School is out. The pools are open. The smell of grilling saturates the neighborhoods in the evening and on the weekends. Thank goodness for summertime.
However, summer does not always mean pleasure and fun times for everyone. One constant that rings true is that our mental health should not take a break. Seasonal affective disorder is often perceived to set in during the winter months, but depression in the summer has been documented.
We may feel anxious about what our kids are doing or not doing. Many of us continue to worry about our finances and how to pay for camp or mini-family trips. Relationships are difficult no matter what the time of year, as well as family dynamics which often change in the summer as kids are on break from college and returning home. As a result of these gnawing pains, indulging in alcohol or other mind-altering substances can become more commonplace.
Perhaps now more than ever, we must be vigilant of our overall well-being and prioritize our mental health. Let us remember that some people might have a different reality of these leisurely months ahead.
The purpose of this article is to remind the community of Marblehead to be grateful that you live near some of the most beautiful beaches. A community on a peninsula; it seems like the perfect place to spend your time. Marblehead is full of history, culture, fun and beauty and let us be reminded to take a step back to basics and make time for summertime.
During the summer months we frequently find ourselves spread thin. A multitude of events and invites flood our calendar, but prioritize these events and understand that it is okay to say no. Try setting healthy boundaries as compared to overextending yourself.
When we over-commit ourselves we compromise our mindfulness. Being present is much more than arriving at the party, but instead being mindful of the moments you share. Set your emotions free. Take in the sights and sounds of your whereabouts and actively listen and communicate with others.
For those who feel anxious or jittery, try channeling your anxiety and apprehensions through gardening or listening to the many sounds of the birds. Take a tour of the Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary on Marblehead Neck, visit Abbott Hall and the Marblehead Museum to learn about the history and culture of our town.
Spend a day at the zoo and feed a giraffe or take a trip to the New England Aquarium or the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.
For those of you who like to live on the edge, cross the border of New Hampshire and be dazed by Canobie Lake Park or stroll the strip at Hampton Beach and stay the evening for a concert at the Casino Ballroom.
Check with your employers, local stores and/or the actual venue for discounted tickets, group rates and free festivals and events for the entire family.
Summer is a time when people tend to treat themselves, whether it is splurging on a vacation, staycation or having a few moonlit dinners.
To avoid financial woes, create a summer fun budget. This helps to tally your spending habits and allows for creativity. Instead of dining harborside, enjoy a picnic at the park or check your local paper for family-friendly activities that won’t break the bank.
On those rainy days and breezy nights, curl up with a good book; you have full permission to get lost in a steamy, summer romance novel. Although many of us like to have time for vacations or staycations, the bills still need to get paid.
For those who have retired, we might feel a sense of integrity by giving back to the community through volunteer work in town or for a foundation or organization you hold near and dear. Research has indicated that those who give back to the community and generate knowledge and goodness feel a sense of integrity and fulfillment as compared to isolation and despair.
Our physical health is something we try to focus on year-round. Summer can make it easier to get in a daily dose of exercise.
Research indicates that exercise releases natural endorphins, including serotonin and dopamine. Instead of driving, ride a bike or walk if you are able, try some jumping jacks to get your adrenaline going or take a morning jog before it gets too hot.
Whether you are a pool person, or a lover of the ocean and lakes, swimming is great exercise and can help with rehabilitation and general body movement. You might just notice a change in mood, energy level and your overall disposition.
A day in the water can tire a person out, especially with the sun’s rays upon us. It can be quite soothing to put your sun-kissed self to rest and get under the cool bed sheets, as the breeze blows in through the window.
The importance of adequate sleep has been determined through sleep studies and researchers alike. Studies show that going to bed and waking at the same time each day makes for a healthy sleep cycle and balances our circadian rhythm.
Events full of food, fun and libations, as well as longer days and nights, can contribute to less sleep in the summer, so it is important to limit alcohol intake prior to bedtime and commit to a healthy bed routine that makes you feel good.
As we reflect on this article, let us remind ourselves of what is truly important.
Yes, summer is full of exciting activities, opportunities, and gatherings. It is evident that our beautiful town of Marblehead has something to satisfy everyone in the family, including our fur babies.
Surrounding ourselves with friends and family can be exhilarating but it can also be exhausting. Structure and balance between taking care of others and taking care of yourself is hugely important. We encourage you to utilize the resources that are offered in your community. One day you might find that the park is perfect for your picnic and another day it might be where you practice yoga, meditate or give yourself some freedom from the chaos.
We might feel pressured to pack in as much summertime fun in these short months, but do not forget to check your mental health and overall well-being.
We ask those of you who are planners, to plan for some downtime. To our creatures of habit, do something out of the ordinary. Allow yourself to make choices and create special moments. Life is about quality and knowing your boundaries. Before you know it, the nights will be getting cooler and those back-to-school signs will appear. Take the time to cherish these blissful months, but never lose sight of yourself.
Marblehead Cares is a monthly column written by members of the Marblehead Mental Health Task Force, which provides leadership and a community-wide focus by engaging providers, residents of all ages and the greater Marblehead community in mental health and wellness initiatives. To learn more, visit marbleheadcares.org/.