If you have clinical depression, you may find this especially difficult during the summer season. When depression’s core characteristics lead you to feel drained by social interaction, this can be doubly isolating when you feel like you are supposed to be having fun with everyone else. Your usual depression can flare up in different areas in the summer. For instance, if you struggle with body image, summer wardrobe can trigger comparison with others and negative thinking. If you are already taking an effective antidepressant for your clinical depression, talk to your doctor and/or therapist about how to also manage summer-specific issues.
Summertime Seasonal Affective Disorder
There is also the version of depression that is not clinical, but rather is a reverse seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is most common in the winter, when the days are shorter, colder and darker. However, some people experience SAD in the summertime, rather than the winter. Symptoms of summer-onset SAD include irritated feelings, change in appetite, difficulty sleeping, lack of enthusiasm for everyday activity, and not feeling like yourself. Your circadian rhythms can be affected by the extended days and increased sunlight. Speak to your doctor about whether antidepressants may be helpful for you during the summer, as well as other aspects of your treatment plan, including speaking to a counselor.
Factors in Summertime Depression
Whether you are managing clinical, SAD, post partum depression, or you are more prone to depression spells and one occurs this summer, here are some factors that you can actively and positively address to minimize the degree of your depression. For every factor, we share tips on how you can proactively address it.
Change of routine. One of the most helpful things for people who have depression or anxiety is the stability of routine. In the summer, the weather allows for and often means a big change in the way evenings, weekends, personal time and social time is spent. Weddings, barbeques and social gatherings that stretch later into the night due to longer daylight hours can be very taxing for you if you have depression.
Tips: Protect your eating, sleeping, exercise routines, alone time and whatever else helps regulate your mental and emotional health. Pay attention to your energy during social events, as well as how you feel afterwards. If this contributes to your depression, create a game plan. Limit your social engagements per week, and decide beforehand how long you want to stay and what time you will leave. You can even let your host know ahead of time that you will only be able to stay for an hour, so that you do not feel guilty on the day of. Go with your spouse, relative or friend and ask them to help you by leaving with you at the determined time, or making sure you leave.
Financial stress can often be heightened in the summer, due to the increased social events we just discussed. Local weddings, destination weddings, family vacations, time off work, and summertime activities for children are all costly. Your desire to show up for family and friends can come with the toll of worrying about the strain on your budget, which is more difficult if this is already a difficult area for you.
Tips: Exercise your yes’s and no’s. Create financial boundaries that you can feel comfortable with, and do not feel guilty for staying in your boundaries. If you have an upcoming summer with more weddings than usual, or a big family reunion that is important you attend, you can decrease your stress by saving during the rest of the year to have a larger summertime budget. Articulate for yourself what is important to you, and find a way to make it happen on budget. If you need to take your family on a trip, find affordable options, or create a staycation you are excited about. If you want to celebrate an upcoming marriage but cannot afford to go, send a gift and spend time celebrating the couple before or after the weeding.
How Your Body Experiences Summer. The longer hours of sunlight can confuse your appetite, energy and sleep cycle. If you are sensitive to this, it may mean you are awake longer during summer days than the rest of the year. Heat can also have a very real affect on your mood and emotions. Humidity and high temperatures can cause you to feel trapped inside your air conditioned home, or more irritable and stressed when out driving or running errands.
Tips: Use thicker curtains in the summer to block the light in your bedroom, and invest in good air conditioning for your home and car. If you are invited to go out with family and friends, bring a cooler with iced drinks and sit in the shade, or request to go swimming so you can minimize the heat. Adjust your cooking routine so that you meal prep and cook in the cooler evenings.
We hope you find these tips will help give you practical ways to take care of your mood this summer season. It is important that you do not deal with your depression alone. Don’t forget to partner with your healthcare professionals and family to have support.