Now that September has rolled around and Labor Day is behind us, it’s official: summer is over. Sure, the fall equinox is a few weeks away, but the pumpkin spice lattes have already dropped and apple cider donuts line grocery store shelves.
For some, this is the best time of year. But if you experience August anxiety, the September scaries, or the end-of-summer blues, you might be mourning the loss of long, sunny days and dreading the cooler months.
These are just all creative and catchy names for the same thing: when you’re sad that summer is over. Basically, it’s the summer version of the Sunday scaries.
Whether you love or hate summer, you might feel guilty about not having “done enough” with the summer months or not having “made the most of it.” This pressure to be carefree and even productive with our fun during summer can often put unnecessary pressure on folks who are already overwhelmed. And others just plain love summer and can't stand the thought of bundling up or dealing with 4pm sunsets.
So how can you tell if you have the end-of-summer blues, and how can you beat them if you do?
The end-of-summer-blues is not an officially diagnosable condition like seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or clinical depression with a seasonal onset, but if you think your August anxiety is actually part of a bigger problem, it might be time to talk to a mental health provider.
Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the "winter blues," is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. It tends to occur when the seasons change and most symptoms begin in the fall and continue into the winter months. Less commonly, it can occur in the summer or spring as well. Millions of American adults may suffer from SAD, although many may not know they have the condition.
It's normal to occasionally feel down, but if the feeling persists for days or weeks and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, talk to your healthcare provider. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed, you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation, or you feel hopeless or think about suicide.
If you’re not experiencing full-on seasonal depression (and again, if you are, you should talk to your doctor or therapist), there are a few tips that might help you get out of your post-summer funk.
There’s nothing we can do to stop the passage of time. Instead of fighting the end of summer, lean into it!
Your end-of-summer tradition can be as creative and unique as you want it to be—or as simple as a day at the pool. But remember, it's not goodbye forever, it's just goodbye for now.
Part of what gives us August anxiety is the impending autumn and winter. Maybe you live in a place where the weather gets cold and you’re feeling anticipatory anxiety as the days get shorter and cooler. Maybe you traveled or participated in summer-only activities and now you’re afraid those days are gone.
Can you think of one or two activities you tend to do in the summer that can translate into winter activities?
For example, if you love going to the beach in the summer, you could sign up for a shorebird watching tour or a beach cleanup in the cooler months. If you miss working up a sweat, you could try hot yoga. Or have a summer-themed evening in the dead of winter—a flip-flopped version of Christmas in July.
Do you find yourself growing listless in the winter months? It can help to set goals or intentions now, before you get too cozy on the couch.
Maybe you’d like to exercise or take up a new hobby. Maybe you want to make sure you stay social and keep in touch with friends you might have seen more often in person during the summer months.
Whatever you choose, make sure to set goals that motivate you and make them SMART.
Whether you plan something for the following summer or something in the dead of winter to look forward to (hello, New Year’s Eve celebrations and traditions), having something to look forward to can get you through hard times.
Even if you can’t solidify plans now, frame your thoughts to be more about what you do like about fall and winter (holiday dinners? falling leaves?) rather than what you don't like about the post-summer seasons.
In today’s culture, we often feel the need to be productive and make the most of every moment—our own tips above are all about doing things!
But it’s okay to just…not. You don’t need to set goals, create plans, establish traditions, or do activities if you don’t want to, if it’s only going to add to your to-do list, or if it’s not going to add value to your life. Be kind to yourself, take care of yourself, and give yourself some grace to just be.
To get a little deep for a second: The concept of summertime, August, productivity, etc. are all human-made and you can choose to not participate in assigning importance to arbitrary methods of time-keeping if you don’t want to.
Of course summer exists as a season (in some places) and clinical depression with a seasonal onset is real, but if what you are feeling—anxious, stressed, a lack of control—is due to societal pressure, acknowledge it, validate those feelings, and take your next best step to let that pressure go.
And it’ll probably be back before you know it. Soon, it will be time to bust out the tank tops and flip flops and slather on the sunscreen again.
If you’re struggling with the transition, a therapist can help. If you’re looking for your perfect therapist match, complete our brief, easy questionnaire and receive three personalized matches for you and your unique needs or search through our directory of providers. You deserve to feel well year-round, no matter the season.
Caitlin is an organizational change strategist, advisor, writer, and the founder of Commcoterie, a change management communication consultancy. She helps leaders and the consultants who work with them communicate change for long-lasting impact. Caitlin is a frequent speaker, workshop facilitator, panelist, and podcast guest on topics such as organizational change, internal communication strategy, DEIBA, leadership and learning, management and coaching, women in the workplace, mental health and wellness at work, and company culture. Find out more, including how to work with her, at www.commcoterie.com.