Depression in Summer?

Updated: Jun 15, 2018

Did you know that Summer time can act as a trigger for depression? While many people associate a downturn in mood to the darker and colder months, about 10% of those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) are triggered during the summer months. For many people, symptoms of depression appear or worsen from about April to September in Canada, and this worsening of symptoms can be attributed to a number of summer-specific events.


Summer is a time when many people’s regular schedules are disrupted. Vacations occur. Kids are off school. Co-workers go on holidays (potentially leaving more work for you to tackle). All of these things can cause disruption in sleep patterns, eating habits, and your general daily routine. For many, a disruption in routine can trigger a depressive episode.


Financial strain can also occur during the summer months. Summer camps, vacations, tax instalments, housing projects, new summer clothes, you name it; all of these things can add stress to the pockets. Stress to the pockets can cause stress to the mind, and stress of the mind can exacerbate symptoms of depression.


When warmer weather comes, big sweaters and warm jackets usually get swapped for t-shirts and lighter pants or shorts. For many, summer is a time to go swimming at the pool or to the beach. All of the situations can present unique challenges for anyone who struggles with body image. To make matters worse, the constant barrage of magazine covers and social media articles about how to get the “beach body of your dreams” can trigger feelings of inadequacy for just about all of us. The pressure of wanting to “look good” (whatever that means) can trigger symptoms of depression for many, including sadness, hopelessness, frustration, restlessness and a loss of interest in hobbies, work, and/or relationships.


Isolation is also a common feeling that can creep up during the summer, especially because for many, it brings along the thoughts that “I SHOULD be having a good time…” or "Everyone else is having fun. Why aren't I?" The problem with these thoughts however, is that it puts undue pressure on your psyche. If you are already feeling down, the added stress of guilt can be more than enough to launch you into a depression.


The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to try to combat symptoms of depression during the summer. First and foremost, talk to a friend, a relative, or a counsellor about your struggles. Speaking with anyone who you trust to support you is often the first step in feeling better. Getting outdoors can also be helpful to many, whether it is heading out for a relaxing stroll, sitting by a lake, taking a hike out in nature, or doing something new and adventurous like rock climbing. The outdoors is a therapeutic place for many as it seems to be easier to relax, take deeper breaths, and lose yourself when you are out in nature. Lastly, try to stop any automatic thoughts where you compare yourself to others. Try to do daily check-ins where you monitor how often you are thinking about what others are doing. If you catch yourself ruminating on the subject, distract your mind: watch a movie, read a book, or do a puzzle. The most important thing is that you are doing what makes YOU feel the best. After all, taking care of yourself is the absolute best selfish thing you can do.


© 2019 Trish Stephens, Psychotherapist - Ottawa, Canada