Real Life

August Anxiety: The Struggle Is Real

Feeling angsty but not quite sure why? Daisy Buchanan says that you could be suffering from the ultimate summertime sadness

It starts with a smoke signal, the scent of lighter fuel and sausages over a fence. Your inner Homer Simpson whispers ‘Mmm, barbecue!’ You think about the number of barbecues you’ve actually attended this summer. There was the chilly, drizzly one at the work ‘fun day’ in June, the one that gave you the two-day hangover, the time at the beach you gave up and got chips instead. And that’s... it.

Where were you this summer? What did you do with those months? You managed one festival, where you saw five bands and spent approximately 10 hours queuing for warm beer. You bought a pool float, but your friend’s little girl accidentally punctured it before you got a single selfie. You bought most of the Booker Long List, but every time you sat down to read, you got caught in an internet wormhole instead. There’s a looming feeling of badness in your gut. It’s not FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – because you feel like you’ve already Missed Out, and every Back To School poster makes you sad for wasting the summer, and frightened you’re not ready to attack September rested, refreshed and pencils sharpened. Even if you left school decades ago. The feeling never goes.

Last week, Stephen Ferrando, director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center, confirmed to New York magazine that there is such a thing as ‘August blues, which are sort of like the Sunday night blues for a month’. Psychology professor Rachel Annunziato adds that waiting for September engenders ‘anticipation, excitement and a little bit of dread’.

It doesn’t help that summer, traditionally a time to go off grid, has become scarily competitive. It’s a long time since any of us returned from holiday with a couple of disposable cameras full of blurry pictures of funny signs and sunburn. Documents of our summer are expected to look like adverts for our own lives. It seems as if everyone has gone on a three-week aerial yoga retreat on an invite-only paradise, looking like a Love Island contestant.

In July, an anonymous summer bucket list was found in a changing room and went viral. The author’s goals ranged in ambition from ‘go on a picnic’ to ‘pet a giraffe’ (‘get drunk all the time’ had been ticked off). The response showed that it doesn’t matter how old we are, we still think of this season as a time for lists, achievements and plans.

We love summer because we hope it’ll give us space to become our best, happiest selves before autumn. Yet we end up working harder than ever, packing two weeks of work into one before holiday and picking up the slack because our colleagues are off. We don’t like the way we look in our bikinis, then we don’t like ourselves for not being body positive. Instead of getting golden tans, we end up with a constellation of mosquito bites. That’s if you saved enough annual leave for a holiday, as well as the hen dos and weddings that packed your summer diary.

Plenty of people say September feels more like the new year than New Year, but Christmas rarely leaves us feeling as out of sorts as August. If you’re struggling with summertime sadness, there’s lots to look forward to in autumn. You can buy shiny new stationery safe in the knowledge no one will make you use it to do maths. You get to swap salad and streaky St Tropez for tights and baked potatoes. Also, there’s always one surprisingly hot day at the start of October.

So you’ve still got time to buy a new pool oat, borrow a paddling pool and get that envy-inducing selfie in the bag, ready to post on the rainiest day of August 2018.

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