June 21st might be the first official day of summer, but high heat and humidity begin plaguing the citizens of the Gulf South well before the official start of the season. Outdoor temperatures rise, indoor temperatures drop, and the thought of doing much of anything outside, while the sun is out, becomes less and less appealing as the dog days drag on. The summer heat in our climate can pose real health risks, especially to the elderly and those without central air conditioning systems. In addition to sunburns, skin cancer, and heat stroke, the summer sun can also take a toll on our mental health.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more commonly associated with fall and winter. As the days grow darker and we spend more time alone and indoors, many people suffer from seasonal depression. Less commonly discussed, though, is summertime SAD. Those living near the equator are more likely to experience SAD during spring and summer. Symptoms differ between winter and summer SAD, but ways to manage and prevent extreme disruptions to your mental health are largely the same.
What you can do to help with summertime SAD:
1.) Get outside.
Try and spend time outside every day. Avoid the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM. Try a sunrise walk, or an evening stroll once the sun has gone down. Getting a little bit of sunshine in the morning before the day is too hot and enjoying the moonlit hours is a great way to get both proper sun exposure and the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.
2.) Spend time with family and friends.
Maintaining and nurturing our relationships rewards our mental health in dividends. It can be hard to muster the getup and go to be social when the heat leeches our energy, especially during those after-work hours. Find creative ways to spend time with loved ones, even if it means dodging the sun: visit a pool, go to the movies, meet up for ice cream or iced coffee, run errands together, people watch at the mall, or visit a museum.
3.) Cultivate an indoor hobby.
Busy yourself with indoor activities that aren’t your cell phone or the television. While our friends in cooler climates busy themselves with puzzles and baking during the winter, we can get some ideas from them to pass the long hot days of summer. While baking might not be on the table, or, frankly, anything that involves generating heat inside your home, there are copious options for indoor activities that stimulate the mind and the spirit. Crochet, knitting, cross-stitch or beadwork (start that Mardi Gras costume!), or any art project, really. Read novels and escape to other eras and locales (maybe cold ones!). Practice an instrument, or teach yourself a new skill. Organize that junk drawer or identify possessions you might want to donate.
4.) Lead a healthy lifestyle.
Diet and exercise are hugely impactful on our mental health. Prepare healthy meals. Embrace boiling and sautéing over baking or broiling to keep the heat down in the kitchen. Make crockpot meals or recipes best served at room temperature or chilled (shrimp remoulade, anyone?). Don’t forget to move your body. YouTube is filled with free at-home workout videos for all fitness levels, and many don’t require any equipment. You can work up less of a sweat by following these videos in your home.
As with all mental health concerns, when changes to lifestyle fail to yield positive results, or seem impossible to attempt altogether, seek out professional help. JFS offers in-person or telemental health counseling. We accept most major insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, and we offer counseling based on a sliding scale fee. If SAD is impacting your life and mental health, reach out to JFS today. You don’t need to suffer alone. (504) 831-8475.← Blog