The sun is out and the weather is warm, so why are you feeling so blue? Because it turns out that Lana Del Rey’s song, “Summertime Sadness,” is a real thing.
“We typically think of Seasonal Affective Disorder affecting those who become depressed in the winter time. However, Summer SAD is a form of seasonal depression that flares up during the summertime,” Christine Scott-Hudson, MA MFT ATR, licensed psychotherapist, tells SheKnows.
While other people might be hitting the pool, hosting BBQs and picnics, and taking road trips, those with summer SAD might not be feeling up for any of those activities.
Whereas it is far more common for SAD to manifest in winter, which is likely due to the drop off of hormone vitamin D, says Scott-Hudson, 10 percent of those who suffer from SAD also experience summer seasonal depression. Even if you don’t fall into the category of SAD, you too might be struggling with summer depression if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms: changes in sleep, appetite, feelings of hopelessness, inability to glean pleasure from experiences, loss of interest in activities which had been previously pleasurable, feelings of worthlessness, and low self-esteem.
Luckily, there are summer depression tips to ease those symptoms. But why do we feel so sad this time of year?
As warmer temperatures approach, we tend to alter our wardrobe choices and opt for lighter clothes instead of chunky sweaters and jeans. As a result, the change of season can make a lot of people feel uncomfortable and more aware of one’s body image, says Niels Eek, clinical psychologist and co-founder of mental health and personal development platform, Remente. “Following several months of being covered up, your body can feel unfamiliar and this can leave one feeling anxious and even depressed. It is important to try and ensure that how you feel about your body does not restrict you in any way or become an obsession.” Eeks recommends wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable and more like you. “It will help you feel happier in your own body, and being relaxed will help ease any negative thoughts you may be having.”
In the summer, people are out and about, and generally busy, which can cause us to criticize our own social life or lack thereof. “Observing family vacations, couples’ strolling in the park, and groups dining outside serve as unavoidable reminders of what may feel absent in one’s life,” Dr. Dana Dorfman, PhD, psychotherapist and co-host of the podcast “2 Moms on the Couch” tells SheKnows. “Thus, summer exacerbates feelings of aloneness. The romanticization of summer love contributes to feelings of sadness and isolation as well.”
If you’re feeling lonely, Dorfman recommends limiting your social media exposure (“It’s just a recipe for FOMO and worsening mood”) and setting personal goals for summer. “While it may not be what others are doing, you may have personal tasks that you’ll have the time to address this summer — cleaning out closets, catching up on the books that have accumulated on your nightstand, and visiting a friend will help you feel personally fulfilled.”
A sunny, warm day may be an absolute delight for some, but it can be very confining to others. While some people enjoy baking on the beach or having a picnic in the park, if you don’t enjoy the heat, you might be more comfortable in a cool air-conditioned house, watching TV, or reading a book, which might make you feel anxious and isolated, says Eek. “Spending too much time indoors without fresh air and regular exercise can leave you feeling tired, lazy, and even depressed,” he says. “Even if it might seem impossible to get outdoors to exercise when it’s hot and humid, a regular exercise routine can make you feel significantly better, as exercising produces endorphins, leaving us feeling happier, and improving things such as quality of sleep.” If a run outside is too much, then Eek suggests taking classes at the gym, or watching fitness YouTube videos from the comfort of your home.
Not having any structure
Many people rely on the structure and predictability of the academic year and become more anxious by free time and seeming “openness” of their schedule, says Dorfman. “More choice can feel anxiety producing for people. Similar to dreading weekends, many people prefer the structure and predictability of the work week.” As a result, the transition to summer, and the realization that another time of year has ended, requires mental and physical preparation. It can be saddening and anxiety producing.
Dorfman recommends preparing and identifying a list of activities you enjoy and making sure to do them so that you’re able to fill in your new schedule. She also suggests acknowledging the loss and gains of what was. “We have a tendency to think in binary terms (good/bad) and idealize the summer. It’s okay and normal to grieve the endings of what preceded the summer.”
Not enough sleep
Summertime usually is a busy season. The long days can mean getting up earlier and staying up later, which can easily lead to sleep deprivation. “Sleep is the essential downtime our minds need to handle and process the events of the day, and a lack of it will lead the body to release more stress hormones, which can contribute to depression and increased emotional sensitivity,” says Eek. That’s why practicing good sleep hygiene will leave you feeling happier and make you more productive on a day-to-day basis. Eek suggests aiming to go to bed and wake up at the same time that you normally would throughout the year. “Adults need about seven to eight hours, but it varies, so try to find what is best for you. If the light is bothering you, purchase blackout curtains, and unwind with a short meditation session before bed.”
While summer depression is real, there are solutions and summer depression tips to help ease the blues. If you’re still struggling with your mood, and feel like you can’t do it on your own, visiting a therapist is highly recommended by the experts we spoke to. And it’s important to remember Dorfman’s advice: “Depression is treatable.” So if you’ve got those summertime SADs, you definitely can get back to feeling like you again before Labor Day.