thriving through summer as a highly sensitive person

thriving through summer as a highly sensitive person
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins on June 21st.

But it’s already feeling plenty summery here in New York, and right now is a perfect time to start getting ready for what summer will bring. This is especially true if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), like me.

Summer has never been my fave. (Anyone who’s spent a summer with me knows that’s the understatement of the year.) Some summers have been downright terrible for me. I get into a funk, and then I keep going, deeper and deeper.

Luckily, I now at least have the awareness that summer isn’t always a walk in the park. And because I have that awareness, I’m able to do whatever I can to prepare for it and preemptively attend to my own needs.

Here’s my list, in no particular order, of things you can do to thrive through the summer, instead of just surviving it, even if you’re a highly-sensitive summer-disliker like me.

  •  Own it. You don’t like summer, and that’s okay. You’re allowed to dislike seasons that other people love. You’re entitled to your preferences. You have your reasons (even if you don’t know what they are). You don’t have to tell everyone that you don’t like the summer if you don’t want to, but know that how you feel is allowed.
  • Use air conditioning if it helps. I spent one NYC summer without air conditioning. My reasoning was that air conditioning is bad for the environment. You know what’s also bad? Me being in complete and total agony for four months, and unable to sleep, due to the heat. After that summer, I decided that my comfort and happiness are more important than my carbon footprint. Air conditioning has kept me from melting every summer since.
  • Be thoughtful about how you prepare for the beach. Not everyone likes to (or can) spend an entire day at the beach. For some of us, a full day on the sand results in burns, heat stroke, and dehydration. Keep in mind that you’re allowed to go to the beach for a shorter period of time, or skip beach trips altogether. And if you do go to the beach, sitting under an umbrella and reading is absolutely an option. After a beach trip, you might want to make sure that you have a chance to shower (sand and sea water can be especially irritating to HSPs). And that you make sure to get plenty of water and sleep the day after a sun-fest.
  • You don’t have to wear shorts. I don’t know a whole lotta people who actually like wearing shorts. They don’t always stay put, and they can result in thigh chafing and all sorts of other not-fun things. You’re allowed to opt out of shorts altogether (I usually do, unless they go almost to my knee, which generally eliminates chafing problems). Skirts can be lovely in the summer. As can skirts with biking shorts underneath (to minimize chafing), runners’ anti-chafing stick, or powder gel.
  • Dress to make your body and soul as happy as it can be. During my teen years, I suffered through wearing shorts, spaghetti strap tank tops, and bikinis each summer, because I didn’t realize I had other options. But those clothing items restricted my movement, made me feel overly exposed, and just weren’t me. In the many years since then, I’ve realized how many options I have. My usual summer outfit now consists of a skirt or cutoff leggings with flowy tank tops. At the beach, I wear a simple one-piece swimsuit, which stays put and allows me to get just as crazy with my swimming as I want. (Also, this exists! I’ve heard rave reviews of its comfort, too.)
  • Protect yourself from bites. Ugh. This is probably one of the biggest ones for me, because mosquitoes love me. Especially if you live somewhere that gets humid in the summer, get yourself some mosquito repellent, and use it. (You can also try making your own. I never have, but I’ll try it this summer and report back on how it goes.)
  • Keep cool at night for easier sleep. It can be so hard to sleep when it’s hot out. That’s because the best air temperature for sleep is about 60 to 68 degrees. If you aren’t blessed with air conditioning, you can point a fan at yourself, run your wrists under cold water before bed, sleep with cold packs near your feet, or wear damp socks that you’ve stuck in the freezer for a few minutes (I know it’s weird, but it’s also effective in a pinch).
  • Take advantage of some of the opportunities summer offers. Not all of us want to spend every summer evening at an outdoor festival, a craft fair, or a sporting event. It can be too much noise, too many people, and just too much sweat. But do try to challenge yourself to find some activities that are more your speed that you couldn’t do during other seasons. If you’re an introvert, you might like to take a blanket to the park and read under a shady tree. Perhaps a small, outdoor dinner party could be fun. Or maybe you’d enjoy meeting a friend for frozen yogurt and a walk. You don’t have to be socializing outdoors all summer, but seeking to enjoy just a few of the season’s perks might do you some good.

Above all else, try to be kind to yourself and allow yourself to dislike the stuff you dislike. The way you feel is legitimate.

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