Summer is officially here. For many people, that means fun-filled days of sunshine, warmth, and adventure. However, for those that experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the warmer months, it can mean another season of depression, anxiety, and distress.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is often associated with winter, but it can also affect certain people during the heat of summer. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your SAD symptoms during this time.

In this blog, we cover six tips to help you manage SAD during the summertime.

Plan Ahead

Summer is predictable. It happens every year. We understand that you may be dreading it, but the predictability also presents an opportunity to plan ahead.

Try to remember times that were especially difficult during summers prior. Take note of anything that triggers feelings of despair, and plan for them to happen the following year. If a specific date or event brings up feelings of sadness, plan to take off work that week to go on a relaxing vacation. If a vacation isn’t possible, schedule activities to take your mind off whatever you know will be difficult.

Establish a new routine

Summer can sometimes mean establishing a new routine. Kids are out of school, more vacations are being scheduled, and the weather is hotter during the day when you’d normally do your outdoor activities.

Take time to adjust your daily schedule and write down goals for the summer. Try to wake up at the same time every day, and avoid sleeping in. Natural light exposure in the morning is essential (when it’s less hot), so try to spend time outside between 6 am and 8 am. Avoid napping during the day, and try to go to bed at the same time every night.

Focus on a schedule that will make you happiest. Don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t want to do. Try not to add additional stress to an already stressful time.

Exercise & Eat A Healthy Diet

We know what you’re thinking – another tip that pushes the benefits of diet and exercise. However, if you don’t already regularly exercise or eat healthy, let’s change your mindset about how you think about it.

When we recommend prioritizing exercise, we don’t mean go to the extreme. Take small steps if you have to. Go for a 10 minute walk in the morning or evening, then work up to longer and more rigorous workouts. Engage in physical activities that you enjoy, such as yoga, swimming, cycling, or hiking.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-enhancing chemicals that help reduce stress and boost your mood. Stay positive by focusing on your strengths and achievements, and engage in activities that actually make you happy.

Your physical health affects your mental health. By choosing healthy foods to fuel your body, you’re also working to improve your mind. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and nutrition-less snacks.

Instead, include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet. Eating right can help reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, and overall enhance your mood.

Focus on sleep

It may be tempting to stay up later during the longer days of sunlight. Don’t let your internal clock be fooled by the increase in natural light.

Getting adequate sleep is vital for mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Ensure that you maintain a regular sleep pattern and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Create a calming bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading a book. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and excessive screen time before bedtime.

Identify your triggers

We talked a little big about identifying your triggers in the Plan Ahead tip. We’d like to focus now on the triggers you don’t see coming.

Emotional and trauma triggers can happen anywhere at any time. It’s definitely not ideal, but there are ways you can manage your response. Try to figure out why you’re experiencing that trigger in that specific moment, and what happened to cause your response. Then, follow one or a combination of the following scenarios to ease your distress:

  • Remove yourself from the situation if necessary
  • Focus on your breathing, inhaling long breaths through your nose and exhaling through your mouth
  • Close your eyes and count your fingers by touching each one to your thumb until you begin to relax
  • Try the 3-3-3 method: identify three objects in your environment, identify three sounds, and move three body parts
  • Focus on an object and ground yourself
  • Go for a walk
  • Bring yourself back to reality or the moment by analyzing what’s happening around you
  • Turn on music
  • Practice meditation
  • Write down how you’re feeling, or a memory that made you happy

If you can, work on identifying why summer makes you feel sad. Create a list of triggers that happen during the summer, and work to figure out why those feelings are happening. You may be able to figure out an underlying cause for your seasonal affective disorder.

Ask for help

While we do hope the above tips will help, we hope you know that you don’t have to work alone in managing your seasonal affective disorder. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support from friends, family members, or mental health professionals if you are struggling with SAD. Sharing your challenges with others can help you feel less isolated, and seeking professional help allows you to have a comprehensive approach to managing SAD.

At Cornerstone, our professionals can provide you with tools and strategies to manage your symptoms, as well as offer emotional support and guidance. They’ll help you explore any underlying issues that may be contributing to your depression or anxiety. We want you to know that your emotions matter, and we’re here to help.

Schedule an appointment with one of our therapists or counselors, or give us a call at (217) 222-8254 to start the process of identifying or managing Seasonal Affective Disorder.