Summertime often comes as a breath of relief for university students as the school year comes to a close and warmer weather promises more fun activities around the city. However, as temperatures rise and sun exposure increases some may find themselves withdrawing inward instead of going outside to enjoy the weather. This may be a result of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a seasonal depressive disorder that, while associated with the winter months, can also affect others during the summer (referred to as Reverse SAD).
Reverse SAD affects around 1% of the population. Those affected often feel depressed and low on energy during months that are brighter with more sun. The main culprit appears to be heat. Hot temperatures can be unpleasant, causing dehydration (which can affect one’s mood), agitation, and irritability. It can also disrupt natural circadian rhythms, leading to a lack of sleep (which can exacerbate or cause depression). The mercilessly hot temperatures characteristic of summer may also discourage the heat-sensitive from going outside and interacting with others, cutting them off from their friends and causing them to feel isolated, especially in the wake of social media posts that may make one feel they aren’t enjoying summer break the way a university student should be.
Although it’s impossible to change the weather or take away the sun, it is possible to lessen some of the symptoms that come with reverse SAD. Here are a few things one can do if they find themselves feeling sluggish and down during the summer months:
If you have reverse SAD and find yourself becoming easily withdrawn in the summer, take preventative measures in the months ahead to prepare yourself. If you’re planning a trip, a get-together, or any large-scale activity for summer, get most of the logistics and actual planning out of the way before summer starts so that the anxieties of planning won’t give you extra stress. On the other hand, if you find that you often shut yourself in, find a regular activity to do in the summer months (such as a summer class or volunteering) to give yourself a reason to leave the house. At the same time, make sure you don’t give yourself too much to do so that you don’t overwhelm yourself at a time when you are already low-energy.
Establish a Routine
Without classes to go to or assignments to turn in, you may find yourself bored and listlessly doing nothing for most of the summer. While it is healthy to relax and take a break from school work, having no set schedule for a prolonged period of time can cause one to feel unmotivated and aimless, which is why setting a daily or weekly routine can be helpful. A great routine to have is to exercise regularly in the morning, as physical activity helps reduce depression and will give you energy for the rest of the day, but the routine can also be something simple, like always going to bed and waking up at a certain time.
Make sure your home is properly air-conditioned or invest in a fan. Because heat increases irritability and lethargy, reducing it will make your mood better. Further, keeping your windows open will help circulate fresh air so that even when you spend more time indoors you don’t have to feel like you’re trapped inside.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Just because you see your friends hold parties and take numerous vacations over the summer doesn’t mean that you have to do the same if you aren’t feeling up for it. If you already know that you’re at your lowest during summer, then don’t pile more onto yourself by engaging constantly in social events and overexerting yourself. Social interaction is healthy, but so is turning down the occasional party invitation to give yourself time to recharge. Don’t hold yourself up to the expectations of how summer break “should” be and instead focus on what will make you feel the most relaxed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For External Help
If you’re still feeling sluggish and off, there’s nothing wrong with going to a therapist or a counselor! Even a seasonal or temporary depression is not worth weathering through without help, and untreated SAD can lead to major depressive disorder. Of course, these tips may help reduce your summer melancholy, but nothing is more effective than actively talking to somebody and receiving proper treatment.
Written by: Shanell Fan
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Jamis, Lina. “Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD in the Summer.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 14 Jan. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/brain-babble/201501/reverse-seasonal-affective-disorder-sad-in-the-summer.
Rosenthal, Norman E. “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” Norman Rosenthal, MD – Author of Super Mind I Transcendental Meditation, 2 Feb. 2017, www.normanrosenthal.com/seasonal-affective-disorder/.
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