We’re smack in the middle of summer and this is the first year since having children that I’ve felt calm and capable. I know a lot of moms with younger children who aren’t quite there yet. I promise, it will get better. Surviving summer used to be a major hurdle for me and I’ve learned a few strategies along the way.
While many of us revel in the sunshine, longer days, and more relaxed schedules—others face the season reluctantly. Reverse seasonal affective disorder impacts one-tenth of the population and can be debilitating. The good news is that awareness, planning, and self-care can help you face summer with a lighter spirit. Here’s a quick list of causes for summer depression with strategies for overcoming them.
Cause: Everyone around you is romping in the sun. Why aren’t you? Living up to summer expectations can be overwhelming if you aren’t naturally inclined toward fun in the sun.
Strategy: Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and identify the root cause. If expectations are weighing you down, seek help. A session with a professional psychotherapist can help you re-frame and survive summer by finding a solutions that work for you. Keep reading for specific causes for summer depression and suggestions to combat them.
Cause: Genetics can play a role. As stated in an article on Psychology Today, research shows that “more than two-thirds of patients with SAD have a relative with a major mood disorder.” Allergies are also a culprit. They can literally make you miserable and may be a risk factor for depression. Web MD points out that “studies show an association between seasonal allergies and clinical depression. While researchers can’t say that allergies actually cause people to feel depressed, it does appear that allergy sufferers are more vulnerable to depression.” Abundant sunshine is another factor. Chronobiology reports that “too much sunshine, according to researchers in circadian biology, may lead to deficits in melatonin. People who need higher levels of dark to produce this hormone, which is essential for quality sleep and good cognitive function, may suffer in the summer when sunshine lasts until late at night.
Strategy: Knowledge is power. Knowing your predispositions can help you practice prevention. Ask your doctor if you need to alter any medications and give yourself permission to stay out of the heat and plan activities that cool you down.
Cause: Schedules are less predictable. The kids are out of school, which means you have to find childcare, schedule a succession of camps and activities, or find ways to keep them engaged at home. Routines are harder to maintain. Chances are your healthy routines are disrupted because you have less time for yourself. Sleep is interrupted. The sun shines bright late into the night and early in the morning, which means your sleep patterns are erratic.
Strategy: Plan ahead. When you’re perusing the summer parks and recs catalog; community events; or booking vacations – make sure you build in time to maintain a healthy routine. Preserve a semblance of your self-care routine, which hopefully includes exercise, and plan for time to wind down at the end of each day. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep by using an eye mask, ear plugs, essential oils, and natural supplements as aides.
4. Body image
Cause: Summer attire is more revealing and insecurities about how we look are heightened by comparison and unrealistic media images.
Strategy: Accentuate the positive and practice moderation. Don’t add the pressure of excessive exercise and diets that may lead to further frustration if you fail. Instead, focus on a healthy lifestyle and highlight your positive physical attributes. Use tools like Pinterest for ideas on how to dress for you your body type.
Cause: Summer can be expensive, especially with children. Extra expenses for childcare, activities, and vacations add up and cause stress and anxiety. If you choose or are forced to be frugal, vacation envy can set in when you see what your friends and family are up to.
Strategy: Once again, planning ahead and practicing moderation are essential for surviving summer. Don’t overextend yourself or plan anything that causes you anxiety. If a vacation isn’t in the cards, tap into your local resources and plan a staycation. If summer camps are too expensive, hire a responsible local teen to keep your kids entertained. Be creative and proactive.
6. Treat yourself right
I’ve worked with some wonderful practitioners on Bainbridge Island and in Poulsbo. If you need a mental or physical tune-up, consider booking a session with one of the following:
Dr. Kirk Petheram @ Eagle Harbor Health Center
Lisa Bernardin, MA, LMHCA @ Sound Counsel
Jeff Jacobson, MA, LMHC @ Front Street Clinic
I hope you not only survive summer, but thrive!
(Disclaimer: I am not a licensed health provider. I’m a writer and I provide approved content for health providers)