When people talk about seasonal depression, the fall and winter months usually come to mind. The dark and dreary weather can make us feel unmotivated and lethargic – and we might just want to hibernate until the sun comes out. But what do we do if we’re still feeling depressed, even in the height of the summer months? What if we still feel “blah” during what is supposed to be the “best time of the year?”
It’s actually not unusual for some of us to feel depressed in the summer. In fact, some mental health struggles may actually increase during this time of year. While the summer sunshine might not be enough to alleviate all your depressive feelings, the good news is that the warm weather does bring some unique self-care opportunities that might just help lift your mood. Here’s how:
Spend some time outside.
This one might seem obvious, but spending more time in nature is strongly associated with more positive emotional well-being. Low levels of vitamin D are often linked with depressive symptoms and poorer overall mental health. Even a short stroll around the neighborhood may be enough to feel nature’s powerful restorative effects.
You may feel the draw to be outside as much as possible during the summertime. However, it’s also important to stay cool as temperatures start to rise beyond what’s comfortable – excessive heat can lead to higher levels of agitation. And for many of us coping with depression, agitation and irritability are some of our most common and intense symptoms. Maybe instead of hitting the beach, stake out a shady spot in a local park to people-watch, or take a dip in a local pool. Making homemade popsicles can also be a fun activity – especially with kids!
Physical and mental wellness are intimately interconnected. You may have even heard (perhaps more than you’d like) that exercise can improve your mental health. Sometimes, having the facts isn’t enough to motivate you to stay active when you’re feeling depressed. It can be really tough to get yourself up and moving when you’re in a depressive state. However, the effects of physical activity (bonus points if you can do it outside!) are undeniably helpful for uplifting mood. Take advantage of activities that are best done in the summer to help inspire you. Swimming, kayaking, biking, outdoor community yoga classes, and stand-up paddle boarding are all fun options.
Take advantage of local produce.
We need to pay attention to what we put into our bodies as well as how much we move them. In addition to getting enough exercise, maintaining a diet centered around fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is associated with a lower risk of depression. The summer offers us the freshest, most flavourful produce of the year (especially for us Canadians who have a shorter growing season than many other parts of the world!). Summer is one of the best times to try a new fruit or vegetable and experiment with new recipes. The good news is, generally, the fresher and more peak-season the produce is, the less “cooking” you need to do. Summertime meal preparation does not mean “more” or “harder” cooking. Check out the local farmers market to snag some fresh, local fruits and vegetables at the peak of their season – or even just the produce section at the grocery store!
While most think of seasonal depression as being more common in the wintertime, it’s important to recognize that many of us cope with depression all year round. And for some, it’s at its worst in the summertime. Depression is complex, but each day presents a new opportunity to try something new and continue healing yourself.