Oh, Those End-Of-Summer Blues

Why does it seem that at the end of the summer, so many people suffer from a case of the blues? Clinical psychologist and contributor Robin Goodman talks about it and suggests ways to help feel better on The Saturday Early Show.

There are different categories of people: those who didn't take enough vacation ... and those who did and have a hard time coming back to work.

September is a traditional landmark. School is starting, and ever since we were young, we've been "trained" to have a "school year" mentality, Goodman explains. We equate the summer with freedom and the fall with "back to school" and, for many, that means drudgery or at least, less freedom.

Also, the weather is changing. The days are getting shorter, and even the way people talk about the seasons encourages less energetic feelings.

Summer style and its pace are different. Summer is a very social time as the weather encourages people to go out.

It's natural to become sad when we end one thing and when we think too far ahead about what's next: the darker, colder winter when people are indoors and hibernate.

Even the summer work routine and attitude is different. Some businesses have a "leave early Friday" during the warmer months.

How can you overcome this particular case of the blues?

  • Some are disappointed that they didn't get to do all the things they had planned to do or go to all the places they wanted to go over the summer, whether the goal was to clean out the garage or to go to the beach six times. Focus on what you did accomplish instead.

  • Don't look back. Celebrate what's special about each season and look forward to the opportunities that come with the change in weather. Consider hosting a pot-luck dinner at your house; being around people will help combat the blues. If you can't afford to book a big winter vacation, plan some inexpensive day trips. Take a trip to look at leaves, go apple or pumpkin picking, find local county fairs or plan a hike.

  • Department stores are on to something: They're showing clothes for colder weather to help get you in the mood and ready. Don't regret that you can't wear shorts. Instead, check out new fashions, go through last year's fall and winter clothes and decide what you need and how to update. Get a head start by buying one new accessory or piece of clothing, like a colorful, cozy sweater or belt.

  • Change your focus, Redirect your energy toward a new project for the fall. Find a volunteer organization, a new club, activity or sport. Join an aerobics class, an arts-and-crafts class or a book club.

  • Some people like summer jam-packed with activities, and others like a leisurely season with lots of relaxation. Take the summer aspect that you like and integrate it into everyday life year round.

  • "What I Did On My Summer Vacation." Take something from vacation back to work, like a photo or other memento. Add a screensaver from a place you visited or of the kids diving in the pool. But be careful not to bore co-workers and friends, or if you didn't do something, don't be a spoil sport when others talk about their fun.

    How about combating the "back to work" blues?

  • Get a good night's sleep. Among other things, sleep deprivation is a major problem for many adults resulting in irritability, a decrease in productivity, concentration and memory. All of that can make you feel down, especially at the workplace. Educate yourself about good sleep habits.

  • Set up a routine for work and home. Include work "must do's" as well as fun "must do's." In addition to scheduling the monthly PTA meeting or weekly staff meeting, schedule a trainer, sign up for the bowling team or register for a quilting class.

  • Get and use support systems. You should have work buddies and play buddies, not always the same. Having a familiar face at work and a colleague you can share the highs and lows with helps everyone. It's also important to have a non-work life.

  • Plan for the transition: Don't go back full-steam right away. Allow yourself a transition day between vacation and work, or try to schedule meetings for the second or third day back or beyond.

  • Take on a new project. Set a new goal at work, no matter how small.

  • Plan for fun! Even something simple like a lunch, dinner or movie night with a friend can be helpful. Of course, you can always think ahead to next summer as well.

  • Be realistic and get perspective. The summer is only three months at most. That leaves nine other months, so of course you couldn't get all the projects done or do all the vacationing you ever wanted in such a short time. Schedule yourself and family better. Don't be so hard on yourself.

  • Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are right around the corner. They bring their own issues of fun and stress!

    And what about the children? How can you help a child embrace the change of seasons?

  • Plan the transition. Talk about what will happen when school starts, everything from homework to friends. For instance, remind them about friends they'll see and the teachers they'll have.

  • Keep age in mind. There is no need to spend weeks talking about the return to school. Younger children don't need so much lead time (and it can make them more anxious), and older ones already know.

  • Get everyone back into a routine. It's especially important to have children get back to an appropriate sleep schedule so they are well rested when school starts. They also do best when there is a predictable schedule.

  • Involve your children with after-school planning.

  • Share the summer. Help the child mark the end of one season and the start of another. Maybe you and your child can put together a little collection of things from their summer that they can share with classmates and friends (like photos or seashells), and then ask them to write a list of all the great times they had this summer. This will help them realize that it's OK to have enjoyed the summer and to think about their experiences even into the next season.
    • Ellen Crean

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