Introvert’s Guide to Preventing Summer Overwhelm

jar of wildflowers sits on a bench in front of a white wall

For introverts and highly-sensitive people, summer can be exhausting. Learn why this happens and ways to prevent summer overwhelm.

I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve been tired. A sense of exhaustion that sleep can’t seem to cure. I have low creativity, low motivation, and low desire to do much of anything. This isn’t a new feeling for me, I felt it last year, too.

Are you feeling the same?

You might be feeling the effects of summer overwhelm.

jar of wildflowers sits on a bench in front of a white wall

Understanding Seasonal Rhythms

The seasons are the manifestation of the earth rotating, providing us seasonal changes as periods of growth, bounty, and rest.

And we as humans also experience cycles, the times of birth and growth of Spring, exploration and flourishing of Summer, the harvest and decline of Fall, to the rest and reflection of Winter.

These cycles might happen on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or even decade rotation. It could be the season of an idea, a new project, an emotion, or physical life itself. But the rhythms we experience inside ourselves, our minds and our soul, might not correspond with the seasons outside our door.

As a highly-sensitive person and an introvert, I thrive in winter. Winter is a season of inside, of muted colors, of quiet, of stillness. Here in seemingly perpetually sunny and inferno summer temperatures of California, it’s also a time of being able to spend days outside, comfortable in more temperate conditions. Slow walks, connecting with the Earth. The rare rainy days allow permission to retreat inside, both physically and mentally, for musing and contemplation.

For many, winter would be seen as a period of rest. But for people who are driven more by emotions and their inner-self, I think winter is the time when we are most awake, most alive. We are in our element.

close up of wave crashing on sand

Photo by Despo Potamou on Unsplash

You Have Permission to Rest In Summer

For me, winter is the time of growth. And summer is the time of rest.

Which can be disconcerting and difficult to manage when the days are long and bright, with endless activities and parties. Summer champions to an extroverted society, all the pressure to “get out and have a good summer”.

But I give you permission to rest.

Stenciled letters on concrete saying Best Summer Ever

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Ways to Prevent Summer Overwhelm

Say No.

Forget #fomo, adapt the philosophy of #jomo: the Joy of Missing Out. Unless an invitation positively thrills you and makes you sparkle, then say no. There is so much pressure to be out doing things, finding ways to fill the days. If you want to miss that pool party, say no, and grab a book and your cat and head to the couch.

Find Ways to Still be Outside.

When it’s miserably hot out, or the bugs are awful, it can be hard to enjoy being outside. Try and adapt your routine to get out very early in the morning, or load up on bug spray, and maintain a daily nature practice.

There are days when it’s 100+ degrees and I have no desire to go outside. But, I find that if I miss my daily forest bathing, I feel considerably lost and disconnected the rest of the day. I’ve made it a priority to get up earlier and head out before breakfast to get my nature fix in.

Reduce Inputs.

All the colors and brightness of summer can be great, but it’s also overstimulating. Especially for an HSP, reducing the sensory inputs can allow us to calm our overwhelmed systems, and allow us to feel again. Try closing the curtains and bask in darkened rooms. Avoid wearing the neon colors just because they are trendy and on sale. Seek quiet spots to visit instead of loud festivals. Turn off the TV and read instead. Create hours or days of screen-fasts. Wear loose flowy clothes that aren’t constricting.

Adapt Routine.

Summer vacations from school, trips for weddings and showers, different work hours to accommodate daylight or events, friends and relatives visiting, places to go, people to see. all things that might shift from ‘normal’ daily routine, which can cause unbalance and overwhelm. Try and adapt as much of your normal routine as possible, such as making sure to continue a morning cup of tea, regardless of where you are.

Put Things on the Calendar

I’m all for spontaneous stop-bys of friends or improvisational game nights. Most of the time. But if I’m already overwhelmed (ie, summer), such sudden happenings can be hard to handle. Instead, try and make plans for a few days ahead, or farther out, so you can mentally prepare.


typed words of Introverts Guide to Preventing Summer Overwhelm overlaid on a beach

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  • Reply
    Valene Evanciew
    August 5, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    I couldn’t possibly relate to this article any more. I love reading your musings! <3

