Summertime and Your Mental Health
Summer is supposed to be a time for fun in the sun, vacations, outdoor picnics and enjoying time with family and friends. However, for many individuals the increase in sunlight has the opposite effect on their mood due to a condition known as Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SSAD). Although many may think of winter when thinking about a seasonal disorder, summertime can also cause changes to mental health.
“There are people who are not affected by the winter months at all, but instead have improved moods,” says Johnnie Taylor III, MA, “And there is a small group who have the reverse, feeling sad and depressed during the summer due to affected melatonin levels that play a role in our mental well-being.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), reverse seasonal affective disorder, a condition that changes our biological clocks, affects less than one-tenth of all SAD cases. Just like winter-onset SAD, the summer disorder returns every year at about the same time and can be affected by disrupted summer schedules and even too much time spent indoors in air conditioning because of the heat.
Those individuals with SSAD can experience:
- difficulty sleeping
- increased restlessness
- lack of appetite
- weight loss
If you are experiencing SSAD, there are many ways you can seek relief. Here are 4 suggestions:
- SSAD, like many disorders, has a biological component. Maintaining healthy habits through a balanced diet, exercise, and proper sleep, can reduce symptoms.
- Not everyone loves to travel during the summer. If the option is available, taking time off from work and other responsibilities and staying home can be just as rewarding as traveling.
- Keep it low key. It can be hard not to accept all of the invitations to social events during the summer. Barbeques, pool parties, and family gatherings can be fun, but can further drain that lack of energy you are experiencing. Make sure to pace yourself and only attend what you feel up to instead of trying to do everything and having to back out.
- Medications. Certain medications such as antidepressants, can assist in treating symptoms when they are at their worst. It’s important to talk to your doctor who can evaluate the medication that is best for you.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very common disorder and one that should be treated like any other chronic condition, with care and attentiveness," adds Taylor. “If you feel it has reached the point where you cannot effectively manage the symptoms, then that is the time for outreach. Speak to friends, family, and medical professionals about what it happening and work towards gaining control. Remember there’s never a bad time of the year to take care of ourselves.”
Clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are available to help you navigate seasonal struggles. Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632) for more information about our Outpatient Counseling and telehealth services.