of money. If you can’t get a job, try volunteering, maybe at a local animal shelter. You’ll still be able to get some structure and productivity out of that, plus you’ll feel good because you’re helping people.  

 

See your friends.

They don’t hate you. They don’t. Transportation isn’t always easy, so sometimes you won’t be able to see them. Sometimes your schedules won’t line up. But if you’re ever in the place to see a friend and have convinced yourself that your friends hate you, as I often do, see your friend. They don’t hate you, no matter how much your brain tells you that they do. Don’t confuse some healthy peace and quiet with outright isolating yourself.

 

Work on something creative.

Last summer, I taught myself how to write poetry in fixed forms like sonnets and villanelles. I sewed myself a cute little jumper. I folded a thousand paper cranes. I crochet a hat. I cross-stitched. Find creative things that speak to you and do them. Don't worry about them turning out bad. They don’t have to serve any purpose other than to give you something to work on. Getting into that creative flow is one of the best feelings and is definitely good at alleviating depression.

 

Marathon something fun.

Last summer, I watched Big Mouth, Glow, Santa Clarita Diet, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and American Horror Story. I rewatched Community and Parks and Recreation. I probably also watched a few things that I’ve forgotten about too. The point is, it was fun. I often watched while I worked on a creative project to keep my hands busy, and that made me feel a little more productive too. Most of these shows are comedy, and there’s a reason for that – while I love dramas and horror, comedy is much better for pulling myself out of a bad mood. But do whatever works for you. Distraction isn’t the healthiest coping mechanism, but it’s one of the better ones.

 

Work out.

This one is a little touchy for me because of my eating disorder, but some days working out is really nice. It's usually too hot to run, so I’ll go to the nice air-conditioned gym. On a side note, I've found weight training to be not nearly as eating disorder-inducing as cardio can be. I don’t know if that’s a universal experience, but for me it feels much more like I'm taking care of my body and growing strong than pushing myself to run faster and lose more weight. And slowly progressing how much weight you can lift is a cool feeling. I rarely visit the gym during the school year, but my hope is that this summer I get into a pattern and am able to keep going to the gym into this upcoming semester.

 

Accept that some days will be bad days.  

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to keep your mood up. Some days are going to suck. That's okay. Just try to survive the day. It's okay if you can’t get out of bed, if you can’t shower, if all you eat is potato chips. It happens. Just be wary of letting it become a habit.  

 

Last summer was probably my best summer since the depression started, and that’s mostly what this list is based on. I think the job was the most important thing, honestly. Just getting that structure day-to-day was incredible in making me feel like my life had some purpose.  

Also, one last time, because I get stuck in bad thought patterns a lot: your friends don’t hate you.