Can Seasonal Depression Happen In The Summer?
The days are finally starting to turn longer. Finally, the sun is shining brighter, and the weather is warming up. However, you can’t help but feel you’re missing one thing, a sunny disposition. Yes, it is possible to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the warm, summer months. SAD impacts 4-7% of the population in the United States. Typically, SAD will cause depression as the days get colder and shorter.
However, 10% of people who experience SAD actually feel it triggered as the summer approaches. Ian A. Cook, MD, the director of the Depression Research Program at UCLA, notes that in countries near the equator, summer SAD is even more common than winter SAD. Anything involving the beautiful complexity of the mind has no one easy answer, and summer SAD is no different. While experts aren’t entirely sure why there are several theories why you may start feeling seasonal blues when everyone else is eagerly awaiting the sun.
1. Disrupted Summer Schedules
If you’ve ever experienced depression before, you know that a reliable routine can greatly help your symptoms. However, during the summer, routines often go by the wayside as school gets out and vacations ensue. Disruption can cause stress, especially if you have children in grade school who you now need to keep occupied daily. If your children go to college, they may suddenly return with boxes of physical and emotional things. In addition, summer is prime vacation time, and while vacations present an escape from the regular routine of life, they do disrupt your sleep, work, and eating habits. All of which can contribute to summer depression.
2. Financial Stress
Summer tends to be synonymous with expensive. There are the extra weekend trips to the beach or lake, the vacations, the summer camps or babysitters, and the fun snacks. Financial worries are the ideal stressor to add to feelings of summer depression. In addition, with a rising economic crisis and several years of pandemic stress, people feel financially and emotionally tapped. Not only are you worrying about money, but now you’re worrying if you leave on vacation will, your job still be there when you get back.
3. Body Image Issues
When the temperature rises, the layers of clothing come off, leaving many people feeling insecure and self-conscious about their bodies. For example, feeling unattractive in shorts or a bathing suit can make you feel hot, uncomfortable, and awkward. In addition, many summertime events revolve around beaches and pools, leaving people wanting to avoid social situations out of embarrassment for their bodies.
4. The Heat
Many people love baking in the sun on a sweltering day. However, the heat isn’t for everyone. For some people, the heat feels truly oppressive. So instead of enjoying the lake, taking a walk, or going to the BBQ down the street, you hide out in the air-conditioned bedroom, watching Netflix for hours. You may even skip your usual after-dinner walks because you can’t bear the humidity. All of these things can contribute to seasonal affective disorder.
Tips For Helping With Summer SAD
Stress, worry, anxiety, and feelings of depression are all part of the human experience, and each of us will experience these feelings at some point in our lives. However, we never want anyone to stay trapped or isolated in these feelings. You can do several simple things to help you feel mentally prepared and in control of summer SAD.
1. Know Your Triggers
Pinpointing what triggers your summertime sadness can help you find your best coping strategies. Every person is different and experiences the world differently. Some common triggers are:
- Heat and humidity
- Financial stress
- Body image issues
- Expectations of summertime bliss
- Exposure to intense, direct sunlight
2. Sleep Is Important
People who experience summertime depression can develop irregular sleep schedules or insomnia. Long, warm days and hot nights make it difficult to sleep. In addition, vacations, late-night parties, and summer holidays make it difficult to stick with a regular sleep routine and schedule. Follow a few tips to keep your sleep healthy:
- Try to unplug from your phone and tv before bed.
- Stick with a consistent bedtime and wake-up time (even on weekends).
- Don’t eat or work in bed.
3. Exercise and Dieting
Let’s talk about something that many of us struggle with: exercise and dieting. It’s important not to kick off the summer in a frenzy of exercise and dieting in a desperate attempt to fit into your high school swimsuit. When starting a diet or exercise regime, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying an insanely restrictive diet. Remember, people love you for who you are – not what you look like. If so many people see you as beautiful, maybe they’re onto something, and it wouldn’t hurt to see yourself as beautiful. On that note, a little positive self-talk is always a good thing. When you start to think negative thoughts about your body, instead ask yourself, would I ever say something like this to someone I love? If your answer is no, chances are you shouldn’t say it to yourself, either.
4. Routines For The Win!
Following a consistent schedule will help you feel more motivated, organized, and prepared. While you don’t need every minute of each day planned, it helps to have the basics stay consistent: wake-up time, brushing team and shower time, meal and snack times, and bedtime. Here are a few ways to help you stick with your routine:
- Write your routine down in a calendar and put it in a prominent place – like the fridge.
- Set reminders for different parts of your routine.
- Ask loved ones (like your partner) to help you stay consistent and follow the routine.
5. Look Out For Yourself
It’s easy to get lost in obligations. Boundaries are something many of us struggle with as we often believe that in setting boundaries, we are selfish, self-centered human beings. The reality is that boundaries help you protect yourself and others. If you feel overwhelmed, stressed, or tapped out, it is okay (encouraged even!) to turn down invitations, to not host the family reunion. It’s always okay to say no.
Let’s Talk About It
It’s easy to find yourself getting lost in negative emotions, especially if you feel your emotions aren’t justified. Social media, movies, and societal expectations collide to encourage us to think that summer is the best time of year and everyone should enjoy it, so something is wrong if we aren’t. We encourage you to always acknowledge what you are feeling and seek professional help if those feelings become overwhelming. Our Racing For Mental Health team would love for you to share your mental health journey! Please comment below or reach out to us.