The warmth, relaxation and flexibility that the summer months bring can be exciting for vacations and sunshine, but for some, summer months can have the potential to trigger feelings of being overwhelmed and losing control. Expectations of being carefree can put a lot of pressure on those who are struggling with depression or anxiety. Below are self-care tips and tricks that can be used to maintain your mental health during the summer months.

1. Take care of your mental health this summer by getting outside.

Exposure to natural sunlight increases levels of vitamin D and serotonin, which are known to boost your mood. Taking a moment to step outdoors, smell the roses, feel the sand under your toes or watch a sunset can provide a sense of calming and well being. Pick up a new outdoor hobby where you can spend 30 minutes in the sunshine. Whether it is gardening, hiking or paddle boarding, spending time outdoors is an essential element of self-care.

2. Take time to unwind by using your vacation time.

Many of us use paid vacation time to accomplish tasks around the house that we neglect during our busy workweeks. Instead of cleaning out the closet, organizing the garage and attending long-overdue appointments, use your vacation to enjoy yourself. Such activities can include reading a book at home or traveling to a new place for the day. Your vacation time should be spent unwinding and enjoying time away from your to-do lists.

3. Re-focus your energy by planning a getaway.

Getting out of town and experiencing a change in scenery is a great way to unwind and re-focus your energy on the present. Whether it is an overnight getaway or a multi-week international trip, escaping the business from the daily grind can help clear your mind and boost your mood. This can help you immensely on your return home back to your everyday routine.

4. Maintain a healthy sleep schedule for mental health.

Just because school is out for summer and your kids can stay up late and sleep in does not mean they should. If you are a parent, try to maintain a healthy and steady sleep schedule for yourself and your kids, regardless of work and school schedules. It is recommended that we obtain 8-10 uninterrupted hours of sleep, as sleep hygiene is an essential component of our mental health.

5. Stay physically active.

Whether it is going to the gym, signing up for a yoga class or taking a walk outside, physical activity is known to boost your mood. During the summer months, it is easy to stay on the couch and binge-watch the latest television series, but an idle activity can promote negative consequences on our physical and mental health. Try to maintain 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. You may be surprised how good you feel.

If you or someone you love needs support with their mental health, Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program is here to help.

Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases, including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and spends most of her free time empowering other women to get outside into the backcountry.

More from Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program: