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Summer Depression

Unsplash photo by Syndey Slims

Summer is here and for some, so is summer depression.   This can be hard for those who love summer to imagine. As I was looking for matching pictures for this article, it was hard to find “sad” pictures that weren’t wintry looking too! Summer is supposed to be fun! How can someone be sad? 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly associated with the "winter blues," manifests symptoms of depression as the seasons change. Interestingly, while winter SAD is well-known, summer SAD, or summer depression, is a lesser-known yet significant condition affecting a smaller percentage of SAD sufferers. The precise reasons behind summer depression are still being explored, but researchers suggest that the longer daylight hours and higher temperatures can disrupt the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, leading to changes in hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, which regulate mood and sleep.

In summer SAD, the increased sunlight can actually lead to serotonin overactivity or a quicker depletion of this neurotransmitter, which has been linked to mood disturbances. Additionally, melatonin production, crucial for sleep regulation, might be suppressed due to the extended daylight hours, potentially leading to sleep disturbances and insomnia—common symptoms of summer depression. The heat itself can also be a trigger, leading to discomfort, lethargy, and irritability, further compounding feelings of depression.

For others, there are a few other reasons why summer isn’t so enjoyable.  One, there’s the “expectation gap.”   Because so many expect so much fun to be had over the summer, when you don't have much money or people in your life are so busy with their own summer plans, you might feel even more disappointed than you would during other times of the year.  In the winter, it’s easy to curl up with a book and tuck in for the night. During the summer, it’s noisier and lighter and everyone seems to be outside doing something! 

For some people,  summer heightens insecurities about body image.  Everyone is in shorts and tanks and bikinis but if you don't feel good about your body, you may feel like hiding in doors or feeling constantly anxious.  For those still longing for love, summer tends to heighten this loneliness.  There's a reason why dating apps are more popular in spring and summer!   And lastly, for parents, summer can be stressful while trying to juggle work and constantly arranging activities to occupy the kids.  

So, if you find summer constantly disappointing, stressful or anxiety producing, it’s a good opportunity to shift either your expectations or how you approach the summer.   

I know because I too struggle with summer depression. 

It's only been in recent years that I've gotten a handle on it and figure out what works.  Here's what I did to tackle my summertime blues:  

  • I don't go outside much in the middle of the day. 
  • I moved my art studio to the basement where I can work on projects in the cool and dark.  
  • I take 5HTP, a neurotransmitter precursor for serotonin that seems to help with my circadian rhythms and hormone imbalances.  
  • I shift my expectations for how much energy and drive I'll have in the summer.  
  • I do schedule some kind of vacation or time off in mountains or near water.  

Tips for Easing Summer Depression

  • Build in more self care such as being intentional about rest, meditation, massages and laughter.
  • Make concrete plans with friends or even with yourself that you look forward to on a weekly basis.  These can be small, inexpensive things like checking out a new park, coffee shop or bookstore.  
  • Start a new hobby or engage in satisfying home projects around the house. 
  • Beat the heat by enjoying your basement, finding local pools, or taking walks in the early morning or later evening.  
  • Explore natural remedies for lifting mood like the ones talked about in this article on natural treatments for depression. 

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