Having a SAD Summer?
Does the thought of summertime make you feel like frolicking in the pool, or hiding under a big straw hat? If you have seasonal depression, the bright sunshine may make you feel more roasted than sun-kissed. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more commonly known for its winter depression variety that causes people to feel depressed during the cold winter months, but its summertime counterpart causes a mood slump during the longest, hottest days of the year.
People who experience seasonal depression in the spring and summer may experience anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and weight loss/poor appetite. Although depressed, they may have high energy levels and feel more restless than sluggish.
So what’s the problem? Shouldn’t you be happy when the sun is shining?
- One contributor to summertime depression could be the sun, which is ironic, since lack of sun is the instigator of winter depression. In Texas, the temperatures can get so high that the heat is oppressive and dangerous, causing us to flee to the nearest air-conditioned room.
- Allergies are on the rise in the spring and summer, which can make our bodies feel sluggish and overwhelmed.
- Change in our schedules could be a huge stressor in the summertime. Our kids are at home, and our routine goes out the window. Summer tampers with the structure of our daily lives. Like a toddler that smashes through a stack of carefully placed blocks, summer tears through our comfortable, familiar schedule. And our emotions can feel destroyed as well.
- The high expectations of summer fun can be our downfall as well. The perfect vacation, cookout, pool party, bikini body (Did I mention anxiety?)… Sound familiar? The parties and expectations of memorable family vacations can stress us out during the summertime, just as the extravagant events, parties, food, and gift-buying do during the holiday season. Seasonal depression affects primarily women in their 20s to 40s, who are usually the planners of parties, dinners, gift-buying, and vacations. Pray for perspective, that you may be able to enjoy time with your friends and family and the summer season that God gave us, without getting bogged down by insignificant details and over-the-top Pinterest-inspired entertainment ideas.
You may not have a diagnosable seasonal depression, but you may still feel a slump in your mood when the weather changes and your thermostat starts fighting a losing battle.
So what can you do about summertime depression?
- Pray for peace. Before all else, go to God with your anxieties and your real world problems. God is the only one who can replenish your soul and be your true rock. He is the unchanging Lord over the changing seasons of our year, our emotions, and our lives.
- Sun in moderation. The sun is the problem AND the solution? What?! Exposure to the sun lifts the mood and is a great source of Vitamin D, but it can be oppressive at mid-day during summertime. The best time to spend outdoors is early morning when the sun is already out but the temperatures are at their lowest.
- Diet and exercise. I know, it’s the obvious answer. But there’s a reason that it’s the obvious answer. We must remember that the brain is also a bodily organ. Eating healthy foods and being active at least 30 minutes a day will likely improve your mood. A high-impact outdoor workout at noon is obviously a bad idea; some options are to work out indoor, in the mornings, or in a pool.
- Stay social. Many regular social gatherings center around the school year schedule, and they drop off during the summer, when attendance cannot be counted on due to vacations, etc. Stay connected with friends and social groups during the summer. You can schedule a regular get-together time to provide some structure to your social life. And keep it casual, maybe just getting together for coffee, so it does not become one more overwhelming to-do on your summertime fun expectations list.
- Talk to a pro. Sometimes talking to a counselor who understands the ins and outs of depression can help guide you to find better ways to cope with depression whenever it arises. A Christian counselor can help guide you spiritually as well, to address your relationship with God and how it factors in to your depression.
Solomon spoke of the changing seasons in life: “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecc. 3:4). God made the seasons, and He made the earth we live on to depend on those seasons. God designed us to adapt to changes through the year and through our lives, both physically and emotionally. God molds our soul during the times when we struggle with change. For some of us, this happens every year. Let God change you and mold your soul as the seasons change this year.