Summer has always been my favorite season and winter my mortal enemy. Cold weather and short, dark days are the reason I left the northeast and mid-Atlantic for sunny Los Angeles. When I bid farewell to shoveling driveways full of grey snow, I was also able to wave goodbye to my seasonal depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, known by the all-too-accurate acronym SAD, can make anywhere between three to six months of the year challenging, depending on where you live and your brain’s response to changes in light and temperature. For us winter-induced SAD sufferers, specialists often recommend light therapy, among other coping mechanisms. But what happens when the light—and all that accompanies it—becomes the problem?
Summer-onset seasonal affective disorderis responsible for nearly a tenthof all SAD cases, according to Psychology Today. It’s also diagnosed infour times more women than men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Changes in seasons—read: sun and weather patterns—can cause changes in levels of serotonin and melatonin, which can then affect mood, sleep cycles, appetite, and more. Add in the occasional heatwaves and you might find yourself dealing with more soul-sucking sun than you can handle.
While winter SAD can cause an increase in appetite and a greater need to sleep, summer SAD often manifests in the opposite way. Symptoms can include:
- Poor appetite
Lucky for our species, there are plenty of ways to cope with seasonal change. Here are some tips that might provide relief to the disruptions in your circadian rhythm.
Try blackout shades
A little relief from the heat and the sunlight can go a long way. This can help with lethargy and keep you cool and the reduced vitamin D your body will absorb can help with symptoms like insomnia as well.
Take a break
Summer vacations are a thing for a reason! Escaping the heat—and your weekly routine—can make a big difference and help you recharge and reset.
A professional can help you find more specific coping mechanisms that best suit your mind and body. Whether it be seeing a physician, psychiatrist, or therapist, a professional could help you better understand what your mind and body are going through.
While moving your body in this heat might sound like the opposite of what you want to do, remember that endorphins are your friends! Go to the pool, take an indoor class,or visit the gym just for the AC, but get moving. This can also help with the insomnia and help you get tired before bed.
Establish a sleep schedule
Going to bed at a decent time might feel like the opposite of what summers are for, but giving yourself a routine and sticking to it will help you create some balance when your circadian rhythm has been disrupted. Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day—including weekends!
Let yourself feel all the feels
You can be proactive in your self-care regimen without beating yourself up or shaming yourself for feeling the way you do. Minds and bodies are complicated things! You might be frustrated that you’re dealing with seasonal affective disorder and it might feel like you’re supposed to enjoy summer and the sun more than you do. But it’s okay to feel what you feel. Let yourself first feel your feelings, then work through them
Remind yourself that this is only temporary
Seasons change. You can try your best to adjust, but it’s worth keeping in mind that time will help, a good reminder for tough periods unrelated to weather, too.
And if all else fails, remember: