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Is there a cure for the summertime blues?

Nothing quite captures the nostalgia, excitement, and fun of summertime like a great song. Iconic melodies from every genre, classical through country, exalt the joys and virtues of the season of beaches, barbecues, and bikinis. But what if you're living in a new place and are struggling to find friends with whom to share barbecue? What if that bikini or swimwear from even last year feels tight and your mood isn't screaming "beach-ready"? Maybe you're living in the mountains, it's been raining for 2 weeks straight, and you can't get time off work to find a beach? Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" might seem like a more appropriate anthem than Ella Fitzgerald's "Summertime".

Much research and awareness has been directed toward Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), with specific regard to its impact on individuals during the wintertime. However, low mood or depressive symptoms can impact folks throughout the summer months, a reverse SAD, if you will. You might have experiences of sluggishness, sadness, isolation, loss of appetite, sleep problems, or downright depression. Theories suggest longer hours of sunlight may affect melatonin levels and circadian rhythms, with southern state dwellers (warmer summers!) being impacted in greater numbers than our friends to the north. There may also be a genetic component involved in this pattern of depression.

So is there a cure for the summertime blues? WebMD provides some tips for summertime depression:

  • Seek help from a therapist, counselor, or psychologist--sometimes what starts in the summer may clear up by fall, but this isn't always the case!
  • Try to keep a normal sleep schedule--summertime activities can lead to shorter nights, but good sleep hygiene can help combat the blues
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine--stay hydrated through lots of water, fruits and vegetables and exercise in the cooler morning and later evening hours (and avoid crash diets and overly vigorous exercise routines to get that "beach ready body"--any excessive or restrictive routines may leave you feeling drained, anxious, and demoralized)
  • Protect yourself from feeling overwhelmed--try to avoid living up to traditions and obligations for the sake of tradition alone. It's ok to pass on this year's barbecue if you're not feeling it!
  • Give yourself a break and a bit of self-compassion--you may need to ask "why" summer is difficult, and really take some time to examine if there's a past event that triggers depressive thoughts and emotions. Sorting out the "why" with a trusted therapist or counselor can help reduce distress and introduce new coping strategies that allow you to experience a more valued direction in living through the summertime months.

If heading out into the sunshine isn't your thing right now, know that you're not alone and that about 10% of those diagnosed with SAD experience it in the summer months. But there is hope! The combination of self-care with regard to diet, exercise, and sleep, plus psychotherapy can really help to reduce the summertime blues.

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Kelly Jerome, MS, LPCA, CRC, NCC
Therapist in Durham, NC