July 31, 2023
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Summertime is often met with enthusiasm for those who love sunny days and extra Vitamin D. Yet, in some cases, the dog days can be just as debilitating as the winter gloom.
If you’ve ever felt symptoms of depression, anxiety, or negative changes in your mood during the summer months, you may be among the small percentage of individuals who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Pattern.
The National Association of Mental Health (NAMI) defines SAD as frequent episodes of depression during the winter and stable moods during the spring and summer. The opposite can be true for people who experience mood changes in the summer, although it’s less common and not completely understood by researchers.
Symptoms of SAD in the summer include:
Although there is a crossover between symptoms of winter and summer SAD, research suggests the causes for summer SAD are actually quite different. Some include:
Longer days mean extra exposure to light. When daylight stretches into the night, your sleep quality can be affected, and in some cases, you can develop insomnia.
It’s common for skyrocketing temperatures to weigh you down; however, intense heat can also trigger feelings of lethargy and agitation. In more severe instances, some might experience aggressive and potentially violent behavior as a result of heat sensitivity.
The pressure to be ready for “swimsuit season” can be stressful for those battling with weight-related insecurities. Those predisposed to eating disorders might have difficulty navigating targeted advertisements promoting dieting and thinness.
It’s common for teachers and students to struggle with finding a purpose during summer break. Part of this could result from having less structure during the day. Without the guidance of a class schedule, students and teachers could fall into unproductive habits, consequently decreasing their mental health.
If you find yourself battling with seasonal changes, be assured there are plenty of strategies you can implement to alleviate your symptoms. You might consider the following:
If you know your REM cycle will be thrown off during the summer, try planning ahead by setting up a consistent sleep schedule. Aim for 6-9 hours of sleep every night. You can also purchase light-canceling curtains to filter out any brightness that may disturb your sleep.
If you have limited access to air conditioning, consider taking cold showers or splashing cool water on your face every so often. Do your best to limit outdoor exposure, and if it is required, wear sun-protective gear to avoid potential sunburns and heat stroke.
Do you often compare yourself to swimsuit models on Instagram? If so, it might be time to take a break from the internet. Remember, your health and wellbeing are more important than trying to achieve unrealistic body standards.
It might take your body some time to adjust to weather changes; however, the more prepared you are earlier in the year, the easier it will be for you to stick to your routine.
Perhaps there are other factors associated with summer mood changes that you haven’t considered yet. In this case, a qualified therapist is a valuable resource to help you work through any symptoms impacting your quality of life.
Whether it’s winter or summer, your mental health is important year-round. If symptoms of SAD are impacting your life, schedule an appointment with one of Revere Health’s Licensed Clinical Social Workers to help you feel yourself again.
Zahra Nielsen currently serves as Revere Health’s Community Relations Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University with the intention of working with at-risk communities, but she has since found a love for community engagement, volunteerism, and outreach. Since graduating, her career has taken her to non-profit organizations across the country. From Washington D.C, New York, and Salt Lake City, she has had the opportunity to work with notable organizations such as the National Council for Adoption, Volunteers of America, and United Way. After years of working in different areas of community engagement, Zahra has found her niche in writing. She hopes to pursue this creative form of outreach as a way of inspiring community members to be mindful of their well-being and the well-being of others. In her free time, Zahra likes to practice and teach yoga. She also enjoys live theatre, listening to music, and watching endless hours of quirky movies and TV shows with her husband.
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.