Seasonal Affective Disorder in Summer? How to beat the “frazzle effect”
Summer’s almost over – can you believe it?! I don’t know about you, but the first part of summer always feels like a whirlwind with vacations, and holiday plans, and a schedule that gets goofy. It’s exciting when the sun comes out and nature calls us to do outdoor things. It also stirs up what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” This is like mental static when different ideas compete for attention at the same time.
Here’s the conundrum: on one hand, we are wired to crave change; on the other hand, we need things to stay the same. We want certainty and predictable schedules or we start to feel chopped up and anxious – but we also need the scenery to change or we begin to get restless.
Psychologists talk about how “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) hits in the winter months when we don’t get much sunlight and the days are short. It’s a funny twist that this is possible during summer for different reasons.
The evidence is growing that our surroundings can support a general sense of wellbeing, making it easier to focus on creativity, relaxation, and healthy behaviors like exercise and personal relationships.
As I mentioned in the beginning, we crave both variety and routine. When kids are in school and the weather outside limits our activities, it’s much easier to establish daily patterns that (while sometimes boring) provide comfort to the part of our brains that needs predictability.
This is why it can come as a surprise to feel anxiety, “in the dumps,” or depressed even when the sun is shining so happily outside.
One counselor recommends a gentle, human approach that I like:
- “Schedule intentional down time during the summer and early fall. Give yourself permission to not be ‘always doing’ for every waking second. Our bodies and minds need rest, even though many of us have a fear of missing out. We don’t want to waste any of the precious summer moments that allow us to be camping, rafting, vacationing, sitting on patios with lots of friends, and all of the other wonderful summer stuff. However, we can enter the autumn season with a lot more peace of mind and physical health if we take a day or two each month and just rest. Even the things we love to do outdoors require planning and some of them can wear us out more than we realize.”
Do you have a favorite quiet activity that helps you regroup and recharge your batteries during these beautiful months?
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