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  • Writer's pictureThe Hedonia Team

Does Summer Affect Your Mental Health? Here’s How to Cope

Updated: May 5


The snow is melting and temperatures are warming as we head into spring and summer. While for many, this is a welcome change, that’s not the case for everyone. Experts estimate that around 10% of people with seasonal affective disorder – a mood disorder that’s typically associated with the colder, darker winter months – get worse symptoms during the summer.


Along with seasonal affective disorder, there are also other reasons why these seasonal changes can be challenging. Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are highly treatable.


If you’re having a hard time coping with the changing weather, know that you’re not alone. 

Read on to learn more about why summer can be so hard to deal with, and what you can do about it.


Why is summer difficult to cope with?

Whether we’re shifting into winter or summer, seasonal changes can be difficult to cope with – especially if you live with a mental health condition like depression. Although many people feel more depressed in the winter, some people are more likely to be depressed in the summer. 


There can be many different reasons for this, including:


  • Sleep difficulties: If you live in northern latitudes, you’re entering into a season where days are much longer and the sun doesn’t go down until late. This can sometimes disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to sleep. Sleep is one of the most essential parts of overall well-being, so if you’re not sleeping well, it could be a major reason why you’re struggling to cope with the seasonal change.

  • Hot weather: While some people enjoy hot weather, others don’t. Increased heat and humidity during the summer months, especially for those who live near the equator, can cause symptoms like fatigue and irritability.

  • Loss of support: Especially if you’re a student, you may lose sources of social support during the summer months. For example, if you’re in college, your friends may move back to their hometowns at this time. You could also lose any mental health support you’re receiving through the education system, like your school counselor.

  • Big expectations: Lastly, summer is typically a time of year associated with fun, freedom, and joy. Similar to the December holidays, there is a silent (but loud) expectation that we will feel happy during these months. When we don’t feel as joyful as we’d hoped, the disappointment and shame can lead to depression.





Seasonal affective disorder in the summer 

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that’s caused by seasonal changes. People with SAD only have depression symptoms during certain times of the year, which are triggered by seasonal changes. While most people get SAD symptoms during the darker, colder winter months, around 10% experience symptoms during the summer. [1]


Research shows that while people with winter-pattern SAD tend to produce too much melatonin – leading to daytime sleepiness and hypersomnia (oversleeping) – people with summer-pattern SAD may produce too little, which can cause insomnia and difficulty sleeping. [2]


In addition to summer-pattern SAD, people with bipolar disorder may experience mania or hypomania during the hotter months. Mania is a symptom that causes people to feel unusually euphoric, agitated, or impulsive. Both depression and mania are symptoms of mood disorders and should be taken seriously, even if they’re temporary.


How to cope with depression symptoms in the summer


Summer can be taxing for many different reasons, but there are ways to cope.

Maintain social support

First, make sure you’re staying connected to your social support network, which is one of the best things you can do to support your overall mental health. If there are external factors that will cause you not to be able to regularly see your loved ones, make a plan ahead of time. How will you stay in touch? Can you plan a weekly video chat to connect? 


Stick to a schedule

One of the hardest things about summertime for many people is the disruption of your daily routine. Try to stick to a schedule as much as possible, even if it looks different than it does the rest of the year. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Make sure to implement healthy lifestyle habits, like exercise and spending time in nature, into your daily summer routine.


Prioritize restful sleep

People who experience seasonal depression in the summer may produce too little melatonin, which causes insomnia and trouble sleeping. Practicing good sleep hygiene habits is essential to make sure you’re getting enough restful sleep each night. Being sleep-deprived can make depression even worse than it already is.


We sleep best in cool, dark, and quiet environments. If the late-night sun or hot temperatures keep you awake, consider getting blackout curtains or a fan. 


Get help

If depression symptoms (or mania) don’t go away after a few weeks, you could benefit from professional mental health support. Many people have a hard time coping with seasonal changes, and you may not necessarily need to go to therapy to manage these feelings – online self-help tools and lifestyle changes can often help. But if your depression is worsening, not getting better, with time, or if your symptoms are getting in the way of daily activities (like working or basic self-care), then you may require professional treatment.


Mood Bloom: Play your way out of seasonal depression


Seasonal affective disorder and depression can literally reduce the size of your brain. Hedonia’s mobile game, Mood Bloom, offers a fun and effective way to get out of the cyclical thinking and rumination that depression causes, and start to think more expansively and creatively. This helps to break negative thought cycles and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.


Studies show that Hedonia’s Facilitating Thought Progression™ approach stimulates the same parts of the brain as common psychiatric medications – but without the cost and side potential effects.

 

All it takes is playing a fun mobile game 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week to cope better with seasonal depression. Try Mood Bloom and Play Your Way to Well!


 


Sources:


  1. National Library of Medicine. Seasonal affective disorder. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/seasonal-affective-disorder/ 

National Institute of Mental Health. Seasonal affective disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-dis

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