For many, summer vacation is seen as an opportunity to relax from the stresses of academic life, enjoy the weather, and spend quality time with family and friends. At HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, our therapists witness firsthand how summer vacation affects mental health in adolescents. The freedom and expectations that summer brings can affect a person’s mental well-being, particularly for those struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. Adolescents can be particularly vulnerable to summer stressors and this post will explore why and how they might be impacted.
1. Effects of Summer’s Loss of Structure and Routine
During the academic year, adolescents adhere to a strict routine. School classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities create a rigid schedule that young people grow accustomed to during the school year. During summer vacation, this structure is taken away, leading to a lack of purpose and direction, which can culminate in emotional distress. Summer vacation affects mental health in adolescents by exacerbating existing issues, such as anxiety and depression, when adolescents are left without direction and purpose.
2. Social Isolation During Summer Vacation
School gives our children a method of seeing friends daily. During summer vacation, adolescents may not have the same opportunities to socialize with friends and peers, as their social circles take up new working schedules or leave town for weeks on end. Without the support of their social systems, adolescents may begin to feel isolated and lonely, ultimately leading to depression and anxiety. This added stressor can cause a downward spiral that can be difficult to overcome without outside support.
3. Negative Body Image
While often seen as a time of relaxation and fun, summer vacation can have a detrimental impact on adolescent body image. With the increase in leisure time and exposure to outdoor social activities, adolescents may find themselves facing greater scrutiny when it comes to their physical appearance. It is common for adolescents to compare themselves to their peers, or what they consume in the media. The pressure to get a “perfect summer body” becomes especially prevalent during this time, perpetuated by societal standards and the influence of social media. The constant stream of unrealistic, filtered, and edited images on platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook, can intensify feelings of inadequacy, leading to a negative perception of one’s own body. The focus on social events in swimwear with their closest social circle can amplify body dissatisfaction, contributing to lowered self-esteem and increased body image concerns among adolescents.
4. High Expectations of Summer
With summer vacation comes expectations of traveling and having new experiences. Adolescents often feel pressured to take in social events, even if they are outside their comfort zone. High expectations can lead to feelings of disappointment, stress, and inadequacy when they fail to be met. As children get older, this stress can grow more intense as they realize that they will have fewer summer vacations ahead of them. This pressure of needing to have a perfect summer causes anxiety that can compound any mental health struggles.
As health professionals, we see how summer vacation affects mental health in adolescents. We explored some of the challenges that summer vacation poses to mental wellbeing. These issues include a lack of structure and routine, social isolation, negative body image, and high expectations. By being aware of these challenges, parents can take steps to overcome these stressors and address any underlying mental health concerns they may see in their adolescent child.
If you believe your child is struggling with their mental health, it is never too early to seek professional help. The HPA/LiveWell team is eager to help you and your child. Our therapists in Albany, NY specialize in adolescent mental health and can help you overcome any of the challenges associated with seasonal stress. Please reach us at 518-218-1188 or learn more about our Intensive Outpatient Program. As a parent, it is critical to be aware of the potential negative affects summer vacation may have on your child. This will help alleviate any undue stress and anxiety, leading to happier and healthier summer vacations.
With our new online therapy capabilities, HPA/LiveWell can now offer mental health services to anyone within not only the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley region – Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Newburgh, White Plains, Kingston, and surrounding New York cities, but we can offer mental health services and eating disorder treatment to anyone throughout New York state.