We tend to associate cold weather with despondency and warm weather with happiness. For many people, this rings true. Winter can cause many people to experience genuine depression. But for others, it’s summer, not winter, that can contribute to feeling depressed. While most people think of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a diagnosable mental health condition that follows a seasonal pattern, as something that can only affect people in winter, some people experience it in the summer.
Just as scientists, medical experts, and mental health professionals have pinpointed specific reasons why people can experience depression in the winter (including less exposure to sunlight, which can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, there are also specific, legitimate reasons for summertime depression. These symptoms can include:
Persistent feelings of emptiness and hopelessness
Inability to relax
Changes in appetite or eating habits
Withdrawing from social activities
Reduced interest in engaging with others
Some of the reasons someone may experience feelings of lowness have to do with the weather itself. For example, heat and humidity can be uncomfortable for some people. They can get in the way of sleeping well, which can lead to trouble concentrating, tiredness, and irritability for some. Also, a change in work, school, or routine can be difficult for some and affect their mood.
There can be a lot of pressure to have exciting summer plans, which aren’t possible for everyone. For example, if you see many of your friends going on holiday, but if you can’t afford to take off work, you may start feeling depressed.
Poor body image can also play a role. Someone with poor body image may worry excessively about how they look in the summer when it’s harder to cover up than in winter.
WHAT TO DO
Try to pinpoint exactly what it is about summer that causes you to feel low. Is the heat or waking up too early because of the light making you feel uncomfortable? If so, what can you do? Consider getting blackout blinds to decrease exposure to light and sun for a better night’s sleep and more comfortable living spaces.
If the change in your routine has you down, think about how you can create structure for your days. Consistency in sleep patterns, meals, and daily activities can help stabilise mood and give a sense of control.
Your social life may look different in the summer than it does the rest of the year, and this may mean being more proactive than you may be during the rest of the year. For example, if many of your friends are going on holiday or away, you may need to schedule calls to stay in touch instead of calling each other whenever you feel like it. Or it could mean engaging in a whole new activity during summer that you find enjoyable or meaningful, like joining a local club. And if seeing friends enjoying themselves on holiday makes you self conscious, it may be wise to limit your time on social media. Images can be very deceptive, summer isn’t all about the week on the beach. Focus on what you enjoy. This can include regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, practising relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation, ensuring adequate sleep, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment.
If feeling low in summer is a regular occurrence for you, you can proactively take steps to minimise your symptoms as best as you can, including therapy and counselling, if necessary. There is help and hope for anyone experiencing depression — no matter when it hits. By pinpointing the root causes of your symptoms, you’re one step closer to feeling more like yourself.