I’ve been hiding lately. Summer weather and sunshine are here and many, many people are jumping for joy. Not me. I hit a pretty significant depression during the summer months. Yup, you read that right: depression. Just as people can experience winter depression because of lack of sun and cold weather people can also experience depression from bright sun and warm temperatures. It seems that whenever the thermometer is above 72 degrees my body just shuts down. I become lethargic, foggy headed, and I lose my appetite and grow increasingly moody. I find the brightness of a midday summer sun to be oppressive and am one of those lucky people who puff up in the heat – I can’t wear my wedding ring in the summer because my hands are constantly swollen. During the warm summer months I have to work especially hard to not let myself retreat completely into my shell. What makes it even more of a challenge is trying to explain it to people who respond with such disbelief they immediately dismiss my feelings as “that’s just crazy, how can you not love summer?!”
For a lot of years I thought I was nuts for not enjoying summer. I used to judge myself for it and think those same things people say to me: “how can I not like summer, what’s wrong with me?” I was always familiar with winter depression, as most of us are, which seems to make more sense but when I took time to reflect, I realized I was never depressed in the winter. I love, love, love the holidays. I find great joy in snowfall and the quietude winter brings. I’m also a night owl so the increased darkness of winter days actually makes me more productive! Cool, crisp weather makes me come alive. The fall, winter and spring air is fresh instead of stale and the sunlight is like the warm glow of a table lamp vs the overwhelming spotlight of overhead fluorescents. I am the type of person who would rather be cold than hot. I don’t even like eating hot food. I like to snuggle under layers and wear cozy slippers rather than go barefoot. It doesn’t come as much of a reach for me to see how summer (rather than winter) triggers depression for me. The good news is, even though we don’t have control over the weather, we can control how it affects us. Today I am going to share with you some natural approaches that can help you feel better, if like me, summer makes you feel a little under the weather.
Rearrange Your Schedule
In the summer many people want to be outdoors during peak daylight hours (10a-5p). For me, I find the most enjoyment during the evening and sunset hours of summer months: the temperature cools down and the sunlight is more inviting. I would suggest to anyone suffering from summer depression to consider scheduling things later in the day. Instead of starting your cookout at 1 o’clock, start it at five o’clock or schedule a dinner picnic on the beach instead of lunch.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Exercise gets our blood flowing, helps us sweat out toxins and keeps our weight in check but it also helps fight depression. When you exercise your body produces serotonin and endorphins, two hormones that give you that “feel good” rush after a workout. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week but in this case, more is definitely better.
Serotonin is thought to be a major contributor to mood stabilization and low levels of it can make you more susceptible to depression and a good source of serotonin comes from our digestive tracts. Make sure to eat plenty of fresh organic foods and if you can, avoid sugar, salt and carbs to help boost your mood naturally. For some healthy options try out my garden fresh ratatouille or mint and feta turkey burgers!
I’m sure it’s no surprise but it’s a lot warmer in the summer and warm weather can raise your body temperature making you feel tired. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to help fight against being miserable and can help you feel more energized by keeping your body temperature at normal levels. Aim to drink at least 64 oz. of water every day and contrary to what you might think, stick with room temperature water vs ice cold water. Cold water requires energy to heat so it can be absorbed by your body and if you are feeling lethargic, that’s energy you can’t spare.
Summer is the time when everyone wants to come out of hibernation and be social. A friend of mine had her entire summer schedule filled up by the beginning of May, that’s overwhelming to me. The loss of personal time during the summer can bring on depression for many of us, particularly if you find yourself to be more on the introverted side of the spectrum. Set boundaries for yourself and those in your social circle, never feel like you have to give away all your free time and you should certainly not be afraid of saying no. It can be hard to do but setting healthy boundaries is important for good mental and emotional health.
Sometimes eating well, exercising and setting boundaries are just not enough. It is OK to seek out professional help and is sometimes necessary. Whether you see a counselor or your primary care physician, a professional can help you get through when “summer blues” turn into depression. Depression is not something to be ignored and you should never feel embarrassed to get help.
Now, just to be clear, I don’t hate summer, I just don’t love it. There are many things I find enjoyable about summer: the vegetable and flower gardens, butterflies and birds, the sound of crickets and frogs, being outside without a coat, music and movies in the park and sitting on the beach at my mom’s cabin. However, summer is more of an emotional and mental challenge for me than the other seasons and I need to be especially vigilant to sustain my health. It’s not bad, it’s just different and you’re not “crazy” if you just so happen to find yourself battling summer depression, too. Wishing you and yours a healthy, enjoyable summer!