Dr. Cynthia Shaw
When Summer Isn't Always Sunshine: Overcoming the Challenges of Summer SAD
Summer is an exciting time for many of us – it's the season of sun, fun, and vacations – and it's hard not to feel happy and full of life once it's here, right?
Yet despite its sunny namesake, summer SAD (seasonal affective disorder) has other plans for some of us. If your mood drops as the temperatures rise, summer SAD (aka, 'the summer blues') may be at play.
If you've been feeling particularly low this season despite the excitement around you, no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed - instead, read on to understand how summer affects our mood and how to best handle this seasonal transition!
What are the Summer Blues?
Summer should be a time of daydreaming under palm trees and flipping burgers on the grill, but for some, it can feel like a trip to the Dark Side. If you're noticing that your sunny disposition is faltering, it may be a dose of Summer SAD.
This warm-weather version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a set of depressive symptoms or experiences related to changes in season or weather. Though many believe SAD to only be present during the winter months, summer SAD, also known as the summer blues, affects individuals during the summer months.
Signs of the summer blues include decreased energy, motivation, and joy in things that usually stir your soul. Individuals with summer SAD may also experience changes in their sleep or eating patterns and feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, agitation, or irritability.
What Elicits Summer SAD?
Disrupted schedules and routines can throw us off our game. With more daylight hours comes the expectation to do more with our time, bringing increased pressure to be productive and accomplish more, which can quickly become overwhelming.
After all, summer is the season for travel, adventure, and social events – so let's not forget the societal pressure to have the absolute best time ever – followed by the shame or loneliness we experience when we don't. Am I the only one who prefers being a hermit sometimes?...
Moreover, summer vacation for kids may lead to parents shelling out extra money to keep them entertained or engaged in various activities, which can strain finances and add another layer of stress.
Summer is also prime wedding season: bachelorette parties galore, flights up the wazoo, and dollars upon dollars spent on celebratory shots. Let’s not forget your mandatory baby showers and family reunions already bombdaring your summer schedule and slowly draining your life’s saving. Sounds like a financial nightmare!
High temperatures can also physically take a toll on us, leading to dehydration, overheating, and exhaustion. This can make even simple tasks, such as running errands or going for a walk, feel like herculean feats. In addition to the physical struggles, there's also the frustration and isolation for those living in more extreme conditions or with certain health conditions, such as asthma, allergies, or sensitivity to heat, including skin burning and heat rash.
Finally, finding flattering or comfortable clothing in the heat can be a real gut punch for our self-esteem. The pressure to wear more revealing clothing or have a "perfect" body for summer can lead to body image issues and low self-esteem, further adding to the negative impact of summer SAD.
Overall, while summer may be a time of relaxation and enjoyment for some, it is important to recognize that summer SAD is a challenging and valid experience. It's just as real as its wintery counterpart.
Whether we're dreading the heat, thoughts of socializing by a pool, or just missing the structure of the school year, read on to learn how to deal with these next few months ahead.
How to Deal with the Summer Blues
Oh, the changing of the seasons. One minute you're lounging in your cozy sweater, admiring the orange and brown hues; the next, you're sweating bullets and feeling like a hot mess. But fear not – here are some tips to help you manage the struggles that come with the changing of the seasons:
1. Plan Ahead for Summer
First things first, plan for summer. To avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed during the summer months, get into a routine, structure your days, plan activities ahead of time, and for the love of all things holy, budget wisely.
2. Prioritize Joyful Activities Over Social Expectations
When it comes to activities, remember this: joy is your prerogative. Don't feel obligated to participate in activities just because they are "summer appropriate." Find what brings a smile to your face, whether it's swimming laps or binge-watching Netflix in the glorious AC (a personal favorite of mine).
3. Embrace Your Body
Let’s skip the bodychecking and fad diets, please. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident rather than trying to conform to unrealistic standards. Eat the f*cking cheese fries, ignore the TikTok beauty fads, and own that beautiful bod: cellulite and all!
4. Stay Cool, Calm & Collected
Finally, keep calm by staying cool. It's okay to socialize indoors, and there's no shame in the portable fan game, no matter where you are. By taking steps to regulate your body temperature, you can reduce the physical and emotional tolls that summer weather and expectations can take on your body and mind.
Learn to Embrace the Changing of the Seasons
While many are unaware that summertime can affect us, just as much as winter, rest assured it is completely normal—and highly manageable.
It can be helpful to remember that these seasonal changes provide an opportunity to pause and re-evaluate our values and priorities in life. By honoring this change of seasons, instead of resisting it, we might meet summer with greater ease, acceptance, and growth. Who knows, you may even come to enjoy the summer months… too soon for pleasantries?
If summer’s got you down and you are experiencing low self-esteem, social pressures, and irritability from this damn heat – reach out for support! Together we can work on understanding how these months affect your health and wellness, and how you can better manage with seasonal changes during summertime and all year round. Here at Authentically Living, I'm here to help you find your own version of sunshine.