Happiness

How to Beat the Dreaded End-of-Summer Blues

August 24, 2016
Summer

Canadian summer feels like a weekend: in one moment it’s here – bam! – and in the next it’s over. We’re now well into August, the Sunday of summer, with the threat of September (aka Monday) looming with every passing hour.

This is a pattern we Canadians repeat, year after year. As a country we have a relationship with our seasons and weather characterized by anxiety. Right about now in August we have all begun to squirm uncomfortably in anticipation of that thing we hate and which simultaneously defines us to the core:

Winter.

The bad news is that there’s no way to avoid the end of summer. However, as with everything in life, it’s possible to shift your perspective and plan for what’s ahead in a way that makes it more bearable and, hopefully, more enjoyable.

How to Overcome End-of-Summer Anxiety

  1. We forget about September.

Poor September! Year after year we forget how lovely September is, which is technically our third month of summer (up until the fall equinox). But we’ve all been conditioned to see summer as July and August only because that’s when school’s out.

Fight for September! Redefine summer in your imagination as July, August, and September. If summer is a weekend, then every year September is a holiday-Monday that you have off while everyone else goes back to work and school.

  1. Plan something for the colder months.

We experience four distinct seasons here in Canada, summer being just one of those seasons. What this means – and perhaps why this gives us so much seasonal anxiety – is that we are in a persistent state of change. While change can be difficult, it also means that we get to experience ourselves and our relationship to our environment differently throughout the year.

Planning something specific for the winter months is a great way to alleviate the anxiety that has crept into your mind at this point of August. What will you do this winter that you can’t do this summer? I have a few things planned already: I’ve signed up for hockey, I have a writing project to tackle (writing has been tricky these summer months when my mind is outdoors), and I have a winter vacation booked.

Vacation

All of these things help to alleviate my end-of-summer anxiety. Winter might be the last thing you want to think about right now, but taking some time to think about and plan for your winter will alleviate a fraction of your end-of-summer anxiety.

  1. Winter is only two months.

While I like to add September to summer in my imagination, I’ve also gotten into the habit of imagining winter as two months only. When you boil it down, January and February are really the hardest months to get through. October and November are cosy and nostalgic; December is busy with parties and indoor celebrations; which leaves only January and February to muscle through. Sure, they are bleak, dark and depressing, but April is the light at the end of that tunnel – keep your focus on it. Of course April can be wintry too, but once you’re there you’ve made it through the worst of it.

It’s not so bad when you think of it that way, right?

  1. Once a week, do something good for the environment.

In many ways, our seasonal anxiety is a distraction from a much deeper anxiety about climate change and the environment. Summer is a season of living in the moment – a time when our enjoyment of the weather is in part caused by us not having to think about it. We don’t have to think about how many layers we’ll need or which shoes we should wear – we can just open the door and walk out into the day.

But winter, especially, brings our relationship to the weather front and centre. We’re reminded every moment of every day that we’re secondary to the power of weather.

The extreme weather we’ve been having the past couple of years – from the polar vortex of the past two winters, the drought this summer, and the terrible fires in Alberta – weighs on our minds. I’m not an expert, so I don’t know from day-to-day how climate change is affecting the weather other than by what I read in the media – which I recognize is an unreliable source of information. But I do believe that climate change is happening, and that’s a scary thing.

But as with anything that scares me, it’s helpful to step back and examine what you can do about it – since so much of what scares us is in actual fact a feeling of helplessness. There is lots each of us can do, and I believe that reducing our carbon footprints makes the biggest difference – because recycling might not actually be that great, as it turns out.

I know you might be groaning internally right about now – but consider that your internal groan is really about a resistance to changing your habits, not the gripe-factor of what I’m writing. Reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing shift. There are relatively minor things you can do that make a huge difference.

Try incorporating these into your weekly routines:

  • Eat a vegetarian or vegan meal once a week. Just give it a try! Don’t worry, your body won’t shrivel up into nothingness because of one meal without animal protein.
  • Reduce the amount of energy you use:
    • Put your phone on airplane mode when you’re not using it (like at night, for example).
    • Hang dry clothes that don’t need the dryer (your towels, for example).
    • Use up all the food in your fridge before it goes bad (food requires energy and resources to grow and ship, remember).
    • Switch to LED lights.
  • Do you really need that plastic bag? Carry a cloth bag with you, or simply hold the stuff you buy (reasonably speaking) in your hands.

That’s not so hard, now is it? Best of all, when you are a bit more mindful about your carbon footprint, it helps to alleviate some of that anxiety you might feel about climate change like only action-orientation can.

We Canadians will always have anxiety about our weather; it’s what makes us who we are. But we’re tough because of it, and we have a different perspective about our place in the world (as secondary to nature) that societies in warmer climates don’t always appreciate. That gives us a lot: great literature and art; a special appreciation and respect for the awesomeness of this land we live on; and our world-famous humble demeanour.

Without that? We’d basically be American. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

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