15 Jun The Summertime Blues: When the Living Isn’t Easy
The sweet and lazy tones of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong evoke the summer many of us anticipate with relish; those long, leisurely sun-drenched days sipping a cool drink beside the beach, not a care in the world. But for a small number of us, the summer is not something to look forward to, with around one in ten thought to suffer from ‘Summer Onset Seasonal Affective Disorder’ – the summertime equivalent of the winter blues.
The symptoms of the summertime blues have similarities with all types of depression and, like classic SAD, a disruption of the circadian rhythms is involved. But Rosenthal, the man who ‘discovered’ SAD, and his colleagues have revealed a key difference in the way the summertime blues manifest. Instead of the lethargy that plagues winter blues sufferers, those with Summer-onset SAD are blighted by anxiety.
Given the above, the symptoms to look out for include:
- Anxiety and irritability
- Mood swings
- Poor appetite/weight-loss
- Dislike of light and/or heat
- Avoiding activities
- Suicidal ideation
- Lack of concentration and decision-making
The last two symptoms are classic signs of depression and you should seek urgent help.
If your symptoms are mild, there are positive steps you can take to care for yourself over the coming months:
- Structure your days. Others might look forward to escaping the daily grind, but for you the lack of routine may be unbearable. But just because you don’t have to set the alarm or cook dinner for a prescribed time, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do so if it makes you feel more able to cope.
- Keep hydrated. Certain amino acids, including those that help form the ‘feel-good’ chemical serotonin, require plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can hinder this process so keep your fluids topped up.
- Listen to your body. If you don’t enjoy the light, wear sunglasses; if you prefer to keep cool, seek out the shade. In short, if summer is just ‘too much’ for your senses or your nervous system, moderate your environment to feel more comfortable.
- Moderate your expectations. Much of the frustration and disappointment we feel in life is due to having overly high expectations. It’s natural to get excited about a summer trip away or those sun-drenched days mentioned in the opening paragraph, but relying on external events to make us happy is a recipe for disappointment. Accept the moments when summer isn’t going to plan (the rainy picnics, the airport delays, the tetchy children, etc.) and you will enjoy the great times even more.
Help Beating the Blues
If you are, or know someone who is, struggling to cope with the summer season, please think about contacting a GP or qualified therapist.