Back in 2012, Lana Del Rey graced the world with her haunting, melodic “I got that summertime, summertime sadness.” At the time, no one thought anything more of it other than it being a catchy trip-hop ballad.
But it turns out Lana was onto something.
Summertime sadness is actually called Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or Seasonal Depression (SD). This condition is a subtype of major depressive and bipolar disorder, meaning it has similar symptoms like loss of interest in customarily enjoyable activities, a decrease in energy, depressed mood, and low self-esteem. About 4-6% of the US population is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, and within that group, 10% of them experience Summer SAD specifically.
Winter SAD (which may include grogginess, increased appetite, and insomnia) is far more prevalent than its summer counterpart, as winter months see a decrease in activity and exposure to sunlight, and also carries cultural significance which can often be difficult to toil through.
Summer SAD however, has oppositional symptoms. Rather than experiencing fatigue and generally slowing down, those affected might experience a loss of appetite, lack of sleep, and increased anxiety. Some scientists have hypothesized that those suffering from Summer SAD have difficulty adjusting to increased daylight hours. It throws off the circadian rhythm and can disrupt sleep cycles which is a common cause for depression.
Another reason could be that summer months tend to be a huge change for people. Children are out of school, everyone’s outside having fun, people are posting vacation photos, and the heat can sometimes be unbearable — all things that can be emotionally triggering.
Lacking the funds to go on vacation, having an aversion to large crowds of people, self esteem and body image issues, and poor family relations can all contribute to Summer SAD. Studies have found that approximately 15% of individuals with SAD have a first-degree relative who also has the condition or another mood or psychological disorder.
So what can be done to manage these symptoms? In addition to seeking out the help of a medical professional, here is a list of DIY remedies…
Prep beforehand —
Unlike other mood disorders that are unstable, SAD can often be predicted. As the summer months approach, it’s best to take time to recognize the triggers and emotional hurdles you’re likely to experience. Ask yourself if there is a specific month when Summer SAD is typically at its worse, and also what you hate most about summer and how you can make adjustments for it?
Get your eight hours in —
Because insomnia is such a problematic symptom, it’s vital to get in a substantial amount of sleep. The CDC recommends at least eight hours of sleep for teens and at least seven for adults. Try eating an earlier dinner, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in, or reading a book to make the z’s come faster.
Exercise, exercise, exercise —
Physical activity has a plethora of benefits for the body. But for mental health specifically, exercise can provide momentary and/or long term relief from depression. Instead of looking at working out as something you have to do, try looking at it as a welcomed pause from everything else happening in your life that day. Because heat is a factor in Summer SAD, working out earlier in the morning or later at night is recommended.
No matter what your lifestyle, self-care is of the utmost importance. Self-care can look however you want it to. For some, it could look as simple as being alone. For others, it could be spending time with close friends and family. Try journaling, taking a cold shower, watching one of your favorite movies, or spending extra time on your morning and bedtime routines.
Natural remedies —
Nutrition contributes greatly to a person’s overall health and mental wellbeing. Foods like turkey, tuna, and chicken have an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the body make serotonin, a feel-good hormone. Saffron (try the fullest’s Saffron Latte) is also an excellent mood booster. The Iranian herb is known to be calmative, anti-inflammatory, and gives antidepressant pills a run for their money without all the negative side effects.
With these tips, rest assured that summer will, once again, be fun again.
Johanie Martinez-Cools is a blogger, writer, book editor, and aspiring author. Follow her on Twitter at @jmartdotcom.