Ahhhh… Sweet Summertime. School’s out, vacations are in, and while everyone seems to be happily basking in the glorious sunshine, you just aren’t feeling it.
Though summer is anxiously awaited by the masses each year, there are those individuals who secretly, and some who not-so-secretly loathe sweltering temperatures and ultra-bright light which accompany the months of June through September in the southern US.
If you happen to be among this anti-summer loving group and have noticed a sudden change in your mood as earth tips closer to the sun, you may be among .05% of the population who struggles with a rare “variation” of what has been historically referred to as, Seasonal Affective Disorder, (SAD).
To start, let’s identify the more common form of SAD which reportedly affects between 4% - 6% of the population. Simply put, it’s a form of depression which primarily crops out during winter months and is thought to be linked to lack of sunlight.
Those affected by SAD experience changes in their; biological clocks, melatonin production, and serotonin levels. All of which are known to impact a person’s mood. A psychiatrist, Norman Rosenthal, MD, coined the term, Seasonal Affective Disorder, back in the 80’s after years of research and conducting multiple studies on the correlation between seasonal changes and mood.
Be aware, though Seasonal Affective Disorder is no longer “officially” recognized as a unique mood disorder, (It’s now listed as a specifier under Major Depressive Disorder in the book doctors and mental health professionals use to diagnose mental health and substance abuse disorders) anytime a person struggles with depressive symptoms, the impact on his/her life can be significant.
Next, on the opposite end of the seasonal specifier spectrum are those who feel incredibly energized and thrive mentally in the cold, dark months, while reporting depression or stretches mania during the hottest months of summer.
Though extremely rare, bright sunlight and roasting hot temperatures can trigger depressive type symptoms in some individuals.
One study conducted by Rosenthal included a small number of people who reported feeling less hungry, depressed, irritable and had difficulty falling and staying asleep during the hottest months of the year. Rosenthal referred to this condition as, Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “Summer SAD”.
If you happen to be part of the .05% of the population who detests heat to the extreme that it negatively impacts your daily mood, sleeping habits or performance, here are 8 tips to help cope with the dog days of summer.
1. Get on a schedule and stick to it- familiarize yourself with the calendar in your phone or purchase a pocket calendar. Use your calendar to make daily plans for yourself and follow through.
2. Move your body more- physical activity is widely known to improve mood. If exercising outdoors, guard against heat stroke by hydrating and choosing early morning work out times.
3. Sleep- a minimum of 6-8 hours every single day.
4. Be around people- make-a-plan to go see your sister, nephew, friend, former co-worker, parent.
5. Transform one room of your home into an igloo- brrrrrr....self-care comes in all forms.
6. Prep your meals- planning, and cooking meals ahead can take some of the blah out of summer meal times. Plus, meal prep tends to translate to a healthier diet which can also improve mood.
7. Don’t take your irritability out on others- it’s not their fault the temperature is 95 degrees with a heat index of 101.
8. Think positive- winter will be here before you know it!
Finally, all symptoms of depression should be taken seriously. If you feel you may be suffering from a mental health condition, contact your primary care physician or a licensed mental health professional. Most Americans willingly seek treatment for physical pain, yet a much smaller number are willing to seek treatment for mental or emotional pain. Pain is pain. Get help if you are hurting.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any health related condition.
Misti Luke is a licensed mental health professional in beautiful Broken Bow, Oklahoma where she maintains a small private practice. For correspondence email@example.com