Seasonal affective disorder, also known as seasonal depression or SAD, is a fairly common mental health problem where people experience low moods, sadness, and other depressive symptoms in association with a particular season and time of year. Mostly, you’ll hear this disorder discussed in the winter, since it’s very common during the colder months when people are isolated and stuck inside. However, SAD isn’t limited to the wintertime, and it’s not unheard of for people to deal with depression every summer instead.
If you find yourself dreading the summer months because you know you’ll be miserable until fall rolls around again, you’re not alone! What you’re experiencing might very well be seasonal depression. There are some common causes of the disorder that you might resonate with, and no matter what is causing your low moods, there are steps you can take to feel better! Here’s what you need to know.
For many people, summer comes with a lot of shifts in schedule that can be difficult to manage. Young adults in school might suddenly find themselves with nothing to occupy them, while adults with school-age children might struggle to deal with their kids suddenly being home all the time. Even if you don’t have kids, summer holidays and vacations can throw you off your normal schedule, leaving you feeling disoriented and unhappy.
Summer can be a particularly social time in comparison to the rest of the year, which can be hard for some people. With everyone you know boasting about their vacations, posting pictures with their friends and partners, hosting parties, and more, you might find yourself feeling inferior to the people around you, leading to feelings of diminished self-worth and low self-esteem.
Body Image Issues
If you’re not entirely comfortable with the way your body looks, summer is probably your worst nightmare. Even if you avoid the beach and the pool where you might be expected to wear revealing clothes like swimwear, the heat often means that in order to keep a comfortable temperature, you have to wear clothes that display parts of your body that you don’t like. This can lead to you dreading even leaving the house on hot summer days, feeling upset when you catch sight of yourself, and avoiding the people you love.
For some people, the heat of summer in and of itself is a problem. If you struggle to deal with high temperatures, the warm weather can lead to you feeling lethargic, uncomfortable, and discouraged that you won’t be able to really enjoy yourself until it gets cool again. Additionally, you may stay cooped up alone inside in an effort to avoid the heat, worsening the symptoms of depression.
Summer comes with a lot of expenses. Even if you skip vacations, you could still be left paying for babysitters, new summer clothes, high bills, and other things related to the time of year that have worryingly high price tags. Add a sprinkle of self-comparison to this, and you’re left with a recipe for low mood in the summertime.
What to Do
Prioritize Your Health
When you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, taking care of your physical health is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s also one of the most effective. Getting enough sleep but trying to avoid sleeping too much, eating plenty of nutritious foods, and finding ways to exercise and move your body will all make a big difference in how you feel. While they won’t completely do away with your depression, they set you up for success in fighting it.
Identifying the things about summer that send you into these negative spirals and then setting up ways to deal with them can be very effective in helping you feel better. For instance, maybe you find comparing yourself to others on social media to be very disheartening. In this case, it might make sense to limit your social media usage during the summer. Maybe you always host the family’s annual Labor Day bash, but the stress of planning and dealing with your relatives leaves you dreading it all summer. In this case, asking for help or bowing out could do wonders for your mental health.
Speak to a Professional
If your seasonal depression is really getting in the way of you functioning and going about your life on a daily basis, it’s time to turn to a professional for help. If you’ve tried depression treatments that haven’t worked for you before and are interested in trying something brand new, or if you’re interested in seeing board-certified medical professionals at no cost, signing up for a clinical trial with the Lehigh Center for Clinical Research might be the right choice for you!