Blue Summer Days
Heat, pool, beach, barbecues with friends, cocktails, light outfits. The holidays are seen as key-moments to rest and to enjoy moments with friends and family with a lightheartedness typical for this time of year.
Joana is a lawyer, married, mother of two. She has planned, for months, their summer holidays in Cuba. In the beginning of the summer she started to feel depressed, demotivated and anxious. Looking back to her adolescence she is able to identify this pattern of feeling blue in the summer since she was 12 or 13 years.
Joana apparently suffers from Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is a kind of depression that is usually associated with the change of seasons and that is characterized by psychological symptoms such as sadness, changes in sleep patterns or low motivation. The characteristic SAD associated with winter, known as “Winter Blues”, has been increasingly talked about in recent years. Usually, in the transition from autumn to winter, some people may experience more sleepiness, more depressive feelings, more demotivation, increased irritability, hypersensitivity to rejection, changes in appetite often associated with “emotional hunger”.
On the other hand, the SAD associated with summer — “Summertime Blues”-, is unknown by most people. And those who meet the criteria for this disorder, partially or fully, will, most likely, feel an extra burden by not feeling as relaxed, unwinded and happy as others appear to feel.
The manifestations of the summer SAD are somewhat different from the winter SAD: restlessness, insomnia, lack of appetite and anxiety are more common during this time of year.
The causes for summer SAD vary from genetic predisposition, to the adaptation to high temperatures and humidity. And other factors can get tied together and justify the sadness/anxiety that may arise at this time of year:
Social Pressure to have fun.
For many people summer is synonymous with parties, concerts, gatherings with friends and trips. Our social networks are flooded with pictures of idyllic places, with gastronomy from various regions around the globe, with tanned complexions, wide smiles and perfect lives. And when we don’t feel this way, the feeling of inadequacy and frustration takes hold of us even more.
This was not my expectation
Relying on wrong/exaggerated assumptions can have a devastating impact on our self-esteem, interpersonal relationships and well-being. It is not uncommon for us to spend months dreaming and planning holidays. And in our thoughts these will be perfect, with the perfect people, in the perfect destination. When we get closer to reality, we may come across the imperfection of things, people and places; we may come across economic constraints that don’t allow us to fulfill our dreams; we may come across a whole week of rain that doesn’t allow us to go to that beach that we were dreaming of.
From being exhausted to being on holiday.
Going on holiday, for most people, does not mean logging off your computer on the last day of work as they would any other day of the week. Going on holiday usually means chasing time in a rush to answer all your emails and the meetings all scheduled.
Often, holidays are filled with guilt for the work that was left undone, for not being productive and for resting. As if rest is synonymous with slacking. And then there’s the guilt we feel for not being able to rest as much as we would want, telling ourselves that after so much work and so much waiting for this break we should be able to rest more and we shouldn’t keep thinking about work.
I am my work.
There are people who find it difficult to know who they are beyond their professional activities, in which they feel competent and complete. When they have to take on different roles, in different settings other than work, they feel lost, unconfident and anxious.
Less clothes, less self-esteem.
Self-esteem and our perception of ourselves can change with more body exposure. It is possible that in some people the summer ends up exacerbating insecurities about body image.
What to do with all this free time.
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by a routine that is characterized by the absence of leisure time and we end up living for months on end without engaging on leisure or cultural activities. And we forget how to live our free time with comforting, pleasurable and useful activities. In fact, the desire to be productive is not only related to work, but also to our private life. As if every second of our day has to have a purpose.
How to deal with this?
While sometimes transient, these symptoms may last for several weeks or months. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with them:
Identify what is triggering the way you feel;
Make sleep a priority;
Establish a routine;
Turn off notifications, emails or platforms associated with work;
Take a break from social media
Learn or relearn a hobby;
Spend time with family and friends;
Seek professional help if necessary.