Changing Summertime SAD

By Carissa Weber, MA, LPC, CSAC

Summertime can bring more than sunshine

5% of adults report symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the summer months ( Gökbayrak, 2022).  SAD includes:
– loss of motivation to complete tasks
– losing interest in social gatherings and activities
– changes in appetite
– feeling exhausted for no reason

In this post, we are going to cover what Summer SAD is and what you can do to help when it hits.

What is SAD?

Way back in February, I wrote a post called Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Reason for the Feeling. This post talked about Seasonal Affective Disorder (better known as SAD) and the science behind why seasonal changes can impact depression levels.

Want to read more about SAD and the cause of SAD?

For a quick recap:

  • SAD is a sub-type of depression that is impacted by the changes of the season
  • Symptoms include (but are not limited to):
    • Feeling sad or depressed at the onset of a seasonal change
    • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
    • Low motivation
    • Changes in appetite (either eating more or eating less)
    • Changes in how you sleep (either too much or not enough)
    • Increase in isolating yourself from others
    • Increase in irritability and/or tearfulness
    • Changes in how we move (either we are a “caged tiger” or you are sluggish)
    • Feeling worthless or guilty for no apparent reason
    • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
    • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • SAD can happen during any seasonal change, but it more common in winter months

So, with it more common in the winter months? Why are you struggling with it in the summer?

Summer Brings Busy Schedules

Between summer picnics, sports, family reunions, and people taking vacations, Summer sure is a busy time.  Sometimes, it is so busy that you often forget how to cope with the stress when you are away from your normal routine.  

This stress level can impact SAD, depression, as well as anxiety levels.  So what can you do to tame that summertime stress?

1. Practice self-soothing skills.  Self-soothing is a type DBT skill that helps regulate your nervous system.  The more your practice, the better your nervous system reacts to it.
2.  Engage in mindfulness skills.  Mindfulness is way more than just motivation.  Mindfulness is the art of being present in your current situation.  Any activity can be done in a mindful way to help reduce stress levels, even when you are in unfamiliar settings.
3. Remember to eat.  When we are on the go, we often forget to eat.  Remember, the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced in your gut…after you eat.
4. Keep your car clutter-free.  I get it, when summer comes, you practically live out of your car.  There is science behind the fact that clutter stresses people out.  Taking time to clean out your car (and organize it) can really help improve your mood.
5. Try to maintain a routine.  Keeping a routine can be super hard, especially when you are on the go.  Even keeping one thing routine (like what time you wake up in the morning or brushing your teeth everyday), can help keep your darn amygdala happy.


Looking for great tools to help build your motivation back up?

Finding Motivation When You Have None

Motivation is one of those things that leave when we start to struggle with SAD (or depression in general).  It is easy to say “just do it anyways!”  But what happens when you don’t feel like it?

The lack of motivation comes from the lack of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, being available to your brain.  When there is a lack, a couple things happen:
– your prefrontal cortex can’t value the action you need to do (like washing laundry) and see it is worth doing
– your darn amygdala focuses only on the barriers to doing that action
– your adrenal glands keep the cortisol flowing, preventing any further use of serotonin and dopamine.

So, how do you fix it?  In a That Darn Amygdala favorite post, Finding Motivation When You Have None, it lays out exactly what you need to do to amp up your motivation again.

It is never fun when enjoying the summer months is a struggle. I want to thank you for taking time to learn that you are not alone in this fight against summertime SAD.

To recap this post:

– Seasonal Affective Disorder can occur during the summer months

– There are things you can do to help improve your motivation

– Sticking to a routine can decrease the symptoms of SAD


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12 responses to “Changing Summertime SAD”

  1. Had no idea SAD could also occur during the summer! Good read.

    1. Thank you! Many people don’t know it can happen

  2. I’m sure many people suffer from SAD during the summer without knowing about it. Thanks!

    1. Of course! It is one of those things that I think if we brought more awareness to, more people would identify with it

  3. I get “SAD” every summer. It’s because my introverted self becomes overwhelmed with the chaos in my home. Taking me time really helps me wind down and get back to work.

    1. I think people often forget that the chaos that comes with the summer can lead to more stress, anxiety, and depression.

  4. Reading this post was extremely helpful and validating – been feeling low and even though it’s summer, I’n pretty sure it’s for the reasons you describe here. I’ll be sharing your SAD tips with my hubby too.

    1. Please, share away! We often overlook how summer can shape our mental health

  5. My partner has been struggling with summertime SAD for the first time. I’m going to send him this post. Thank you for sharing such useful information and resources!

    1. Of course! It needs more attention brought to it

  6. Thank you for writing this because I hadn’t really considered that SAD can occur at any time of the year. I really loved your tips for taming summer stress, especially the one about keeping our cars uncluttered. You are SO right that I’m more stressed when my car is loaded with crap. Sometimes a little clean out goes a looong way for our mental health!

    1. It really can go a long way to clean stuff up.

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