Does summer season make you sluggish and sad? The extreme weather can be a major irritant for many and may leave one in grumpy mood. But if low moods are experienced for too long, the anxiety refuses to go away and the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness lingers, it’s time to get help. Summer blues are real and many people are affected by it as the days get longer and mercury goes up. (Also read: Mild depression may go unnoticed; expert on warning symptoms to watch out for)
Summer depression is a type of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), especially common in Indian subcontinent and places close to equator. While winter season is more likely to trigger SAD, hot weather too can cause depressive symptoms in people.
Dr Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist and Founder of Manasthali says while mostly SAD is associated with shorter days and less sunlight in winters, certain people have cyclic tendency to develop depression with onset of summer which resolves around winter.
“Longer days and increasing heat and humidity may play a role in summer depression, according to experts. It has been seen that people with summer depression experience feelings of sadness, loss of interest in usual activities, lack of energy, oversleeping and weight gain,” says Dr Shahid Shafi, Consultant-Internal Medicine Ujala Cygnus Brightstar Hospital, Moradabad.
When the feelings of sadness, lack of energy, loss of interest in usual activities, oversleeping and weight gain kick in during summer then it is called summer depressions, says Dr. Preeti Singh, Senior Consultant- Clinical Psychologist, Paras Hospitals Gurugram.
Signs and symptoms of summer depression
Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road elaborating on the symptoms of summer depressions says, “insufficient sleep, loss of interest in daily activities or the activities that you like, confusion, frustration, irritation, feeling lonely, sad, cognitive health issues, loneliness, anger, tiredness, and agitation are some of the signs of SAD.”
“Apart from that, summer depression may lead to feelings of sadness or feeling depressed for most of the day, almost every day. Some people may also feel that their limbs (arms and legs) are heavy. Extreme carbohydrate cravings and weight gain are also seen,” says Dr Shahid Shafi.
Dr Preeti lists other signs:
• Sadness, feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day.
• Carbohydrate cravings and weight gain
• Extreme fatigue and lack of energy
• Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
• Trouble concentrating
• Feeling irritated or agitated
• Limbs (arms and legs) that feel heavy
• Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, including withdrawing from social activities
• Sleeping problems (usually oversleeping)
• Thoughts of death or suicide
Causes of summer depression
Apart from the comfortable weather, many people’s routine undergoes a change considering it’s holiday time. Eating unhealthy during summer season or body image issues may also trigger depressive feelings.
“Your routine can get disrupted in summer and that can be stressful for you. Summer is a holiday time for most. You may find it difficult to manage expenses during summer and this can lead to anxiety and depression. The unbearable heat and humidity can make your life miserable during summer and thus may feel uncomfortable and depressed. You may avoid cooking and eating unhealthy stuff causing more problems. Summertime gatherings tend to revolve around beaches and pools, some people start avoiding social situations due to embarrassment and body image issues,” says Dr Sonal Anand.
Family history of mood disorders, history of bipolar affective disorder, chronic psychosocial stressors, personality disorders like borderline personality disorder and anxious avoidant personality disorders, vitamin D deficiency and chronic physical ailments are risk factors for seasonal affective disorders, says Dr Jyoti Kapoor.
Difference between clinical and seasonal depression
“Seasonal depression generally happens around the same time of the year unlike other (types of) depression which could could happen any time of the year. To be diagnosed with seasonal depression you should have had similar symptoms around the same time for at least two years in continuation,” says Dr Preeti Singh.
Ways to cope up with summer depression
Dr Shahid Shafi says it’s important to motivate yourself for a healthy and disciplined lifestyle, in order to beat summer depression. He also advises one to identify summertime triggers which may include heat and humidity or financial stresses related to need for more childcare or vacations.
“People with this depression may also develop insomnia so it is very crucial to make sleep a priority. Apart from that, protect your eyes by limiting the light in your room, go for regular exercise so that happy hormones are released in the body. It is also essential to remain hydrated as it prevents heat exhaustion and electrolyte imbalance. In addition to this, go and meet people as social interaction may help improve your mood and speak to a mental health expert, if needed,” says Dr Shafi.
Dr Sonal Anand and Arouba Kabir, Mental Health Counselor & Founder Enso, offer more tips to beat summer depression:
Identify the triggers
It could include heat and humidity, relationship issues in life, financial stresses, body-image issues because people often need to wear less clothes, physical health issues, expectation from people to be more productive in summer days.
Sleep for 8 hours in night time
The long, sunny days and warm nights can make it hard to sleep which can impact your moods, hormones like melatonin, physical health issues like acidity.
Practice relaxation techniques
Try exercise, meditation, music, nature walks, evening or morning walks, drinking soothing drinks, mud therapy.
Have a routine and schedule
Following a consistent routine can help you feel more motivated and put-together which helps us being productive.
Express your emotions
When one feels overwhelmed by emotions, it can cause one to shut down. But being able to express it to someone who cares or loves or even a therapist, helps. Or simply journal your feelings down.
Try to opt for counseling
Seek the help of an expert, if you have summer depression. You don’t have to shy away or feel embarrassed about it. Taking medication or therapy can help you to deal with depression.
Try to do activities that you like. You can dance, sing, listen to music, play an instrument, learn a new language or do gardening. Try to have some ‘me’ time.
Follow a well-balanced diet
Are you aware? Eating a diet loaded with all the essential nutrients and regular physical activity can do the trick.
Try to go out in the morning and get that natural light. You will surely feel better.