The August Effect

For a month that starts off with National Clown Week, followed by National Smile Week and culminating with American Dance Week (I am not making this up!), one may think the August Effect would be one of laughter, grins, and celebration. And for many, it is. But August is also a month of transition.  Depending on chronological age and developmental stage, some of us are finally feeling that summer has taken root and are allowing ourselves to relax and embrace the different pace that summer brings. For others, the clock of summer’s end is ticking louder and louder. Labor Day used to mark the end of summer and returning to school came after that final holiday weekend. But now many schools re-open the second or third week of August. Depending on the individual, this may elicit a range of reactions, including excitement, anxiety, relief and/or loss. One thing is true for everyone, however: at some point in August, for yourself or someone you know, change is in the air!



Turtles and snails are just two creatures that carry their homes with them where ever they go. They don’t change who they are based on where they are or what others expect of them. They are symbols of moving slowly and methodically. Change is not easy for everyone, whether it entails moving off to college for the first time, starting a new grade, or re-negotiating your daily schedule back to non-summer mode, it can create challenges for those with body image issues and eating disorders. Displacing insecurities about fitting in to a new environment and anxieties about transition onto body image may cause an increase in disordered eating to manage the feelings. As always, predicting the feelings associated with the upcoming changes can be a powerful. proactive way to manage the August Effect. What stays the same no matter where you go? What helps you remember your strengths and manage your anxiety? In my opinion, let’s take some advice from the turtles and the snails…we are NEVER too old for a transitional object.

In the August issue of my free monthly Schmooze-letter, I offer a step by step description of how to make a “grown-up” transitional object when we feel as if we are losing our center or our “home” due to changes in our environment or routine. But you may already have something that you just haven’t identified. Is there a word or a phrase that keeps you centered when you feel you are losing your sense of self? Is there a photo, figurine, or piece of jewelry that reminds you to breathe, focus on the positive, and stay present when you are in stressful or unfamiliar situations? Of course, human support systems are invaluable and having someone you can call or write is a great way to manage overwhelming feelings; but having something that is not impacted by cell phone reception or internet connection is wonderful.

The changes that late summer and early fall often bring does not have to mean an inevitable falling back upon old habits or re-introducing negative thought processes that you may have put aside during the summer months, especially if you have a strategy to address the situation. One plan that can be helpful is to take a moment and add these two items when you are making your checklist for school supplies or returning-to-work task list:

  • · Predict potential challenges that may be triggered by upcoming transitions.
  • · Identify your personal transitional object to bring with you.

It may sound silly”¦but it couldn’t hurt!

By Dr. Deah Schwartz

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders and Body Image. Deah is the Co Author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even worse, family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at

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