When Sun and Fun Bring Sadness and Despair
Although most Americans spend three-quarters of the year looking forward to summer, for some it can spell depression. This seems antithetical since summer is time for fun in the sun, vacations, barbecues and beach parties. The problem could stem from an affective disorder, or it could result from the cumulative pressures associated with summer months.
Summer and SAD
A disorder known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) causes around 5 percent of Americans to be affected by seasonal changes. For most with SAD, this low mood comes in winter when days are short and dark, but for some the long days and bright sun of summer can actually trigger a dark mood.
Yet not everyone who struggles with summer depression does so because they have SAD. Sometimes parents have trouble adjusting to a non-routine lifestyle that comes when kids are out of school. The stress of trying to balance work, kids’ activities, added outdoor home chores and complaints about boredom can be enough to trigger vacation-time depression. Anxiety over paying for things like sports lessons and a summer holiday trip can also contribute.
Summertime Stress and Depression
Some experience summer depression for entirely different reasons. A person who is dissatisfied with how they look may be hesitant to wear shorts or a bathing suit. That limits how much time they want to spend outside and cuts out a lot of summer socializing. Heat and humidity can discourage a person from sticking to their outdoor activity and exercise regimen. Unpleasant temperatures can make it hard to sleep at night. And a hot kitchen can make it less appealing to prepare nutritious home-cooked meals. All of these interruptions to a healthy lifestyle can combine to trigger low mood when the sun is high.
Don’t Ignore the Summer Blues
If you find yourself struggling with low mood summer after summer, it could be SAD. Talk to a doctor to be sure. If summer stresses seem to be the culprit, do what you can to trim them down – don’t try to do everything or plan costly getaways. Exercise early in the morning or inside. Be sure to go to bed early so you guard your sleep. Look for ways to create some routine and order in your children’s summer lives. If re-ordering your life doesn’t do the trick, talk to your doctor about if you’d benefit from antidepressant therapy starting in the spring.