It’s summer! The sun is out, the days are longer, and there is an inherent essence of freedom. It’s almost like there is an expectation to feel happy. So, why do some of us still notice that low feeling?
We all hear about seasonal depression happening in the winter, but did you know that “the summertime blues” are also a real thing too? Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is something we commonly associate with winter and lack of sunlight. However, SAD can be experienced in any season, not just in winter. This can be marked by symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability, and other changes to mental health that impact daily functioning. Changes in sleep schedule due to work/school, more daylight, more social obligation, and overall routine can impact us in many ways.
Oftentimes, we can feel guilty that we start to experience these symptoms during such a “carefree” time of year. The shame of not feeling the way we were expected to feel can further exacerbate our symptoms. It is important also to note that changes in seasons can also represent changes in us through various periods of time in our life. Sometimes this can also be experienced as feelings of grief and loss. If certain experiences in your life are tied to different times of the year, those emotions can often resurface as the seasonal changes circle back.
We can support ourselves in various different ways. Allowing yourself to lean into positive coping and self-care to support symptoms of depression and anxiety the same way you might if you were experiencing winter SAD. This could be taking advantage of the cooler mornings to get outside, cultivating a new journaling practice, or connecting with your therapist to explore what’s best for you. Finding a sense of routine for your summer can help allow us a sense of regulation and certainty. Downtime is great, but too much unstructured downtime can also leave us feeling disconnected.
It is also important to validate and affirm yourself that while it is upsetting to feel this way, it is OK despite any expectations being held. We can attend to these feelings of grief and sadness by finding little ways to show up for ourselves and honor what is coming up. Through a sense of acceptance and compassion, we can meet ourselves where we are in order to be the most present during what this season brings to you.