Mention "seasonal depression" to someone and you could get a response like, "Yeah, winter can be a hard time for a lot of people."
But actually, seasonal affective disorder can be present in the warmer months as well- in fact, about 10% of people who experience SAD report their symptoms to be during the summer. Symptoms tend to be a little different compared to winter seasonal affective disorder- people who experience summer depression might have more anxiety, insomnia, and weight loss.
Why you might feel depressed in the summer:
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), heat exposure is a major contributor to summer depression. The hormone prolactin appears to play a role- this hormone is stimulated by heat, and high levels of it can make you feel tired. Also, prolactin suppresses dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and happiness. Thyroid hormone is also part of the puzzle- it is suppressed by heat, and low levels of it can lead to lower energy.
A summer lifestyle change can also be a factor in summer depression. Many of us try to cram so much in during these months, trying to take advantage of the sunshine and warmth. We stay out later at night and make sure to get outside be active on the weekends. We travel for family vacations, reunions, and weddings. So much travel can lead to feeling anxious and unsettled. Even with all the fun and excitement, it's no wonder so many of us feel exhausted during this season!
Here are a few ideas to help yourself this summer:
1. Be realistic about your summer bucket list. Pick a few things you want to do, but don't overbook yourself. It's okay to say no to parties, happy hours, family events. Staying at home can be just as fulfilling as be out and about.
2. Stop romanticizing the season. We tend to put summer on a pedestal- especially here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, because it's quite chilly most of the year! But putting too much pressure on yourself to have the best summer ever can lead to disappointment.
3. Be careful about spending too much time in the sun. Beach days can zap your energy and leave you feeling fatigued. Trade the sun for a movie theater, coffee shop, or museum!
4. Make a self-care plan. This might include things like taking a walk after dinner, reading that book that's been on your list, getting a pedicure, or giving yourself permission to take a nap on Saturday afternoons.
You may have tried these things and have found summer depression has been lingering. Maybe you've been thinking about meeting with a counselor in the Twin Cities. If you're ready to start working through things like anxiety, self-esteem, confidence, or perfectionism, let's chat! I'd love to talk with you about how counseling can help.