It is not uncommon to feel unusually down, anxious or depressed during the summer season. Why? Surely, longer days, more sunshine and warmer temperatures are uplifting. We ought to feel more energised, motivated and positive, and therefore in a better place to deal with difficulties.
SAD or seasonal affective disorder is mostly associated with the autumn and winter months, but it also occurs in the summer, especially (but not exclusively) among women aged 20-40.
For some people there may be a biological trigger, for others it can be the heat, change in routine and lifestyle, which can make life difficult and cause feelings of depression. Other symptoms are restlessness, irritability, disrupted sleep, loss of appetite and anxiety.
Spring and summer can be difficult periods of the year at the best of times without it leading to depression.
- If you have children, then you may be worried about the expense of summer holidays and childcare.
- If you have difficulties in your relationship or family, then spending more time together during a summer vacation can be daunting.
- If you are lonely, have few social outlets, low self confidence or self esteem, then the summer months can be challenging. You may find it difficult to go out on your own, if others are out as couples, families or groups of friends, and you have no one to share the summer with. Seeing others apparently living the life you wish you had can make you feel worse about your own situation.
- If you have an issue with the way you look (over - or underweight, body shape or disabilities), then the warmer time of the year makes it more difficult to hide away, cover up or blend into the background. Extra layers of clothing, which may have given comfort and not only protection against the cold weather, are now not practical.
If any of this applies to you, then you might notice feeling extra sensitive or vulnerable during a time when the world around you appears to be filled with "happy, active, social and beautiful looking people, who are couples, families or in groups of friends".
Being confronted with the life we do not have can be painful, depressing and make us feel like an outsider, who does not belong. You may become increasingly self aware, unhappy, frustrated and anxious.
What to do?
Understanding what might be going on for you, and why you feel the way you do, is an important first step in feeling less uncertain and worried. It is understandable, that you might not like the summer and start counting the days to the autumn.
Some practical steps can be of assistance, if you think you have 'summer blues':
- A slight change in attitude can help your sense of self confidence. You, like the next person, are entitled to like or dislike the summer, and are free to do what you like and enjoy.
- If you can, avoid some of the triggers, like crowded areas at particularly hot times of the day. You do not need to live like a recluse. Instead you have choices about how to structure your day in a way that suits you.
- Consider when and where you go on holidays. If you feel low, then you might not get the best out of the experience and a different season or time in the year may work better for you.
- If you feel self-conscious and believe everyone will notice your discomfort or how you look, then it may help to realise that you are probably caught up in a negative thinking pattern, which may feel real to you, but which may not be reality. Others may be too busy and preoccupied to notice you or anyone else for that matter.
If the way you feel is having a significant impact on your life and is a more regular than temporary occurrence, then counselling or therapy can assist you in exploring and working through some of the underlying issues.
Feeling discomfort, like summer depression, is a signal that something is out of kilter and you have choices of how to respond and deal with that.
(First published by Counselling Directory)
Psychotherapist, MA, Reg. MBACP (Accred)