July Topic:
The Summertime Blues

We are in the dog days of summer…anticipating a beach trip where we can dig our toes into the sand on a hot day, getting away for a while to unwind, or just enjoying the outdoors. But there are many who experience the ‘summertime blues’ or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). When we think of SAD, we often think of the cold, dark winter months, but the summer months can bring another type of SAD.

According to an article from Talkspace.com titled Summertime Blues: Making Sense of Summer Depression Stemming from Seasonal Affective Disorder, we have a hard time thinking about feeling blue in the summer due to cognitive dissonance. “Imagine the following scenario: It’s bright, sunny, and inviting out, but you’re still feeling down, withdrawn, and a little sad—just as you may feel during the winter months.”

But there is a difference in the seasons and how they affect our mood. Both types of Seasonal Affective Disorder are valid, but the symptoms are different. “People with winter depression tend to eat and sleep more, as well as feel generally lethargic. However, people with summer depression tend to experience the opposite: loss of appetite, some agitation and trouble sleeping.” (Talkspace.com)
Five signs you may have the 'summer blues'
from Health eNews staff:

1.     You feel like the sun is draining your energy. While the sun may not literally drain your energy, it can decrease melatonin production in your body. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a vital role in mood, so any increase or decrease can be a direct result of why you might be depressed.
2.     You’re having trouble sleeping. While those who have less energy during the day, at night, they’ll experience a surge due to the sluggishness of their morning and afternoon. The best thing to do in these situations is to give yourself time to winddown.
3.     You’re constantly cranky or upset about something. The cause of your crankiness is most likely a result of the summer atmosphere. One of the most noticeable changes in summer is the heat and increased humidity.
4.     You’re anxious. There are many factors that could be contributing to your anxiety. Crowds, kids out of school, changes in routine. . .to limit social anxiety, plan around the things you know will make you anxious. Choose social events that have smaller crowds or that will take place in the evening.
5.     Loss of appetite. Consistently feeling stressed or anxious about summer can cause your hormones to get out of whack and may decrease your sense of hunger. Nevertheless, your body still needs nutrients, so remind yourself to eat meals at a certain time each day.

If you think you are struggling with your mental health due to Seasonal Affective Disorder,
there are steps to take, including:
1.     Exercise. Research shows that even light exercise can help lift your mood. If it’s too hot out, try swimming or walking on the treadmill at the gym.
2.     Get enough sleep. When you’re tired, everything feels harder. Make sure you are getting enough rest and not pushing yourself past your limit with all the summer activities.
3.     Diet. What we eat impacts how we feel, so if you are feeling predominately grumpy or sad, it could be worth keeping a food diary to see how your mood changes depending on what you eat.
4.     Get support from trusted friends and, perhaps, a therapist. It’s important to talk about what you are going through. Don’t isolate. Instead reach out. Take the signs of depression seriously. (Talkspace.com)

A few additional recommendations come from Everydayhealth.com,
Summertime Sadness: Ways to Chase Away the Warm Weather Blues:
5.     Establish a routine and stick with it. Following a consistent routine can help you feel more motivated and put together. This can be as basic as wake-up times, brushing your teeth, mealtimes and bedtimes. Set reminder alarms for different parts of your routine.
6.     Make space for your emotions. When you feel overwhelmed, it can cause you to shut down. Provide a space to experience feelings…take a minimum of 10 minutes a day to sit in a quiet space, close your eyes and feel all your feelings.
7.     Avoid depression traps. Sometimes people try to cope with depression in ways that aren’t healthy or in their best interest, including eating when you’re bored, but not hungry; playing video games for hours and hours; gambling; spending beyond your means or needs online and in stores; drinking excessively, drug use.
8.     Keep it cool. While many of us feel pressured to enjoy the outdoors when the weather is nice, experts say seeking shade, air-conditioning and indoor space can help avoid a dip in mood. Research suggest high temperatures can make some people feel agitated. Other tips include staying hydrated, using sunscreen and wearing hats and lightweight clothes.

When MHA teaches QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Suicide Prevention classes, instructors cover myths and facts around suicide. One myth that a significant number of individuals believe is that suicide rates are higher in the winter months. Data indicates that when the weather begins to get warmer and people begin to go outdoors, suicide rates are at their highest. Again, cognitive dissonance makes it difficult to link sunny days with depression, but summertime blues are a reality.

The lyrics to the song “Summertime Blues” includes:

Yeah, sometimes I wonder what I'm gonna do
'Cause there ain't no cure for the summertime blues
No, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues

And while there may not be a ‘cure’, there are ways that we can combat Seasonal Affective Disorder and find ways to enjoy the dog days of summer. I hope you are finding ways to balance the hot days with cool activities and bask in whatever brings you joy. 
Take Action:
Learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder and
how to address its symptoms.

Share your thoughts about how you cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Share with us on social media - #MHACCSummertime

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