Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often thought of as a type of depression experienced over winter. People may refer to periods of depression as ‘winters’ in their life. However, some people experience SAD in the summer and this is just as real as wintertime SAD. It is less common and less understood. This can make it very isolating, particularly when it feels like everyone around you is happy because it’s summer. This blog will outline the signs of summer SAD and what you can do to help cope with the symptoms.
Do I have summer SAD?
Many people can struggle with aspects of summer such as intense heat and the lack of structure. However, a persistent low mood, feeling lethargic and losing interest in things you would usually enjoy may all be signs of SAD. There is a comprehensive list of symptoms of SAD on the NHS website. However, there are a few differences in how it shows up compared to its winter counterpart. As opposed to oversleeping and overeating, in summer SAD you may experience insomnia, decreased appetite and weight loss.
How to cope with summer SAD
1. Track your mood
Once autumn approaches, the symptoms of summer SAD can disappear and be forgotten. You may have read through the symptoms and they sound familiar but you are unsure if they are persistent. One thing that can help is to track your mood. This could be noting it down in a journal or there are lots of mood tracker apps available to do this on your phone. It may also help to identify if there are any particular patterns, for example some studies have found there is a link between higher pollen counts and worsened symptoms of low mood. This can enable you to plan ahead for such occasions.
2. Keep to a routine
It can be difficult to pinpoint if a lack of structure is causing a low mood or exacerbating SAD. Therefore, putting structure back into your daily routine can help. If you have children, this may be looking at what holiday camps or activities are available. If you usually exercise in the daytime, this can become unbearable as temperatures rise. Changing the type of exercise or time of day – first or last thing can help to maintain this routine.
3. Say no
Sometimes it can feel like everyone else is happy about the season. There can be pressure to express happiness and be sociable. Although it can be difficult to do, letting go of other people’s expectations and accepting how you feel can help. One way to manage expectations is to say no. Think about what you find most difficult. For example, if spending lots of time outside is a challenge and you’ve been invited to an all day BBQ, you don’t have to go. If saying no altogether is difficult, think about ways you can boundary this – such as setting a time you need to leave by.
4. Prioritise sleep
Not getting enough sleep affects our mood even when we are feeling our best. With longer evenings and lighter mornings, it can be easy for sleep schedules to drift. Try to stick to a regular bedtime. It may help to make adaptations to your sleeping environment. For example, if you are getting woken up by the light, blackout curtains or blinds may help. If you are struggling to sleep with the heat, it can help to change your bedding or get a fan. There are more tips on getting better sleep here.
5. Get help
You don’t have to struggle with this on your own. Think about who is in your support network and what they can do to help. If you are experiencing a lower appetite and finding it harder to cook in hotter weather, perhaps family or friends could help with preparing meals. If the lack of structure is a challenge, you may want to add in regular activities with loved ones. Finally, just like any type of depression, speaking to a professional like a counsellor can help.
Although it is less common and less understood, summer SAD is just as real as winter SAD. Tracking your mood, sticking to a routine, saying no, prioritising sleep and turning to your support network can all help. If you are interested in finding out more about how counselling can help, please get in touch: