Does summer feel a little different this year?
There may be a variety of reasons as to why this summer has felt a little unusual for a lot of us. For one, the first half of 2020 has definitely thrown a few surprises and challenges at us, including changes in routine, questions about the future, and gave us time for self-reflection.
Another reason summer might feel a little different could be that you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically surfacing in the wintertime and leaving as summer approaches. Common feelings associated with SAD are:
- Feeling empty or low
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling agitated
- Difficulty sleeping
- Significant increase or decrease in appetite
SAD can occur in the summer, too.
Although it is much less common and understood than its winter counterpart, SAD and the associated feelings can surface due to a variety of reasons. Here are some examples of how the summer months can affect our mood and well-being:
- Our regular routine is dismantled by children being at home instead of school or by spontaneous summer night plans, causing changes in sleep and eating habits
- A change or limit in finances, making it difficult to afford summery outdoor activities you would like to participate in (such as going camping or renting kayaks)
- Physical distancing and restrictions reducing contact with friends and family
- General health issues which limit our mobility
- Cancelling major summer plans or vacations
- Body image issues, making us uncomfortable interacting with people, engaging in some activities or wearing certain clothes
While these feelings and situations are completely normal and a part of the human experience, it is important to take notice of when they are affecting us more intensely or for longer periods of time. Signs that something isn’t right can look like being unable to leave the house, a noticeable change in your drinking or using behaviour, as well as neglecting our self-care routine, such as showering, getting dressed, or cleaning up after ourselves.
Changes to routine, work and social interactions have led to an increase in substance use for many.
Most Canadians report this increase being due to stress, boredom, and a change of schedule. We are experiencing a summer unlike any other, which may increase the number of seasonal affective disorder experiences across the population, even in the warmer months. If you find yourself drinking or using more frequently these past few months, here are some strategies you can use to feel more in control:
1. Choose three small things you can accomplish in the morning when you wake up.
Whether it is getting up at a certain time, sweeping the floor or getting dressed, think of three small things that will help start your day off on a good note.
2. What is one thing you’ve always wanted to learn? It’s time to go for it.
Want to play the ukulele or learn how to execute the perfect pancake flip? Set aside 15 minutes a day toward a skill or activity you have always wanted to try or improve at.
3. Connect with a loved one.
Schedule time to talk to your best friend, parent, or sibling about anything and everything. Sometimes, talking with someone we’re close to when we feel bored, lonely or overwhelmed can help alleviate negative feelings and maximize the positive ones.
Don’t let SAD undermine your physical and mental well-being or your enjoyment of summer.
Whether you experience mild or significant symptoms of SAD, or simply feeling low on some days, things will get better if you take action. Taking action can look like all sorts of things, depending on how you feel, what you like, what you resonate and feel comfortable with. We mentioned a few here, but there are plenty more that could help you lift your spirits (exercising, cooking, organizing, planning, being creative, playing, etc.).
Sharing your experience with a loved one or a professional and coming up with ways to cope together can also help to reverse the downward spiral you may feel you’re in. If you are worried about your drinking and its effects on your mood and health this summer, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Care team.
ALAViDA is a virtual care treatment program that helps people get back to a healthier relationship with substances, thanks to the combination of therapy, medication and technology. On our blog, you will find stories, testimonials, evidence-based information and useful tips on how to prevent and overcome substance abuse, while sustaining a healthy body and mind.