31 May How Summer Triggers Body Image Issues
Summer is a trigger for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, body image issues or a mental health condition. The lack of structure in the summer months can lead to disrupted routines, which can lead to an increase in emotion dysregulation and unhealthy behaviors.
In the mental health field, we have found that the summer months often make eating disorders and mental health symptoms worse. We often notice an increase in anxiety, depression, body dissatisfaction and negative self-talk. More clients report skipping meals, over-exercising and spending time obsessing about their bodies and food. This doesn’t just affect young adults, females, or people who are in recovery. People of all ages and genders are susceptible to the summer vulnerability factors.
It’s not just the more revealing or skimpier clothing that can trigger many of the negative and self-deprecating thoughts. Advertisements featuring airbrushed models, diets and workout plans are everywhere… on your social media feed, TV and in magazines. You can’t get away from the comparisons. Even the most secure person may begin to question themselves.
There are many triggers to attend to, especially in the summer months. If you can pay attention to these, you may be able to avoid the self-confidence traps and embrace the summer months openly.
1. There’s More Free Time
For many, this down time is a great opportunity to relax and recharge. For others, though, it becomes a time to obsess, over-think, isolate and become stuck in unhealthy thought patterns. Be mindful of where your thoughts take you. Be aware if you start spending more time in unhealthy places.
2. You Exercise Less or More
Changes in the summer schedule can lead to a decrease in normal exercise habits or an increase in the urge to maintain control. For many, this leads to excessive exercise. Research shows that the more you follow the same schedule, the better you feel and the healthier you are. Although you might not want to get up early to work out like you do during the school year, it may be exactly what you need.
3. Time with Others Can be Overwhelming
Vacations and an increase in social obligations leads to stress, triggers old thought patterns and can interfere with self-esteem. Those who struggle with eating disordered behaviors and body image issues tend to take this stress out on their body.
4. Stress Due to Engaging in New Activities May Increase
Eating disorder behaviors may be exacerbated with the stress of new activities such as summer school, a new job, vacation, camp or socializing with new friend groups.
5. You Aren’t So Covered Up
Swimsuits and short shorts make the pressure to be “perfect” hard to ignore. Swimsuits make many people feel vulnerable and insecure, but to the person with a distorted body image, it’s torture.
These kinds of behaviors are often normalized as “typical summer actions.” However, the longer they go unaddressed, the more likely the unhealthy behaviors are to remain. Don’t delay, reach out before the summer triggers turn into life-long challenges.
Authored by: Emily Roberts, MA LPC