  • Reply
    March 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    New to your website/blog, and a lot of what I’m reading here resonates with me. I read this post specifically because, being a HSP and introvert myself, it naturally caught my attention. I appreciate and can relate to summer overwhelm; sometimes there are days that are so painfully beautiful and bright when all I want is to shut the curtains, drown out the noises with the hum of an electric fan, and take a nap. Except part of my brain protests: “But these summer days will be gone in a few months and you’ll be longing for the light and warmth so much you’ll feel trapped in this room, behind these same curtains, by the cold outside and everywhere *in your own skin,* such is the pitch of cabin fever that one can simultaneously ascend and descend to, in the depths of January. What nerve to shun summer days! How quickly we humans forget and take for granted that which is temporarily abundant.” Then I usually shove my guilt aside and bask in a summer afternoon nap anyway. But I’ve also lived in the tropics of South America, in places where greenery and life spring up and spill out of every surface they can possibly find purchase, even in the most precarious edges and cracks, because the strength of the sun is constant and fuels constant growth. Such bountiful and vibrant life is beautiful and terrifying, and all-too-often devalued precisely because it is so bountiful; it is everywhere and cannot be contained and thus regarded as cheap, at least to those who do not realize life’s sacredness and fragility. I loved living there, close to the equator, but after several months went by, a nagging feeling began to creep into the outer edges of my awareness: *summer would never end here.* Life would not be retreating into the Earth and itself to prepare for a new cycle; there would be no long winter nap from which to finally open my still-sleepy eyes, having only *just* emerged from the private inner realm of dreams, still fresh in the mind, while the body was still groggy, yet deeply, fully rested. And I began to miss the changing of the seasons.
    I’ve been living in Toronto, Canada for the past few years, and interestingly (for me anyway), your piece on wanting to move out of California is the inverse of a growing longing I feel to go Out West, presumably ending in California of course. I picture two birds, one flying West from the East, the other heading East from the West, giving each other a quick nod as their paths briefly cross somewhere in the middle. Maybe it’s inaccurate; I have no idea if you plan on moving East, but boy do I feel the West calling to me. But I digress, and I half-apologize for this rambling reply to your post on summer overwhelm. In my defense though, I *am* still in the grips of winter dreamtime here in “The Great White North,” as they call it. Here, we’ve all been metaphorically sleeping since November, and so far this March has been unseasonably cold; the tail end of this winter is apparently extra long; the whip of this cold snap is especially sharp. Our bodies are tired of sleeping, tired of having to don multiple layers of clothing, tired of the stiffness that comes with frigid temperatures, tired of being *tired out* just by a short walk outside in air so biting that it makes the eyes water.
    Another resonance I felt upon reading “About you”: I’m currently pursuing a master’s in Environmental Studies (along an Urban/Environmental Planning stream). If things go well, I’ll be done late this year. I cannot wait to be done with school so I can move away, away from this cold that digs its claws in for half a year, every year. Half a year. Every. Year. Did I mention we’re sick of winter already? Which brings me back to my original reason for writing this reply: I wanted to offer just a small reminder to you in your relishing the gentle, cool, mild winters of California. You seek a connection with your ancestors; people who, like my ancestors too, were bred and raised for thousands of generations in the lands called Europe, to extent that our very bodies changed, molded to better endure Northern climates. *Had* to adapt, physically and behaviourally- we came into being in the warmth of Africa; lacking fur, or the ability to hibernate, or any number of adaptations to cold, we are not designed to survive ice and snow and scarcity. I read somewhere else on this site that you’re looking to move to a place that has similar seasons and cycles as those your ancestors experienced; you wrote that you wonder about the reasons your forebears uprooted themselves and came to live in sunny California. Perhaps your grandparents wanted to swap strong winters for strong summers. I lived in Florida for a year; that was enough for me to know I preferred a Northern winter to a Southern summer, at least at the time. But here’s the reminder: that’s the thing about these cold Northern winters: they are harsh. They are *cruel,* merciless. Your bones have it in their dna; they will remember the brutality of a frozen world, a world which, unfortunately our modern society mimics in cruelty by its insistence on maintaining the same pace year-round. If we were a wiser people we would respect the seasons and the different modes of living that Nature adopts in order to cope with and embrace the challenges and blessings that each brings. But instead of slowing down, resting and conserving our resources as other creatures do in the cold months, we stubbornly stick to the rigid clock, which must be punched at the same time in winter as in summer, regardless of daylight or darkness, warm summer exuberance or cold wintry sleepiness. And the tedium of spending most of your time in-doors eats away at the psyche; there are many, many days in winter when the solace you seek in forest-bathing is impossible, not unless you want to risk frostbite and misery. Nature reveals her ferocious, ruthless side with callous disregard to any poor creature unable to find refuge from her unrelenting frozen beauty. Such beauty kills, freezes, starves – can even drive people mad – with its stark and pristine icy landscapes. So yes, the summer can be overwhelming in its exuberance and vitality, and I find all of your ideas for how to guard against exhaustion from the its constant beckonings excellent and wise. But listen to this little bird who hails from a cold place, awaiting with ever greater impatience for the cold to finally *break:* all of your suggestions for summer – say no, be outside, reduce inputs, stick to routine, schedule ahead – apply equally to winter, except that in winter, they are that much harder to carry out.
    Don’t know exactly what compelled me to share the thoughts your post stirred up in me in such detail this time; I hope I haven’t offended or bored anyone with my musings here. In any case, I hope you see it as a compliment that you inspired this reply.

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