Summer Bummer

A few months ago I posted about Winter Solstice traditions and how the purpose is to celebrate light on the darkest day and the dawn of days progressively getting longer. Well. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it may not yet feel like it, but the days are on the down swing of progressively getting darker. I bring this up because it’s fairly common for people to experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or depression symptoms in relation to the winter season. Light celebrations are a way to make light of the situation (pun intended) and combat the “winter blues.” Do you know or have you ever felt the “summer blues”? Seasonal depression can also be experienced in the summertime. Lana Del Rey sings about Summertime Sadness, although her’s seems to be more romantically related. Sunshine and relaxed vibes may seem unlikely for feeling low, but there are a number of reasons why summer seasonal depression might occur. First know that no matter what time of year you or anyone might experience depression, those feelings are always valid. ~Summertime and the living isn’t always easy.~

My father’s 13-foot sunflowers

Feelings of depression in the winter are often justified because there is less natural light to encourage outdoor activity and socialization and less Vitamin D to nourish us. Despite the sunshine, feelings of depression associated with summer can be just as easily justified. For one, when we see people posting on social media about weddings, beach days, beer gardens, hikes, vacations, and backyard get-togethers, we are exposing ourselves to the illusion that everyone is having a great time. All the time. Certainly, this is an issue with social media in general, and I could go on rants about how it can and does single-handedly destroy mental health, but I’ll hold off on that for now. Even without seeing it all happen, the sun can apply some pressure to be social and active. The more frequent it comes out, the more overwhelming it can be. For me, I have trouble with one thing for too long. Usually by August I start to feel ready for a change while also dealing with anxieties around transitioning to the more rigid routines that come with the return of autumn. When I visited Alaska this exact time a few years ago, my friend who grew up in Anchorage was telling me how many native Alaskans become restless for summer to end and feel “over it” by late July. It was hard for me to believe that Alaskans, who experience the darkest and longest winters would actually be eager for winter to return. I was told that those who choose to live in Alaska are there because they don’t mind isolation as much or enduring the harsh challenges that come with the location. I suppose this relates to how I choose long-term locations that have seasons to accommodate my need for semi-frequent changes. I digress. My point is that summer seasonal depression happens, but as you might expect, it presents for different reasons and with different symptoms than winter SAD. Summertime sadness can bring increased lethargy and decreased appetite due to heat, discouragement with the inability to meet happiness expectations, and lack of sleep. While a winter SAD remedy is a special light lamp, a summer SAD remedy might involve darkening your environment. As with any changes in health, it’s important to monitor yourself and seek support when necessary. If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, it’s not a matter resolved by simply “cheering up.” Too often symptoms are overlooked and disregarded, so ensure needs are being met. Some people need social breaks, but if solitude/isolation (or any other behaviors) appear suddenly or are uncharacteristically frequent, it’s time to check in. Personally, I’m not always able to explicitly pinpoint why I feel a certain way, and it’s important we know that while reasons help us to identify possible solutions and healing paths, we don’t always need reasons for feelings or need to justify our experiences as being “real.” Sometimes our experiences and feelings are reminders to be self-aware or to make adjustments. Seasons are a good opportunity to notice our patterns and how we flow in cycles. When are we at our best? When do we feel stuck?

Take this as validation for feeling anything short of sunshine-y during the summer, that any feeling at any time is valid. Summer bummer happens, so let’s be mindful of where we might get caught in the cycles, be aware of others, and be sure to seek and encourage support. If you like this page, please share it!

Bar Harbor, Maine

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