Summer Time Sadness Is Real
You have definitely heard of the winter blues. However, did you know that seasonal depression or low moods is not exclusive to winter?
We’ve been told by clients that winter blues almost made more ‘sense’. And we hear you- for some of us, our moods cycle with the sun. Those of us who live in Southern Ontario know that darkness at 5 PM can be an overwhelming addition to all the other feelings that come along with the holiday season.
In the summer though, we have warmer weather and lots in sunshine. Many of us spend the whole year looking forward to summer and everything that it brings. This can make it difficult for those who expereince low moods in the summer- a common sentiment we hear is why do I feel so low when I SHOULD be enjoying this time of year?
In this post we will:
Break down why it’s common to feel guilty about feeling sad in the summer
Discuss reasons why summertime sadness can occur
Give you some ways of managing it
Schools out, days are long, the sun is shining, and the world feels alive- what’s not to love? If you have seasonal low moods, a lot.
It can be overhwhelming to feeel sad when you feel like you are SUPPOSED to feel happy. Fear of missing out (or FOMO) also contribrutes to this! People look forward to summer activities all year along, especially in parts of the world where summer is 3-4 months long.
Seasonal low moods can make it hard to tolerate the summer season because we end up constanly comapring our level of contentment with others.
It’s totally possible to feel guilty about not enjoying yourself. Knowing that other people also experience seasonal depression can help us feel less alone.
Why Do We Experience Summertime Sadness?
The same things that make summer enjoyable, can also contribute to why it can be difficult.
Change In Routines/Schedules
Our summer routines are often quite different from the rest of the year. School is out (or at least your couse load is lighter), there is pressure to use up vacation days, and we tend to be a bit more social.
We may have to figure out how to manage having kids home from school (even the older ones taking the summer off from college) and also fitting in seeing friends and family after months of lock down.
Routines and structure are important for keeping low moods under control. Managing a different schedule or pace of life can take some adjustment, and also contribute to getting less sleep.
Disruption in working, sleeping, and eating habits makes summertime sadness more likely to settle in.
Body Image Concerns
The pressure to have the ‘perfect summer body’ unfortunately exists all year and peaks in the summer. Many people feel dejected if were not able to acheive their fitness goals.
Self-consciousness about our bodies can lead to avoiding summer parties and feeling isolated and disconnected from others.
Not Everyone Has A Social Summer
This leads us to point three- not everone experiences a social summer. Summer is also a time when many of us buckle down and work extra hours or multiple jobs to pay off tuition or save up for the upcoming year. Working harder during a time when others are relaxing can be disheartening- even if you are committed to your choice.
Much like the holiday season, summer can be EXPENSIVE. Summer weddings, parties, and paying for babysitting- it can all add up and contribute to our stress.
We are very much still in a pandemic, and still feeling economic effects of it this summer.
After a whole year of looking forward to summer, it can be a bit anticlimactic when it actually arrives.
We build up a whole bunch of expectations about what summer will be like and all the things we will do. When it arrives, we feel pressure to make the absolute most of summer- leading to disappointment when it does not go that way.
“Is it this it?”
Summer is a time for milestone events- weddings, graduations, the start of new jobs and perhaps the beginning of major life decisions.
Movies romanticize summer romances, and it’s nto uncommon to feel left behind if our own experience is a different one. Even if we are content with life, seeing and attending multiple milestone events can lead to comparisons- sometimes we can’t help it.
How To Cope With Summertime Sadness
Summertime depression or low moods can be an isoalting experience. It’s important to recognize if this is your experience and get help- believe us, you are not alone 💛
Sometimes trying to wait out summertime depression can lead to those symptoms not quite resolving by the fall/winter- which has it’s own set of seasonal low moods.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent this.
Protect Your Time And Energy
Do you feel obligated to attend events, or perhaps even host them? Making yourself stressed and anxious to keep up with a busy and expensive social schedule can be draining.
Try and focus on the events and activites that make you feel fulfilled.
If you know that you tend to feel sad in the summer, it’s a great idea to set up your coping strategies in advance.
Take control of your summer and think about what would genuinely make things easier for you. How will you plan your vacation days? Which events are you going to say yes to? What activities can you plan for the kids so you have some time to relax as well?
Perhaps you want to begin seeking out a therapist early, or make s doctors appointment to adjust medications, in anticipation of a dip in moods.
Be Kind To Your Body
Overdoing it on dieting and working out to obtain a ‘summer body’ you are satisfied with will more than likely make you feel more stresssed and anxious than ever.
It’s important to be kind to your body and eat well, maintain movement througout the day and most impotantly, do what feels right for you.
Limit Social Media Use
If you are susceptible to feeling left out or ‘behind’ scrolling through social media, set some boundaries around your social media use.
It also helps to engage more, rather than passively scroll or watch stories. Sharing our lives can help us feel like we are a part of something.
Summer can be energizing, hazy, lazy, relaxing, or busy. We often put pressure on ourselves to have ‘the best summer ever’. If you experience low moods in the summer, it can disheartening to see everyone enjoying themselves while you cope with feeling sad.
If this is you- take heart, because there is beauty in every season if life. We build up the potential of these 3-4 months (if you live in Southern Ontario) perhaps to an unreasonable level.
Take care of your mental health, avoid the activities and events that make you feel diminished, and remember, seasons change. It’s the nature of life, and our nature too- summer time sadness will not last forever.
I want to hear from you- what gets you through difficult summers?
Until next time!
Sarah Ahmed is the co-founder and a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. Sarah strongly favors an integrative, trauma-informed, client-centered approach to create a healthy alliance with clients and their loved ones.