BY BROOKE L. SAGER
Summer is often thought of as the most carefree season of the year, filled with sunshine, beach days and BBQs. However, for many people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition in which your mood is affected by the seasons, summertime is not when the living’s easy—about 10-25% of America’s 500 thousand SAD sufferers fall into their deepest depression during the summer.
According to Dr. Nzinga A. Harrison MD, Chief Medical Officer for ANKA Behavioral Health Inc., (pictured above), the cause for summer sadness isn’t clearly known, but it’s biologically related to the way sunlight is coded in the brain and how your body responds—the same phenomenon as hibernation. Those with the disorder anticipate feeling terribly in the summertime year after year, often as soon as March; as a result, their daily routines and mental health suffer.
Here, Harrison describes five common symptoms of summer sadness, as well as lifestyle tips for coping and prevention.
1. Irritability. Identify the activity gives you an immediate mood boost, whether it’s jogging or watching a funny movie, and go do it as soon as you start to feel down. Even five minutes of it can make you feel better.
2. Decreased appetite. Our bodies operate on patterns, so if you schedule small healthy snacks around the same time every day, you’ll learn to build up your appetite again.
3. Decreased ability to sleep. If you engage in the same routine every night before bed (i.e., washing your face and folding clothes), your brain will send chemical signals to sleep as soon as you begin the ritual. Also, try to go to bed around the same time each night.
4. Decreased memory and concentration. Mental performance is directly linked to a good night’s sleep, so aim to get eight hours a night. Additionally, try this easy meditation technique that helps calm the brain: Stare at an orange peel, noting every single dimple, detail and color; start with 30 seconds and work your way up to two minutes.
5. Social isolation. Identify the type of socializing that makes you happy, as well as with whom and for what length of time, and schedule it in once a week. If big group dinners overwhelm you, opt for a quick coffee break with your best friend instead.
To learn more, visit Harrison’s website, www.letsgetmentallyfit.com, and watch their free monthly webinar episode on summertime sadness.
Brooke Sager is a New York City-based writer who specializes in health, lifestyle and beauty. To read more of Brooke’s work, visit www.brookelsager.com.