Whether it's summer, another season, or a particular holiday, if your mood unexpectedly ruins these cherished times of the year, it's time to look inside you for the answers.
My favorite time of year since I was a little girl was summer. The winters in Pennsylvania felt prolonged, dark and cold. Spring was promising but often heavy, wet and muddy – a tease of what’s to come.
Ahhhh summer! Endless hours of blissful freedom to enjoy the warm sun, flowers, and soft new-mown grass under my bare feet. Summer, the time of lemonade stands, swimming pools, bike riding, late sunsets, BBQs and corn on the cob. I loved summer. But then, as an adult, with three sweet young sons and a whole summer of freedom ahead of us, I found myself moping, depressed and angry.
Without warning, in my thirties, the heavy, anxious pit of winter returned. But it wasn’t winter; it was June. When I asked a kindly psychiatrist about this horrible and contrary feeling I was experiencing he told me that I had “unwittingly altered my own biochemistry.” He explained that we can do this. I had changed things around and now was feeling depressed in the summertime. I recognized that I had put a lot of pressure on needing a summer mood to retrieve me from the internal darkness I felt the rest of the year.
Oh perfect, I thought.
Not quite understanding the mechanisms behind this “biochemistry” reaction, I thanked him for the information and decided to try to calm down my hopes about summer. Guessing that I had just needed it too much or expected too much of this precious season, I began to flatten my expectations. This made sense to me.
If summer felt pressured by too much hope, well then, drop your hopes, I thought.
So I did. Summer became “just okay,” summer plans “alright” and I pretended not to quake when the first leaves turned in the fall. It’s just another season after all!
For a while this mindset helped me. At least it helped my experience of winter. Without summer getting to be the hero of the season family, the other seasons felt less like villains. I decided to calm down and actually bundle up when the snow and wind chilled, rather than ignoring it as I had when summer was the only acceptable time of year.
I also embraced springtime and realized that one of the reasons this warmer season was hard for me was that I had some allergies that would flare up, giving me sinus headaches and taxing my body. I began to treat these allergies seriously, taking better care of my body and setting myself up to feel healthier. Spring improved as well.
Autumn was another story. Shaking the life-long fears that set in around the start of the school year, especially when I was raising children, proved more difficult. Fall was tough on my mood and not just because it signaled winter.
My strategy to calm down and just expect less about summer, while helpful, was incomplete.
I like feeling excited and wonderful about life. In tempering my summer excitement in order to prevent expectation crash, I lost some of my joy. Anytime we arbitrarily cut off or shame any of our feelings, we suffer.
Now that I’m older, I have some new perspectives on what to do when you feel your mood is ruining wonderful times in life (like your summer vacations).
Here are just a few ideas to help if your mood is ruining your summer vacation.
Notice the feelings in your body.
For me, my “bad mood” was a very familiar heavy pit or “fist” in my chest.
What does your sadness, anxiety, depression or frustration feel like in your body? Is it familiar to you?
Write or draw this sensation so that you can see what this part of you looks or feels like. It may take on a character form or feel like a very clear part of you from childhood.
How do you feel toward this part of you? Can you get curious about it? Can you open your heart to hear the experience of this part of you? If you can’t feel at least curious, notice the part of you that dislikes or criticizes your feeling. Do you agree with the concerns the critic presents? If so, let it know. Ask any critical feelings if would be alright if you just offered a little time and attention to the part of you that is hurting.
Talk to someone you trust. This may be a friend, partner, family member or therapist. Practice speaking for the part of you that feels down or aggravated rather than from it.
Here’s an example:
Speaking from the part: I just hate summer! The cottage we rent is too musty and all I do is cook all day! Why do we even bother to take a vacation? This was all your idea!
Speaking for the part: There’s a little part of me that still wants the summer from childhood. When I have too much to think about to make it fun for the family or it doesn’t feel free enough for all of us, I get nervous. Then I get depressed and moody instead of just having fun. I know that you want me to have fun, too. I’m sorry if I’ve been short and taking it out on you. Can we put our heads together to find a way that will feel good for all of us?
Remember that your whole life belongs to you, not just the beloved seasons, holidays or special times that you hold “sacred”.
Every day is yours.
Since time marches on quite quickly, seasons come and go, ask yourself: How would I like to approach all the times of my life?
What if you can allow all of your emotions to be available to you during every season? Growing up, I was saving all my joy for summer and all my misery for winter. Eventually this caught up to me!
Sad things can happen anytime. This is also true for wonderful happenings. You are not immune to anything in life. You're not really supposed to be. You also don’t need to ignore or exclude what feels good or happy fearing that grief or sadness will take it away. By understanding your feelings and “being with” rather than “fully in“ them, you can live a more whole and authentic expression of life no matter the season.
When you make peace with and embrace as much as you can, life becomes rich with your presence and understanding. That richness over time becomes joy.
What are you doing this summer vacation?
For more help today, check out my book: Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief and Self-Confidence.