How to Go Out in the Summer . . . Even If You Hate Going Out in the Summer (July 2023)
Authored by Hayley Miller, LPCC, CEDS-S, RD, CDN
You eye the invitation sticking in your bedroom mirror as you paw through your closet, trying to find something to wear to your cousin’s wedding. It’s going to be warm, so you know you have to wear something sleeveless and possibly short, but each piece of clothing makes your heart race with anxiety when you hold it up to yourself.
Not the chino shorts (it’s a formal affair), not the flowered dress that shows your knees or the cold shoulder dress that bags at the waist. Before long, your bed is piled high with all your rejected outfits, and your closet is empty. You glare at the invitation resentfully and wonder if the event is worth the anxiety.
With the advent of summer comes cookouts, parties, vacations, pool or beach events, friends, family, and fun. Unfortunately, struggles with body image can put a damper on your enjoyment of these social events, and summer styles are often designed to show more of our bodies, which can be triggering. Here are a few ways to handle the anxiety that can come with choosing your summer wardrobe.
Pick clothing that is cool and comfortable. If you have issues with body image, it is likely that certain kinds of clothing, especially form-fitting or revealing pieces, will trigger anxiety. To counteract that, it can be helpful to wear clothing that causes less anxiety, either a style that is loose-fitting or a size that is less tight to the body. Your clothing should fit your body and your comfort level. Do not change your body to fit your clothing. If your clothing is made from a fabric that is too thick and makes you sweaty or worry about chafing, pick up anti-chafing shorts to wear under your outfit. Anti-chafing sticks and creams may also help.
Discuss any photos you may take with others before they appear online. If you are triggered by unflattering pictures of yourself, make sure you are a part of planning and editing any photos in which you appear. Choose an angle and pose that will help you feel good about your appearance. Also, try to keep in mind that the camera is flattening a 3D image, so many shapes will appear distorted.
Use coping mechanisms to decrease your stress levels. If you notice your stress levels rising, there are things you can do to help lower them.
- Practice self-care routines. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people have trouble planning time to work on things they enjoy. If you spend more time doing things that make you happy, you will be happier and less stressed.
- Get rid of any clothing that doesn’t fit you anymore. Sometimes looking at clothing that is a size you can no longer wear is triggering, so it is best to donate it.
- Try self-soothing routines like havening. Havening is a newer therapeutic exercise that involves putting your hands into a prayer position and then slowly rubbing them together. You can also place your hands against the wall and press on the wall. These exercises are designed to reset the brain so you can recall stressful events without feeling stressed.
Everyone responds to different stress-relieving measures, so it can be worthwhile to try as many as you can to see what works for you.
Do not go to the event if your stress levels are too high. Your mental health is your number one priority. If you are preparing for an event and feel that your stress levels are far too high for you to enjoy the event, allow yourself the option to cancel. Your host will understand that you are unable to attend. These events are meant to be fun, and if you don’t think you will be able to have fun, they’re not worth attending.
While many people look forward to summer, it’s okay if you don’t. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel about it and try to manage your negative feelings as best you can. Reach out to a member of your support system or even see a therapist or counselor if you feel that your stress is outside of your control. If you wear clothing that you are comfortable with, manage your stress levels, and utilize coping mechanisms, you can survive the three months of summer until fall comes around. Remember, it’s just one season. You got this.