For many individuals, mental health prospers in the summer. This is because increased vacation time, warmer/sunnier weather, longer days, and more places to get together socially-can improve mood! However, for people who live with body image concerns, summer can increase feelings of anxiety: feeling nervous, tense and panicked.
Increased physical exposure in the heat, combined with beauty expectations, peer comparisons and social media-can amplify self criticism, which can trigger anxiety. In this article, we will be exploring body image concerns, how therapy can help, and what you can do to practice body kindness with yourself and those around you.
Body Image Concerns: Body Dysmorphia
Body Dysmorphia is a mental health condition that causes people to be preoccupied with their appearance to the point of seeing flaws that other people are not able to see. These body image concerns can manifest in frequent mirror checking, reassurance seeking, comparisons, and avoidance of social situations, which greatly impacts quality of life.
People with Body Dysmorphia can have trouble controlling negative thoughts even after receiving comfort from others. These negative thoughts such as being “hideous”, “ unattractive," or “not right” - can occur for many hours of the day. Oftentimes, self coping can look like covering up/hiding one’s body in articles of clothing or social wariness, which is why the summertime’s attire or settings can pose unique psychological challenges for people with this condition.
How Therapy Can Help
Therapists are trained to help people with Body Dysphoria by using combined methods of increasing self-compassion and challenging negative thoughts + behaviors with proven interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. Through understanding the patient’s concerns, goals, and the origin of the problem, a therapist can help a patient re-train their attentions to reduce feelings of self criticism that accompany body image concerns.
Practicing Body Kindness
We can all work towards practicing body kindness with ourselves and others by paying attention to how we speak about our bodies and other people’s bodies. Below lists some of the ways we can create healthier, body positive environments.
Compliments (non-appearance related)
Try complimenting someone on something other than physical appearance!
Some compliments can include:
“You are an amazing listener”
“You always make others feel cared for”
“You are so intelligent”
“You are so passionate”
“I feel inspired by you”
“I appreciate your kindness”
“You are always so much fun to be around”
Try expressing/affirming gratitude by naming the ways in which your body takes care of you.
Some affirmations can include:
“My body has fought off illnesses”
“My body allows me to move”
“My body can give me sexual pleasure”
“My body has adapted to many life situations”
“My body is able to create art”
“My body can tell me what emotions I am feeling inside”
You can practice body kindness year round to help yourself or those around you who may be struggling with body image concerns!