What is summer seasonal depression and how to counter it?

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The warm, sunny days of summer are upon us…so why do you feel blue? If this describes you, you are not alone. Turns out seasonal depression — AKA Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) — doesn’t just strike in the cold, dark winter months. For many people in Canada, seasonal depression always finds a way to manifest itself during the summer. And the fact that seasonal depression in the summer is less common and much less understood can leave many people confused and frustrated.

With that in mind, we spoke with Aziza Kajan, MSW, RSW, graduate student counselor at York University, for more information and some ideas on the best ways to combat SAD — in the summer or anytime. of the year.

DISCLOSURE: This advice is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek medical advice specific to you and your situation.

What is SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

SAD is best described as a seasonal depression triggered by a change in season. How common is seasonal depression in Canada? According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, two to three percent of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime, and 15 percent will experience a milder form that affects mood and concentration.

“We’re blessed with four seasons in Canada, but that being said, our weather has quite stark seasonal differences, which can be incredibly difficult for some people,” says Kajan.

Kajan explains that while people typically experience remission of SAD symptoms once spring and summer arrive, there are a number of reasons why people remain affected during the warmer months. During the summer “holiday months”, social, financial or body image issues may become more prominent, for example, preventing some people from participating in usual summer activities.

You might also like: Stress vs Anxiety: How to Tell the Difference.

Understanding SAD Triggers and Symptoms

Research reports that the most common trigger for SAD is lack of sunlight and the effect it can have on our sleep cycles. What is noteworthy, however, is that some people experience the reverse pattern, that is, symptoms of depression begin in the spring or summer. Symptoms can be mild, then progress and get worse.

“Interestingly, women seem to be more affected than men, as well as younger people compared to older people,” Kajan says. “Generally, however, women tend to be diagnosed with depression more often than men. There are various things that go into this difference, ranging from hormones, social factors, pregnancy, health biases, and more.

Since SAD triggers can vary between summer and winter, it can be helpful to know what signs to watch out for. According to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), typical symptoms of summertime depression include:

• Sad and depressed mood
• Feeling anxious and/or restless
• Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
• Difficulty sleeping and insomnia

Related: Fighting SAD: A Self-Care Checklist for the Winter Blues.

How can you deal with SAD?

“First and foremost, don’t self-diagnose yourself,” Kajan says. “It’s important to seek professional help when mood swings occur.” In the end, try not to let yourself suffer just because it’s something that happens every year and may feel like your “normal” experience. There are several things you can do to relieve symptoms and maintain your quality of life. Below, we’ve collected 10 tips for dealing with SAD in the summer:

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Tip 1: Identify your summer triggers

Identifying what triggers your summer blues can help you focus on the best coping strategies for you.

“Some people can be triggered by heat and humidity, financial constraints related to a need for childcare or vacations, and body image issues made worse by wearing warm clothes that show more skin,” Kajan explains. Identifying your triggers first will provide you with areas to focus on when working to improve your mood.

See also: 21 celebrities share their tips on self-care and mental health.

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Tip 2: get out

“I encourage people to do the things they usually can’t do in the cold winter months when SAD is more common, like getting out and being active,” Kajan says. Exercising regularly and finding fun and meaningful activities to do can help improve your mood.

Related: Do You Feel Stressed, Tired — Or Both? Forest bathing might help.

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Tip 3: Create a routine

Even if you feel like you don’t need it, a routine will help you achieve your goals, whether it’s seeing friends more often, taking a workout class, or just taking time for yourself. .

“It’s important to find things that make you happy and work for you,” says Kajan, “and creating a routine will help avoid falling into a meltdown.”

Related: Working from Home: Creating a Daily Routine to Improve Your Mood and Productivity.

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Tip 4: Be kind to yourself

“Although SAD in the summer is less common, remember that there’s nothing wrong with you,” Kajan shares, “and you’re not the only one experiencing it.”

Try keeping a daily journal as a way to share negative thoughts in a safe space, and follow up by reflecting on the things you’re grateful for.

Related: 13 positive affirmations to start your day.

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Tip 5: Stay hydrated

Take extra precautions to stay hydrated in hot, humid weather to maintain your health and energy. Proper hydration not only quenches your thirst, but allows the body to flush out toxins, maintain system balance (equilibrium), support brain function, hormonal balance and more. Try infusing your water with seasonal berries or fresh cucumber to change things up, and snack on hydrating fruits and vegetables like watermelon and bell peppers.

Related: 10 healthy foods that naturally boost your mood.

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Tip 6: Make sleep a priority

People with summer depression may develop insomnia or irregular sleep schedules, which can affect your mental well-being and create stress. A sleep app or bedtime yoga will relax you and can help regulate your sleep to improve your mood.

Related: 7 Expert Hacks to Help You Get the Best Sleep Ever.

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Tip 7: Take a break from social media

While social media can be a great tool for connecting people, it’s also one of the biggest instigators of FOMO and damaging your mental health. Overexposure to social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety and depression – and it could also be a possible catalyst for bringing on the summer blues.

“Some people may not have a large group of friends or meaningful social connections, a limiting health condition, or limited finances that make it difficult to participate in usual summer activities,” says Kajan. Focus on being present and in the moment, whether you’re with friends or spending time alone.

See also: 21 Celebrities Open Up About Social Media Anxiety and Why They Quit the Internet.

Tip 8: Try light therapy

If you’re struggling to get out for your daily dose of vitamin D, light therapy lamps are an affordable and easy-to-find technology that can help relieve SAD symptoms.

“It’s important that you use the lamp correctly for it to work effectively,” says Kajan. The recommended daily treatment is 15 to 30 minutes in front of the device.”

Related: The Most Common Types of Therapy and How to Choose the Right One.

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Tip 9: Focus on body positivity

“For someone with body image issues, summer can be tough because that’s when most people tend to wear less clothes and do more things outside” , explains Kajan.

If showing off your body or being around people is anxiety-provoking, remember that when you’re out in public, you’re not in the spotlight and everyone is probably more focused on themselves than on you. Introducing positive body affirmations each morning or using an app that promotes body positivity can help soothe those feelings of self-doubt.

Related: 8 Ways to Embrace Your Beauty, Love Your Body, and Feel More Confident.

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Tip 10: Ask a professional for advice

As always, speak to a medical professional if you experience feelings of depression or changes in your mental health. If you notice regular changes in your mood, talk to your doctor.

“Your doctor may perform a formal assessment using a depression rating scale or recommend third-party resources such as cognitive behavioral therapy,” Kajan says.

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