How to Survive the Summer When Summer Makes You Miserable
According to all the social media pictures of legs stretched out on loungers, many people love the summer. They bask in the bright sun, revel in the heat, and don’t seem to mind the sand-in-the-bathing-suit/sunscreen-in-your-eye sensations of July and August; the moment summer rolls into sight, it’s constant watermelon, pool parties, and beach barbeques.
Then there are the rest of us….. We are the people who hug the one inch of shade along the pavement, who seek out the closest possible parking spots to the supermarket entrance, who feel like a day at the beach is pretty much like a scene of desert alienation from The Sheltering Sky.
For me, summer is a challenge to my mood, but a manageable one: I can deal with and even enjoy July and August with a few lifestyle modifications. For others, the summer triggers a full-blown depression known as reverse seasonal affective disorder. Just as some people experience mood lows in the cold months, others feel crummy in the summer. And like the winter blues, the disorder exists on a spectrum: Some people get a little down; others feel so low that they entertain suicidal thoughts.
Light might be as important as temperature
“This seems obvious,” Dr. Rosenthal said, “but stay cool. There are lots of thing you can do—cool baths and showers. Keep blinds and shades drawn to prevent a greenhouse effect in your home.” If getting overheated makes you feel irritable and stressed or depressed, make staying in the air-conditioning a priority. Some summer depression people sleep with ice packs or cooling pads I keep my bedroom at an arctic temperature starting in early June. Depressed people tend to higher body temperatures at night than non-depressed people do.
The piece of advice about keeping shades drawn has a second element to it: “Some of the reverse SAD might be induced by the light. It’s not entirely clear, but there are some cases in which the light is a significant factor.” Some doctors think that the bright, long days modulate melatonin production and affect mood, just as low light levels affect mood for some people; others think that the long days wreak havoc with circadian rhythms and so disrupt sleep cycles.
And here’s an interesting commonality among reverse SAD sufferers: Some people report that the bright sun feels like an “assault” or an “attack”—which is exactly how stepping out the front door into the burning sun feels to me. I manage this reasonably well with a big hat and big sunglasses, and in my bedroom I have blackout shades so I can start winding down for sleep when the sky is still light (and not have the 5AM dawn roust me too early).
But don’t avoid sunlight entirely
Dr. Rosenthal notes that he has had patients judiciously expose themselves to bright sunlight with good results: He had a colleague who suffered from reverse SAD who would step out into the light in the morning for very short periods—10 or 15 seconds—and she found that brief exposure, combined with the other defensives measures, to be therapeutic. If you generally like to be outdoors, make sure you do it in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler and the sun isn’t so bright.
Take a trip
At the very least, be strategic about your holidays, and take a trip away from the heat.
Get over your FOMO
One of the particularly insidious things about warm-weather SAD is that summer is supposed to be a bacchanal of good times: waterskiing, beach frolicking, poolside BBQing. It can take a while to come to terms with your own aversion to hot, bright weather, because it seems so incredible—who doesn’t like summer?
“Many people feel like there’s this carnival going on, and they’re left out. The socialization associated with summer is very difficult to deal with.” One of the double whammies of depression is that one often feels bad about feeling bad, and that can be amplified when everyone else seems to be having a marvelous time while you want to crawl under a blanket. If this is who you are, just be who you are. That’s the key to being happy with one’s biology and psychology. This is something you can’t change.”
I was well into adulthood when I realized that sitting on a scorching beach actually induced a mild feeling of panic rather than excitement. A friend recently invited me to her beach club and my first question was “is there ample shade?” But I’ve finally come to terms with it: This is my neurology, and there are actually upsides—in October I get a huge mood boost, bordering on giddy, that lasts through March. The sound of football games and the smell of hearty stews on the stove make me feel literally like dancing.
Exercise, but inside
Exercise is a known mood booster, but a sweaty jog in the humid mid-day sun is not at all fun for reverse-SAD people. Swimming is great if that’s your thing, but the effort that surrounds swimming—getting to the pool, changing, showering, showering again, changing again—can make it impractical for a lot of people. I recommends investing in a piece of equipment you can use at home, like an exercise bike, to get your cardio in without exposing yourself to excessive heat and light. I take my morning run at dawn, when I can still manage without sunglasses, and that keeps my mood reasonably stable all day.
Seek a doctor’s help
Warm-weather depression tends to take the form of insomnia and agitation, rather than the low funk of the winter blues, and that agitation can lead to suicidal thoughts. If this is you, please see a doctor.
- Stay hydrated. Protect your heart in the heatby drinking water all day. ...
- Dress light. Wear loose, light-colored clothing in hot ...
- Eat light. Keep your heart happybetween summer BBQ’s and ice cream cones.
- Keep cool. ...
- Take breaks. ...
- Check your medications.