The 4th of July is right around the corner and we are all looking forward to spending time with friends and family. The holiday marks the start of summer for many. The beach is calling and our coolers are full of delicious picnic food just waiting to be eaten. But summer isn’t all fun and games. In fact, many people feel more stress in the summer months than any other time of year. Here’s why:
- Money Woes - Financial concerns can cause a lot of summer stress. Vacations aren’t cheap. Flights are expensive and with the cost of gas and tolls, driving isn’t cheap either. And that’s just the cost of getting there. Food and lodging add up quickly, too! And for all those working parents out there, the price of summer camps and babysitters can eat through a paycheck in the blink of an eye.
- The Heat – For many people, the heat and humidity of summer are downright oppressive. They become hermits, staying indoors where it’s cooler, skipping workouts or walks and ordering takeout because, let’s face it – it’s too hot to cook. Being hot can lead to increased irritability, weight gain and even loss of sleep.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder – Along those lines, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) isn’t just a winter thing. It can also affect people during the summer months. Scientists can’t agree on why this may be, but some suggest that longer days, increasing heat and humidity may play a role. Specific symptoms of SAD can include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, weight loss and anxiety.
How Summer Stress Can Stress Your Stomach
Summer stress can lead to a wide variety of ailments. But it is directly related to digestive difficulties. The body’s typical stress response involves the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands. The hormones trigger reactions like an accelerated pulse. They also cause changes in the digestive system, such as sudden loss of appetite, heartburn, nausea and stomach pains. Stress also causes inflammation throughout the digestive system, which leads to aggravation of the digestive tract and affects the assimilation of nutrients. Over the long term, stress can actually cause chronic digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers.
What You Can Do About It
There are many things you can do to limit the amount of stress you feel this summer. Try sticking to your normal schedule as much as possible. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Keep up with your exercise routine. Many studies have found that regular physical activity can help keep stress at bay. So even if it’s too hot for your normal activities, find other ways to stay active and alleviate summer stress. Plan your vacation carefully. Ensure that it is something that will make your whole family happy. If a vacation is going to stretch your finances, make you fall behind at work and cause large amounts of stress, consider alternatives. Instead of taking a whole week off, perhaps plan several long weekends away. The “staycation” is now a popular option: a vacation that doesn’t involve traveling away from home, but merely planning fun things to do right in your local area. Summer doesn’t have to be stressful and your stomach doesn’t have to suffer!