Did You Suffer From Summer Depression?
by Lisa DiFalco
Is it not the short days of winter that get you down, but the dog days of summer? Feeling depressed during warm, sunny weather may seem strange to others, but summertime depression is not uncommon. From summer-onset seasonal affective disorder to body image issues, there are many causes for feeling blue during the summer, and various approaches are available to address symptoms of depression, anxiety and irritability.
You or someone you know may be experiencing signs of summer depression and want to learn more about the underlying reasons and symptoms, as well as ways to get past summer depression. A visit to a physician or mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis is beneficial to understanding the root cause of summer depression and how to address it.
What Causes Summer Depression?
Ten percent of those with seasonal affective disorder experience symptoms during the summer months. In addition to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, there are a number of other triggers that may lead to summer depression. These symptoms and reasons include:
- Agitation, poor sleep and a tendency to not eat due to feeling jittery may be indications of summer seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
- Stress, disappointment and depression from unmet expectations.
- Anxiety and stress from excessive summer stimulation.
- Sleep deprivation and changes to sleep patterns can contribute to depressive symptoms.
- Being overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities and commitments without enough me time to reboot and de-stress.
- Shouldering the load for others on vacation can trigger feelings of frustration and depression.
- Depression from unrealistic comparisons to other people’s social media posts.
- Discomfort with one’s body and poor body image may lead to depression when wearing bathing suits and summer fashions.
Those who experience depression during the summer months can experience lulls in energy, irritability and feelings of depression at any time. There are many ways to tackle these feelings and address underlying reasons for emotional and behavioral changes. People can boost their mood and increase their motivation while addressing summer depression.
How to Overcome Summer Depression
Treatment options depend upon the underlying reason for summer depression. Those with summer-onset SAD may require less sun exposure and the use of antidepressants. In some cases, feelings of suicide may arise for those affected. This condition should be monitored by a medical professional.
Those with high expectations of summer fun and the need for a perfect summer may need to create more realistic standards to avoid symptoms of depression. The ability to handle a rainy vacation day or being stuck on line can influence how a person experiences significant summer events. Learning how to deal with curve balls will make it less likely for someone to experience serious depression when activities and plans do not go smoothly.
Summer is a time when everyone seems to be out and about. Kids around the house, crowds at beaches and additional daytime traffic can make it easy to feel overloaded. The noise and hectic nature of attending to the needs of others and the loss of personal space can take a toll. It’s important to build in quiet time on a regular basis to reduce feelings of anxiety, and to limit electronics, distractions and caffeine when trying to wind down. Balance low-key and high-energy activities to provide a break from excessive stimulus, and give the body time to relax. Parents and individuals overwhelmed with responsibilities also need to have solo time and enjoy a stress-relieving workout or a good read at the beach. Sharing responsibilities with other parents or adults can make it easier to handle busy summer schedules and get a necessary break from time to time.
The longer days of summer may make it harder to get a full night’s sleep. A lack of sleep can lead to depression and also makes individuals more emotionally sensitive. “Your body releases more of the stress-hormone cortisol when you’re sleep deprived,” says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., the author of “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.”
A consistent sleep schedule and getting sunlight during the morning hours can reset the circadian clock and decrease the likelihood of depression.
It’s important to take time off during the summer. Most individuals schedule a vacation during summer months that can make those left at the office assume additional responsibilities. Make sure to take a vacation to support your health and renew energy levels.
Social media posting and sharing are commonplace, and the majority of people have one or more accounts that they check into on a regular basis. However, remember that a person’s page and posts may not accurately reflect reality, and if feelings of depression, anxiety or disappointment are triggered through frequent viewing of feeds, it may be time to reduce or take a break from social media use.
Body image issues and unrealistic expectations may make individuals feel depressed as they show more skin. Look for summer clothes that flatter the body, and work on ways to be more accepting of the whole package. Some may choose to exercise on a regular basis and eat a healthier diet to enjoy optimal physical and mental health. Therapy may help others address feelings of depression originating from body image issues.
Take the time to understand the underlying cause of summer depression, which can be addressed in a variety of ways, with symptoms lessened in children, adolescents and adults. Keeping a regular sleep schedule, hydrating and balancing a variety of activities are some natural methods to address triggers and improve general health and outlook. Individuals experiencing severe symptoms that persist may want to seek treatment from a medical professional. Social workers, behavior health professionals, physicians and nurses can help individuals with summer depression by providing resources and treatment options to those struggling with summer depression.