Summer is here, so why am I feeling depressed?
Summertime is here and it seems as if everyone around us is smiling and cheerful, enjoying the long warm summer days. But for us, it’s hard to join in. We find ourselves struggling to cope with our low mood and worried, anxious thoughts. It feels as if we can’t get enough rest and our disturbed sleep is leaving us tired and irritable. Getting time to ourselves is more difficult and we notice how this is making us feel stressed and agitated.
Most of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD but we generally associate this with winter time. What many people don’t realise is that 10% of people with SAD find that the onset of summer can trigger symptoms of depression. These symptoms can include sleep disturbance, changes in appetite, anxiety, lack of energy or motivation and, of course, persistent low mood.
This might seem strange. After all it is the shorter, darker days of winter that provide less sunlight, something which we know can lead to depression. There are, however, many reasons why the summertime can cause us to experience low mood. Understanding the factors that can trigger summer depression is an important step in moving towards recovery.
* Disruption to our normal routine. Those of us who have experience of depression understand the importance of a regular schedule and consistent self-care practices. Summertime can mess with this routine. Children are off school or home from college. This may result in more noise, disruption and demands. We may be going on holidays or we may have friends or relatives to visit. All this can interfere with our normal ways of relaxing. We may find that as the weeks go by our stress and anxiety can spill over into feelings of anger and sadness.
* Greater demands on our time and energy. The longer, hotter days of summer can be draining. Accomplishing our normal everyday tasks can seem difficult in the unfamiliar heat. We tend to be more active and spend more time outside. The increase in daylight hours can change our sleep pattern leading to us getting less rest overall. All this can result in physical tiredness which is often linked to low mood.
* Comparing ourselves to others. Summertime often sees us bombarded with images of young, happy, perfectly toned and tanned people. Although we know these images are unrealistic and most often aimed at advertising products, they can still affect how we feel about ourselves and our own bodies. Warm weather means we’re often faced with wearing more revealing clothes such as swimwear or shorts which can be difficult if we are feeling low in confidence. Low self-esteem is very often one of the most painful aspects of being depressed. We may feel less than happy about ourselves and our lives when compared with the manipulated images we see all around us in the media.
* Financial worries. Summertime can be an expensive time of year. Those of us with children face the financial drain of new books, uniforms and school contributions. College fees are due. For working parents there is the added expense of child-care/summer camps to keep our children cared for and occupied during the school break. We may also be expected to take excursions and foreign holidays which can stretch our budget even further. This can all result in our level of anxiety rising as we worry about how we are going to pay for it all.
* Melatonin. We may associate sunlight exposure to increased melatonin which is essential for a healthy sleep/wake cycle. However, too much daylight exposure can also cause melatonin production to slow. Lower levels of melatonin are thought to be associated with symptoms of depression. If we feel less rested and more agitated in the summer months it could be that we are in need of more time away from the glare of the sun.
As always the key to tackling depression is to recognise the triggers and take steps to care for ourselves. It is important to remember that summertime presents us with specific stresses and challenges. It can be helpful to take note of what you are finding most difficult about this time of year. Simple steps such as resting in a darkened room when feeling tired, using fans to ensure a cooler sleeping environment and ensuring we take some time for ourselves on a regular basis can make a big difference to our overall well-being. For simple tips on incorporating self-care into everyday life view https://www.janejustincounselling.ie/single-post/2019/04/11/Self-Care-The-Key-To-Good-Mental-Health
Make a change today.
Have a great week, Jane
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. Laois