Does your stomach turn when the thought of summer begins? Do you feel lonely, sad, or depressed in the summer months? Is it hard for you to plan a vacation, or get some good shut eye? If so, don’t feel bad, because you are not alone. In fact, reverse SAD occurs in about less than 10% of the population during the summer months.
Most people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD when winter rolls around, the more common form of SAD. But summertime reverse SAD, while temporary, and short lived, can still be very emotionally taxing for the summer months that are endured.
Some of the triggers are listed below, so it’s important to take notice of these symptoms, especially if they generally occur like clockwork for you every time summer comes around. That can indicate the cyclical nature of your summer depression.
- Disruption of routine — very bad for those suffering from depression. Having a consistent and reliable routine for anyone, let alone someone battling some form of depression is key to managing and staving off symptoms. But during the summer, routine goes out the window — and that disruption can be stressful. It’s therefore important to try to maintain a consistent sleeping, eating, and exercising routines/schedules as you hopefully try to do throughout the year. If things get thrown to the wayside your summertime depression will not be lifted that quickly.
- Not sleeping. The dog days of summer can actually wreak havoc on your sleep schedules. This of course, results in modulations of your sleep hormone, melatonin. Staying up later because the days are longer in the summertime, naturally exposes you to more light. This can cause you to not sleep well by tossing and turning, or to not sleep at all. Since people stay up later, and/or are exposed to more sunlight, there can be a disturbance in your sensitive circadian rhythm.
- Bad moods. The precursor of melatonin, is the neurotransmitter serotonin, a major player in regulating mood. By reducing melatonin production, SAD increases the risk for depression and other mood disorders.
- Financial issues. Summer can be very expensive for anyone. Whether its vacations, hosting duties, summer camp etc, the list can be exhaustive. For those suffering from SAD, who are financially strapped, or at least trying to follow a budget, it can be a particularly challenging.
- Body insecurities. More women suffer from this more than men, but men, of course, may also fall in this category. Some people with reverse SAD might avoid the beach, or any outdoor activity because of their insecurities revolving their “imperfect” bodies. While most people can feel like this from time to time, those with reverse SAD feel it very acutely, which propels their summertime depression even more.
- Expectations of Summer/Obligation to do fun things. Since summer is supposed to be fun, and relaxing, you’re “supposed” to be entertaining, or naturally in an upbeat mood, it just isn’t fun and relaxing for you. Since most people cannot comprehend such a thing, that can cause you to feel really lonely, whereby you might ask yourself “What’s wrong with me?” You might even entertain the notion that summer is truly endless, and not coming to a close soon enough for you.
- The heat, and not being able to beat it. Research also suggests that high temperatures might also play a role in reverse SAD. The summer heat can be particularly oppressive and agitating to those suffering from reverse Sad. This may contribute to their depression because they often opt to stay indoors, even when it’s a bit cooler out. This leads to social isolation, which is very detrimental to those suffering from reverse SAD.
- Genetic component. Researchers think there may also be a genetic component; more than two thirds of patients with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.
So how does one with reverse SAD cope in the summer months? While there is no tried and true formula, the following ideas and tips can definitely help you cope more effectively, which will ultimately help in staving off your symptoms, if not getting rid of them altogether.
- Routine – It’s important to try, and set a consistent routine, and schedule during these slow summer months. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just somewhat regulated. That will make you feel like you are more in control of what is happening around you.
- Exercise – Keep up with your exercise, but don’t overdo it with strict dieting and hard exercise. While exercise is important for mood control, do not feel compelled to do something completely out of your comfort zone, potentially injuring yourself, and sending your stress hormones soaring. If you are trying something new, take it nice and slow, reduce your intensity level, and make sure to rest your muscles. If it is too hot out, find ways to incorporate your physical activity early in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler outside.
- Get adequate sleep – Make sure to get enough sleep, so your melatonin levels stay somewhat stabilized despite the longer hours spent in daylight in the summer months.
- Plan ahead – The upside about this particular type of depression (SAD/Reverse SAD) is that at least you are aware of what is coming because of the seasonal pattern of this depression. If you start to think about how you can better cope with your symptoms in early spring, you can predict on a dime what your stress triggers will be when summer rolls around, and you can actually avoid them well in advance. Some things, of course, will be out of your control, and you have to be ok with that.
- Delegate if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If your children are old enough, they can babysit their younger siblings, so you can have some “m”e time to relax and treat yourself. If there is a lot on your plate at work despite the summer months, don’t refrain from asking for some help so you don’t feel like you are drowning. A significant number of reverse sad individuals become more depressed at work in the summer months.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Stop comparing yourself, and how you feel in relation to others. There is no way to truly know how others feel on the inside, or what is truly going on with them. Your best bet is to take some time to reflect, and either with yourself or a professional, think about why it is you get depressed in the summer months. Knowing why, and your triggers are a good place to start and perhaps break the cycle.
- Consider revisiting your medications. If you are taking medication to treat your depression, your doctor might prescribe a stronger dose in the spring, and then gradually taper the dose in the winter months. This can be a lifesaver for you, so you do not have to suffer for 3 whole months in the summertime. That alongside psychotherapy can work wonders for those suffering from reverse SAD.
If you find yourself with symptoms of the summertime blues, it’s important to treat it as if you would a mild depression. The trick is to plan ahead so you can have a restful, productive and peaceful end to your summer! The most important thing is to think about your well being, be a little selfish, and do what is right for you, by avoiding the things that will stress you out, and leave you feeling drained. If that means turning down summer invitations for bar b q’s and the like, then so be it. Your mental and physical health is more important.