COPING WITH THE SUMMERTIME BLUES: Tips for Managing Mental Health

Coping with Summertime Blues

Weather can certainly impact mood, but for those suffering  from depression, the cause is often biological and the environment has relatively little effect. While winter can feel like an appropriate season for the apathy and lethargy associated with depression, summer is supposed to be fun, which can make people suffering from depression feel even worse. Typically, the colder months bring with them shortened days and more reasons to stay indoors, elements which can lead to depressed moods. Many people forget that summer, with its long sunny days and increased outdoor activity, doesn’t safeguard everyone from mood disorders.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to negative feelings in the warmer months. Dr. Ian Cook of UCLA’s Depression Research Project has noted 5 leading causes of summer depression. These factors are:

  • Body image issues. In the summer there is more pressure to be fit. More time at the beach and summer clothing options that show more of the body can cause people of all shapes and sizes increased stress.
  • Low tolerance for heat. Some people simply do not feel great in hot weather. They may feel more tired or irritable as the hot weather sets in.
  • Changes in sleep schedule. With the longer days and shorter nights of summer, disrupted sleep can cause some to feel moody. Not getting enough sleep can also make individuals feel less mentally sharp.
  • Summer SAD. Most people have heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and its well-documented effects during the winter months, but what many people don’t know is that there are a number of  individuals who suffer from a kind of reverse SAD that hits in the warmer, sunnier months. SAD affects about 5% of people in the U.S. and of those, about 10% experience summertime onset.
  • Stress brought on by increased summer expenses. The tendency toward increased activity in the summer often comes with increased expenses. Vacations can be expensive. So can summer sports and hobbies. Things, like camping and attending outdoor concerts, cost money and this can cause financial worries.

Combat Potential Summer Stressors

An overview of some tactics for boosting your mood this summer:

  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Get enough rest
  • Exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of delicious summer fruits and vegetables
  • Replace things that trigger sad feelings with things that make you feel positive and inspired
  • Make plans to do things you enjoy- having something to look forward to can help overcome depressed moods

A quick glance at the factors that contribute to feeling blue in the summer can provide clues to help combat them. First, let’s look at body image issues. If you suffer from poor body image, one of the best way to deal with those feelings is to get active. Exercise is great for so many reasons: it makes you feel stronger, provides myriad health benefits, can help with weight loss, and most importantly,  physical activity has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression. If low tolerance to heat is a problem for you, find ways to be in air conditioned spaces whenever possible. In the middle of the day, when it is hottest, try to minimize activities so that you don’t over exert yourself. If you have trouble sleeping in the summertime, the best things to do is to set a strict sleep schedule for yourself. Above and beyond that, consider the other factors that affect sleep; exercise and eat well, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and put away electronic devices well in advance of bedtime. For those suffering from SAD, the best thing to do is to take advantage of the summer sunlight. In addition, getting exercise,  eating a proper diet, and spending time with loved ones can be beneficial. Finally, summer can be expensive, but remember, there are plenty of summer activities that are inexpensive or absolutely free. Be creative and choose fun activities that don’t cost a lot.

Depression is serious. These are helpful coping mechanisms designed as mood boosters, however, if you experience depression, you should seek the help of a professional.

About Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc.: Established in 2002 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, BHPI is a Managed Behavioral Health Organization offering behavioral health services through a fully integrated network of world class healthcare providers.  Our emphasis is on adding value for our customers by offering expert behavioral care management, medical coordination, and behavioral disease and chronic behavioral condition management.  BHPI offers collaborative solutions by building strong partnerships with Health Plans, Health Systems, Insurance Companies, and Employer groups.  For more information visit: BHPI.org

References
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2370
http://www.webmd.com/depression/summer-depression
http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/2011/06/six-tips-to-help-summer-depression/
http://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/behavior-health-news-56/sleep-tips-for-summer-nights-677926.html
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/power-down-better-sleep


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