Summertime Seasonal Depression

The research is clear: Warm and sunny weather can have a positive impact on our mood and mental health.  And, we know that 20-30 minutes a day of sunshine provides vitamin D, which is a protective factor for many diseases and conditions.  In summer (when we in Canada get that warm and sunny weather), we also tend to be more active, work less, spend more time with friends and family, or other people we enjoy.  All of this contributes to better well being.

However, seasonal depression or SAD is a real challenge for many — even in the summer.  And there are many factors that can create stress in the summertime, making these sunnier months difficult.  For instance, routine disruptions around eating, sleeping and activities due to school vacations.  Also, a lack of finances, health problems, extreme weather, and anxiety or other mental health issues, can limit a person’s ability to take advantage of summer vacations and other enjoyable activities.

There are some things you can do to try to navigate these barriers to enjoyment this summer.  Here are some tips:
– Try to remain hydrated — less coffee and alcohol and more water and other non-alcoholic beverages
– Wear a hat and sunscreen if going outside
– Limit exposure to the more intense heat (this is especially true with certain medications). This can mean choosing to do activities earlier in the morning or later in the evening when the temperature cools down.
– Access air conditioned environments if possible.
– If social anxiety is a challenge, try addressing social isolation and loneliness by choosing to see just a small group of family and friends.  If that isn’t possible, see if you can have a phone or video call.
– Try to stay active — walks, a bike ride, yard work.  This will increase your endorphin activity.
– Try to keep a schedule for sleep and eating and try to eat more healthy, fresh foods where possible.
– Do some soothing activities outside and in the shade for shorter periods — such as listening to music, reading a book, meditation, walking a pet.
– Find some indoor, soothing activities if the heat is too intense or you prefer indoors.  Here again, you can read a book, meditate, or spend time with pets or invite friends or family over.
– Try to use self compassion.  Go easy on yourself — employ a no-judgment zone. Taking the pressure off can reduce shame and make it easier to do some of the things that could improve your mood.
If you feel you can’t shake the summer blues, reach out to a counsellor or psychotherapist for help.



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