Psychiatry

Summertime Sadness

{Santa Monica, California}

I’ve been intermittently unmotivated lately and am trying to analyze the reason why.  Then I realize how hot, humid, and sweaty I feel as I scroll Facebook and view photos of my friends’ fabulous summer vacation trips as I sit at my desk all by my lonesome.  Perhaps my current mood is triggered by the summer season?  If you have a tendency to feel lazy, unmotivated, or depressed during the summer season, you’re not alone.  There are several reasons that the summer months may bring about a drop in mood.  The good news is that there’s ways to overcome these feelings and bring some pep to your mood this time of year.

What are some potential reasons for the shift in mood?

1.  Changes to your regular schedule.  Basically, anything that throws off one’s routine can contribute to a change in mood and motivation.  The kids are out of school, which means increased responsibilities monitoring them and taking them out on activities to keep them occupied throughout the day (this also means decreased “alone/me” time).  And although summer vacations are usually planned and much-needed, it takes time to adjust back to your regular routine upon return.  Many also travel to different time zones, which contributes to even more difficulty to readjust.

2.  Expectations to have a fabulous summer.  Several of us continue to work, attend summer classes, or stay home during the summer months (due to budget, other responsibilities, etc) and with modern life dominated by social media, we are bound to come across our friends’ seemingly exciting vacation photos.  Not spending a few weeks in Hawaii or the Hamptons?  That’s okay, but one can’t help but feel the pressure and envy to be on vacation especially when it appears that everyone else is jet-setting away.

3.  Increased pressures to have the ideal swimsuit body.  I used to hate summers in so-cal as there’s nothing that made me more self-conscious than being surrounded by model’esque women in bikinis.  I vividly recall skipping out on pool parties as a teen (partially because I didn’t know how to swim) because I was body-conscious and oblivious on how to choose a flattering swimsuit.

4.  Summer seasonal depression.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurrent depression that is experienced only during a specific season, but is NOT experienced during the rest of the year.  Though the prevalence of SAD during the winter time is much higher compared to summer, studies have shown a correlation between summer seasonal affective disorder and higher, hotter temperatures.

5.  Losing a sense of purpose during the summer months.  People who have time-off during the summer months (ie, teachers, school employees, etc) may have difficulty shifting their priorities from work to something else around this time of year.  It’s well-known that utilizing skill and having a career that strengthens and contributes to a person’s sense of identity tends to improve mood.  When a sense of purpose is taken away (even if for a few months), one’s mood may decline.

6.  Weather change.  Some people just don’t like basking in the sun or going out when temperatures are high.  Period.  But the distaste for heat can lead to social isolation and difficulty leaving the comfort of an air-conditioned home, which can contribute to a decline in mood and lack of motivation.  Also, the heat and longer days can cause insomnia, which may cause a decline in energy levels as well.

WAYS TO BREEZE THROUGH THE SUMMER MONTHS

1.  Seek help from a professional.  If you feel that the summer season is causing impairment in your daily life, then seek help from a professional (physician or therapist).  Medications, such as antidepressants, might be an option to help you get through the season.  Also, therapy (particularly cognitive behavioral therapy) has been shown to help seasonal depression.

2.  Stay active.  As I wrote in a previous post, exercise has been shown to be just as effective as antidepressants for the treatment of depression.  While on vacation, try to maintain an exercise routine as much as possible.  Many people understandably avoid outdoor exercise due to the heat, so consider exercising later at night, early in the morning, or join a nicely air-conditioned gym for a few months.

3.  Get some rest!  Our circadian rhythm plays a large role in the maintenance mood.  Despite the temptation to stay up late, try your best to maintain a regular sleep schedule as variations (especially lack of sleep) contribute to irritability, increased anxiety, and depression.  Also, if you’re tired after a busy or stressful day, allow yourself to get some rest instead of overexerting yourself.

3.  Keep your environment cool.  I’m admittedly cheap at times and avoid turning on the air conditioner unless absolutely necessary, but if the heat makes you moody, then your wellbeing will hopefully prevail as the utmost priority over cost.

4.  Don’t let social media bring you down.  Keep an open mind and remember that pictures on social media generally display near perfect appearances.  Get annoyed by the person in your group who obsessively snaps away trying to obtain the perfect photo instead of engaging in the activity at hand?  I get irritated and would love to throw their phone in the toilet, but I exercise restraint.  I’d like to think I’ve learned to maintain good boundaries by allotting only a few minutes to take pictures per each activity (if any of my friends or family think otherwise, please let me know).  I found this article, which explains the concept of perfection in social media, quite interesting.

5.  Carve out time for yourself.  I emphasize the concept of self-care so much in my blog that no further explanation is needed, but if so, please refer to my entire blog 🙂

10 thoughts on “Summertime Sadness

  1. Love! Love this article! So useful, especially since we are entering the hottest month of the year!! I had taken a week off work because I was seeing myself grow more and more overwhelmed & less motivated. Some of the things that I made it my point to do was to pick up exercising a couple times a week (which I have on the schedule tomorrow), rest up, & create a schedule for next week for better time management & overall balance. This article was great confirmation from one MH professional to another! Thanks for sharing & keep em’ coming!

    • Hey Bri, thanks for the comment! That’s so awesome that u recognized the need for time off right away, and as a result, you’re able to figure out how to incorporate activities that u enjoy and know will enhance your overall mood and get organized and back on track! I’ve def made the mistake of overworking myself numerous times and it’s so much harder to bounce back. Thx for all your support Bri!

  2. I can see where that so-cal climate might lead to lethargy. Hence, the siesta, which is a concept foreign to the Midwest.
    On another note, I borrowed a quote from a fellow blogger for one of my posts. It’s from an early icon of your field, William James. “The art of wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” Very timely for yours truly, as I am learning new ways to deal with negative people, those of the present and of the past. An excellent quote for my purposes–and perhaps yours as well.

      • Glad to know that you find my quotes beneficial. This one has a special significance for me, as one who has always had difficulty dealing with other people’s negative criticism. What a good feeling to know that the best way to respond to most of this negative crap is to overlook it. It’s not my problem; it’s theirs.

  3. Another wonderful post!!! I have no “deep thoughts” to add, but I must tell you that I grew up a 5 minute drive from where you took this beautiful photo, and my beloved Granny lived across the street from where you stood (roughly) at 1400 Ocean Avenue. Your picture brought back great memories. I miss that area – well, I miss how it was in the 70’s and early 80’s! Thank you so much for inspiring me as usual. 🙂

    • Hi Dyane! That’s okay, deep thoughts can take too much energy sometimes…hence, the reason why my weekend posts are usually less deep lol. omg, what an amazing location and place your granny must’ve had! but yea, i can see what u mean about missing how it was >20 years ago…these days parking is so annoying and it’s overly populated with tourists by the pier!

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