Summertime depression is a real thing especially in Denver where soaring temperatures have forced many to stay indoors. On April 22, 2022, Denver set a new record for the hottest April temperature since 1989. While many welcome the warmth of summer, few realize that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can happen in any season, and can pose as many mental health challenges for people as winter does. If you’re wondering why you are feeling more agitated and more irritable while everyone around you seems to be having the time of their lives, read on.
It may seem odd to be suffering from summertime depression symptoms while everyone else seems to happier than ever. After 2 years of sitting on our couches and being afraid to go outside, people are socializing once again. Instead of Pelotons, people are buying plane tickets to visit their friends, ditching their masks, and hugging each other in person. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), unlike downhill skiing, is not just a wintertime, experience. What comes out as debilitating lethargy in the winter for those suffering from SAD, may present itself as perpetual grumpiness in the summertime.
- irritability and agitation
- a lack of appetite
- anxiety in scheduling anything.
Of course, the typical depression symptoms like a lack of interest in things that may have been pleasurable in the past or thoughts of self harm may also be present any time of the year. Feeling isolated is common with those dealing with summertime depression, and it makes sense why. If you’re someone who stays isolated and indoors to escape the summer heat in Denver, you may not be getting enough sunlight to regulate your hormones or circadian rythms. The same thing happens in the winter when people stay indoors to escape the cold.
Pretty much everything you do for depression in winter can help with summertime depression. Here are a few easy things you can do to relieve summertime depression symptoms:
The longest day in Denver happens in June, when we see over 15 hours of daylight in one day. Long daylight times can wreak havoc on circadian rhythms. To combat insomnia from too much sunlight, blackout curtains can be installed in a room. You should also practice good sleep hygience and refrain from using any electronic devices before bed like a smart phone or a laptop as it can cause issues with sleep. Some people find that a low dose of melatonin around dinnertime can help reset circadian rhythms.
If none of these things help, you can also talk to a medical provider about getting sleeping medications to get you through the summer. Sleep is incredibly important to managing mental health conditions, and there are many different medications that are easy to use, non-addictive, and effective.
Exercising in the early mornings before work and the blistering heat gets too intense can not only reinforce the familiarity of routines, but it also helps to deliver feel-good endorphins to your system which can elevate your mood. These natural, cannabis-like brain chemicals enhance your sense of well-being, boost your confidence and give you time to get away from stresses and worries. Don’t think because you live in Denver that you need to be training for a marathon or a triathlon for the exercise to be worthwhile. Even just walking for 30-60 minutes, 5 times a week can have a tremendous impact on your anxiety and depression symptoms. Walking or hiking in Colorado’s beautiful mountains is a perfect way to cope with depression in any season. Or you can even do Yoga on the Rocks!
3. Sky Before Screen
It’s also very helpful to try to exercise outdoors or in nature. The reason that outdoors exercise helps reduce anxiety and depression is that it changes your visual experience to panoramic vision. When people are stressed because they see a troubling headline, or are just too focused on their screens all day, the eyes narrow, the sympathetic system becomes activated and triggers a fight or flight response in the form of anxiety or agitation. Staring at the sky or the horizon can deactivate the stress response and allow people to see – quite literally – the bigger picture and subconsciously, prepare for it in a better way than just constant survival mode.
Mindfulness and meditation have both been proven to lower blood pressure and relieve anxiety and depression. Nowadays, there are many meditation programs for free that you can listen to as a podcast, on YouTube, or even, on TikTok. Research based on interviewing over 1300 adults found that meditation reduces stress and anxiety but there are also so many other benefits that you can get out of meditating. For instance, it can help raise self-awareness, promote better sleep, decrease blood pressure, and reduce age-related memory loss. Considering that it is free and accessible anywhere and its benefits have been scientifically proven, meditation should be part of every mental health regimine for both prevention and as a cure.
For some people, more sleep, excercise and meditation may not be enough. Although some people fear antidepressants, in many cases they are appropriate and necessary. However, it does take some time before medications begin to work which is why we believe that starting with other interventions like the ones mentioned above is can help people immediately while they wait for the medication to boost their moods even further. Bupropion, in particular, has been approved specifically for the treatment of SAD, but other antidepressants can also help. Book an appointment if you’d like to learn about more options that may be right for you.
6. Get Professional Help
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is a type of psychotherapy that has proven to be very effective in treating SAD and summertime depression. But mental health professionals now have an array of other treatments that can help ease your suffering faster, with or without drugs. For instance, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which we offer in-house at Axis Integrated Mental Health, is a non-invasive depression treatment that uses magnets to stimulate the brain.
It can be hard to get the help you need when it seems like everyone else is basking in the sun. But you are not alone and the bar should be low when it comes to getting professional mental health support. What many people dismiss as being minor annoyances can actually be very significant problems that go beyond just a seasonal issue and can be easily solved with the right treatment plan. You shouldn’t wait to get the care you need and you should also know, you are not alone. We see people every day who are suffering in similar ways and that have also recovered and are leading the lives they hoped for because they took that first step.
Axis Integrated Mental Health offers therapy, psychiatry and innovative treatments all in one place so you can get better faster. Check out our providers to find the right fit for your needs or stop in today if you have a question about what you can do about your mental health, no matter what season it is.