There ain't no cure for the summertime blues (actually there is...)
Look it's summer and you're supposed to feel FABULOUS! There's no room for sadness here.... or is there? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is generally thought of as the "winter blues," a recurrent depression that impacts most folks (who have it) starting in September or October. What we don't talk about much is the summertime blues. Approximately 10% of SAD sufferers experience a depressive episode over the SUMMER, usually starting in April.
Summertime blues looks a little different than its winter cousin. As I was researching this article, I noticed that each article I read described symptoms a bit differently so I am going to share what I've witnessed in my practice and let you peruse the web for more (this article is good!)
In my experience, folks with summer SAD have "activated" depression or anxiety. Winter SAD tends to push sufferers to sleep more, feel physically tired, be sad or tearful, and generally have what most of us think of as typical depressive symptoms. Summer SAD sufferers sleep less and often their primary symptom is irritability. Most of my clients' primary complaint is a "short-fuse" when they have summer mood issues.
Behavioral therapy for Winter SAD includes light therapy and behavioral activation. Summer SAD is less studied and is more difficult to treat. It's also potentially more destructive since an activated depressed person might be lashing out at themselves and others in response to their pain. For that reason, many physicians recommend medication even MORE for summer SAD. (This is an official recommendation to see your doctor and/or counselor if you think you have summer SAD.)
In addition to what doctors recommend, there are some "home remedies" that many of my clients have reported to be helpful for summer SAD:
1. Keep a regular, early schedule. When it's light until 10pm, it's hard to go to bed by then but it seems to be helpful to go to sleep early and wake up early, even in the summer.
2. Control the light. If it's light until late, employ whatever measures you can in your home to keep light from getting in. You might have blackout curtains in your room. You might retreat to your basement in the evening. Here's the catch though - get light during the day! Don't create winter light conditions all summer long.
3. Control the temperature. If you are heat intolerant especially, keep your temperature managed, even if only while you sleep.
4. Get outside early. This brings it back around to "early to bed-early to rise" When it's miserably hot, you won't want to go outside at 3pm. Get your outside on early in the morning to set your brain's natural rhythms with light, fresh air, and a little exercise.
Finally to reiterate, see your doctor or counselor. Summertime blues are potentially more destructive than its wintertime cousin so take it seriously and take heart. With a bit of help, you can keep living well all summer long.
For more on "regular SAD," check out this article on NestMaven.